Secret Kitchen menu, 20th & 21st Sept 2013

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Balkan inspiration


Serbian forest fruits cocktails
Čevapčiči with ajvar and kajmak

Balkan bean soup with sudžuk

Bosnian burek with sour milk drizzle
Bulgarian banitsa with sheep's yoghurt & cheese
Šopska salad

Yoghurt with wild bilberries
Mountain tea and homemade liqueur

Tonight's dinner


The menu is inspired by our recent road trip to Serbia, Bulgaria and Bosnia-Herzegovina.  We spent most time in the mountains: meeting cheese makers, foraging for berries and eating kilos of salad.  Here are just some of the things we discovered.

Minced meat fingers, as they are often translated, are found all over the region, but the best we had were in Belgrade, with slightly soured kajmak (clotted cream) and ajvar (red pepper relish).  The pickled cucumbers are my addition - lactofermented en route.  

The soup is based on one I learnt from Tsetsa Dancheva in the Rhodopi Mountains, where they grow beans.  I've added Bosnian sudžuk (smoked beef sausage).

The best burek (pie) is undoubtedly in Sarajevo, where special restaurants serve nothing but.  I have tried to recreate the savoury, sticky, buttery beef version.  Banitsa is a popular Bulgarian cheese pie, for which I've followed Tsetsa's recipe and used sheep's yoghurt, sheep's cheese and clotted cream.  Only the dill is my addition.

Šopska salad has become Bulgaria's national dish since it was invented in the 1970s.  To try to match the quality of the produce I've used organic cucumbers and peppers from Riverford, and tomatoes mostly from our garden and a friend's neighbour's allotment.  Matching the Danchev family's mountain sheep's cheese is much harder...

I make no apology for yoghurt appearing yet again for pudding, since the Balkans excel at dairy, producing all manner of soured and fermenty things.  The bilberry jam was collected from markets in Bulgaria, Serbia and Bosnia.  And the mountain tea is made from dried wild herbs and fruits including Cornelian cherries, some we collected.

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