Results tagged “meatballs”


bosnia-herzegovina, bulgaria, croatia, serbia

Meatballs, or 'minced meat fingers' as they are often translated, are found all over the Balkans.  The best I have had were in Belgrade, served with fantastic kaymak (slightly soured clotted cream) and ajvar (red pepper relish).  They are also great with pickled cucumbers or raw chopped onion, and puffy white bread.  To mimic kaymak, simply mix clotted cream with a little sour cream and a pinch or two of salt.  

Cevapcici.JPGThis recipe is very simple.  The secret to success is making the mixture ahead of time, and then cooking the čevapčiči at the last minute and serving them immediately, since they dry out quickly. 

Ottoman or not?

bulgaria, greece, romania, turkey
Now that we've spent some time in Turkey, some in Romania and Bulgaria before that, and now some in Greece, it's been interesting to try to spot various culinary connections between them.  It's not all pleasant, but they have a lot of shared history via the long presence of the Ottoman empire in Eastern Europe.  Greece was under Ottoman control for hundreds of years; and while Romania (and especially Transylvania) was nominally independent for much of that time, the word "nominally" should be stressed.


Ottoman chefs: could they tell their
aubergines from their tomatoes?

In some cases, of course, there are clear similarities in techniques and ingredients, but there's really no way to know whether Romanians influenced Turks, or Turks influenced Romanians, or whether they both just thought that spicy meatballs tasted nice.  But in others, you can get some help from the language: if a stuffed vine leaf in Greece has an originally Turkish name, the odds are that it has at least some Turkish origins.

But sometimes we have to do a bit more detective work.  In Romania, the word for tomato is "red" (roşie), and the word for aubergine is "purple" (vinete): so you might ask your greengrocer for a kilo of reds and a kilo of purples.  This does sort of make sense - tomatoes are red, after all, and aubergines are purple - but why just these two?  They don't call cucumbers "greens".  And tomatoes certainly aren't the only red things in a Romanian kitchen, what with all those peppers around.  Well, a conversation with Anca in the Carpathians, a conversation with Özge in Istanbul, some dictionary work, and all became clear ...

Sensitive balls

Smiclikofteplated0001.JPGIt’s not all tea and candy in Turkey of course, and meat is a very important part of the diet for most Turks.  Of course practically no pork - which was a nice change for us after our pork ‘n’ lard fest in central and eastern Europe. 

Beef and lamb are the most common red meats, with beef overtaking lamb, especially in the west, due to the increase of factory farming and hence smaller price tag.  (Lower price in terms of pennies from the customer’s pocket that is, not cost to their health, the cows’ wellbeing or the environment, of course…) 

And there’s plenty of chicken too, but we found those dishes less interesting.  So I'm not writing about them here.  Instead you can find out about 'sensitive balls'...

Meatballs, kebabs and more vowels

Smbaklavaci-kofteci.jpgWell, after my initial excitement about Hungarian and its way with vowels, I've been even more excited to be surrounded by people speaking Turkish.  As with Hungarian, it's unrelated to any of the European languages I have experience with, so most of the words are unrecognisable (although there's some noticeable French influence which makes a few things a bit easier), and the basic structure is very different too (verbs go at the end, for example). 

Importantly, this means it manages to rival Hungarian in the unguessability of its word for "wine": I think şarap is just as hard to spot as bor for an English-speaker; although "beer" comes as the disappointingly obvious bira rather than Hungarian's near-unbeatable sör.

Even more excitingly, there's vowel harmony here too.  But it's even better


Culinary Anthropologist