The Balkan Cuisine Guy

Photo by Mile

About the Balkan Cuisine Guy

Through some miraculous act, I was born into a Macedonian family, thrust into this planet a few decades ago. I love food. At age 4, I realized that I had a deep lust for traditional Macedonian dishes, such as stuffed peppers and grashe (white bean stew). A bit biased to say the least. This quickly morphed into a passion for all sorts of Balkan cuisines the older I got. Greek, Croatian, Serbian, Romanian, you name it, I ate it. But, I thought to myself, how much more amazing would it be to be able to prepare such feasts for friends and family? What an invaluable piece of skill to possess.

Inspiration wasn’t difficult to obtain after many years of eating my grandmother and mother’s delicious recipes. Before I knew it, I delved into the realm of the kitchen to try and capture culinary nirvana. My journey began with three dishes.

Zelnik

Photo by Panacomp

This traditional Macedonian dish involves stretching out thin layers of dough (more appropriately filo pastry) that are drizzled with a little bit of olive oil. Then, pieces of feta are crumbled onto it, or even thinly shredded potatoes. The dough is then rolled into one long stringy piece that is wrapped in a large, flat, circular pan. Once the pan is completely filled, it is placed in the oven for 1hr15 minutes, with the last 5 minutes set on broil to leave a golden colour on the top. It’s a meticulous process, but as the late Julia Child once stated, one must have a “need for patience in cooking” (Tomkins, 1974).

Moussaka

Photo by Rouxbe

Probably the most popular serving in every Greek household is moussaka. A combination of minced beef or lamb, it is cooked in a tomato based sauce and is as delicious as it gets. What makes this dish especially tasty is the creamy béchamel sauce and eggplant layers that would leave any food connoisseur itching for more. A great recipe that I enjoy cooking once a month when friends come over for dinner.

Sarmale

Photo by RGBStock

The Romanian dish name for cabbage rolls, which is real comfort food and is commonly served at weddings, but is also a household favourite. It is usually made with minced pork, along with rice, spices, onions and is rolled up in sour cabbage leaves. Once these steps are completed, all rolls are placed into a large baking pot with sauerkraut or tomato juices where they bake for a couple of hours. You won’t feel guilty eating sarmale late at night, because it’s a healthy mix of ingredients.

Although I’m still far away from being Julia Child or Lidia Bastianich (two inspirations besides my mother and grandmother), mastering one recipe at a time is certainly the tastiest way to learn about the rich culinary attributes each country in the Balkans has. Come and enjoy this journey with me!

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