I got rather excited two weeks ago when I popped into M&S on my way home from work and found they had started stocking Tikves Vranec Merlot, a red wine from Macedonia. It was priced at £8.99 (though this is an introductory price, it’s probably going to go up at some point) so I couldn’t resist trying it. The name translates as dark horse and its quite apt. I’ve been a fan of Macedonian wine for a while but it’s not very well known or stocked here so I’m sure a lot of people may find this wine a pleasant surprise. It’s a strong wine, great for meaty dishes, think steak or game, and cheese too. The wine positively bursts with berry flavour. If you like syrah and cabernet sauvignon, try this, you’ll love it. The next time I popped into M&S I really explored the wine aisle and I’m glad I did. Not only did I see a white Tikves, this time a Smederevka Rkaciteli, priced at just £6.99 (again, for now!). There’s also some great value wines from Croatia and Turkey too. Check them out in the gallery below. Happy shopping!
Recipe: Balkan Ćevapčići Served with Ajvar
I can’t lie, ćevapčići is probably one of my favourite finds from Eastern Europe. The ground beef sausage shaped burgers are popular across Yugoslavia and are traditionally served with flat breads, kajmak and ajvar (more of my favourites!). The kind people at Cox & Kings recently sent me a jar of ajvar (an aubergine and red pepper condiment) they picked up while in the region, so I thought it was the perfect excuse to whip up my own ćevapi. I like to add a bit of an Ottoman twist with some cumin and coriander. Find out how to recreate memories from your time in the Balkans below…
Ingredients (serves 6 as a starter, 4 as a main)
500g mince beef
250g mince pork or veal
1 white onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp vegeta (optional)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
25g plain flour
10 tbsp rapeseed oil
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C
Mix the mince, spices, garlic and onion together in a bowl
Form into sausage shapes
Roll each sausage in plain flour
Put in the fridge to chill for 10 minutes
Heat the oil in a griddle pan and gently fry each ćevap
Place the ćevapi in an ovenproof dish and heat in the oven for 20 minutes
Serve with flatbreads, sour cream, ajvar, and salad
Of course if you don’t live in a studio flat and have the luxury of outside space (and the sun should appear) you can always barbecue the ćevapi instead!
The ajvar was courtesy of our friends at Cox & Kings who provide fabulous tailor-made holidays all over the world including Serbia and other East European destinations.
New Airline Routes to Ukraine, Germany, Croatia & Macedonia
Last week Ukrainian airline, AeroSvit, the biggest in the country, launched its new route between London’s Gatwick Airport and Kiev. The airline will be flying five times a week to the Ukrainian capital, catering for both leisure and business travellers. It is hoped that once travellers land in Kiev they will visit other regions such as Frankovsk, Lugansk and Odessa. It is expected that around 65,000 passengers will fly from Gatwick to Kiev this year on the new AeroSvit route.
Since BAA sold Gatwick Airport to to Global Infrastructure Partners it has gained no less than 18 new routes including airberlin flight to Hamburg and Nuremburg. easyJet has also launched a new route from London Gatwick to Zagreb this year – the airline’s third route between London and Croatia.
However, Wizz Air attempts to maintain its premier position as the number one airline carrier from London to Eastern Europe, this year opening a new route to the Macedonian capital, Skopje. This brings the number of Wizz Air routes from London Luton to the region to 23.
So, it looks like if you want to travel to the region there’s never been more flexibility! Long may it continue!
Bargain Retreats with Regent Holidays
Value for money has always been a priority for Regent Holidays which takes away the tedium of watching the pennies on holiday thanks to its selection of unusual, accordingly-inexpensive destinations, including the vast majority of Europe’s top 10 least expensive countries. Often overlooked, countries including Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovena, Albania, Serbia and Montenegro offer the visitor a fulfilling holiday without leaving a large dent in the wallet.
Taking the simple cup of coffee for example – a freshly brewed mug costs just €0.50 in Bosnia & Herzegovena, a country that boasts a glorious mix of the Mediterranean and Alpine, as enchanting as Italy, where a caffe latte can set you back as much as €5… With this in mind, why not sample the delights of Sarajevo, Bosnia’s bustling capital city for a palatable £443 per person with Regent, including 3 nights in a 3* hotel on B&B basis and flights.
Then there’s Montenegro, a perennially chic, discreet country with towering mountains that dip dramatically down to the Mediterranean and to deep-set fjords. New to Regent’s 2009/2010 brochure, Montenegro attracts a glamorous, discerning visitor, comparable to the Côte d’Azur, where you wouldn’t see much change from €50 at a restaurant while in Montenegro a three course meal at a reputable restaurant costs a toothsome €12.50. For a taste of this exceptional country, Regent has an eight day Highlights of Montenegro tour from £935pp including 3* accommodation on B&B basis, a full day excursion to Cetinje and Biogradska Gora National Park, return flights and transfers.
Macedonia is another joyously inexpensive European country and one of the Balkans’ best-kept secrets. A veritable treasure trove of Greek, Roman, Slav and Turkish history, Macedonia – also known as the ‘Land of Lakes’ – is awash with monasteries, mosques and castles and some surprisingly good local wine. Regent’s eight day Skopje & Lake Ohrid trip (from £695 per person including 4* hotel accommodation on B&B basis, flights and private car transfers) offers a brilliant overview of the country, where a decent bottle of wine will set you back €4!
Regent offers many more holidays to inexpensive European destinations that allow visitors to splash out on the ground. Holidays such as a nine day fly-drive of Bulgaria’s highlights for £595 per person (including flights, B&B 3* or 4* accommodation and care hire); a seven day Tirana & Beach holiday to Albania from £530 per person (including flights, B&B hotel accommodation and private transfers); a three night city break to Krakow from £274 per person (including flights and 4* hotel accommodation on B&B basis) or a three night city break to Belgrade from £418 per person (including flights and 3* hotel accommodation on B&B basis).
Tel: 0845 277 3317
Bargains Still to be had in Eastern Europe
Eurostat have revealed the results of their latest price survey across Europe, proving bargains are still to be had across Eastern Europe. The survey revealed that price levels in 2008 differed widely across Europe: Northern European countries tend to have the highest prices while the south-eastern European countries have the lowest prices. Southern and central European countries tend to show price levels closer to the EU average.
In Denmark consumer prices appeared 41% higher than the average of the 27 EU Member States, while in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia prices are 53% lower than this average. Among the EU Member States, the cheapest country is Bulgaria (49% below the average).
Food and non-alcoholic drinks are most expensive in Denmark and cheapest in Bulgaria. Taxes on food, alcohol and tobacco across the bloc’s 27 states are highest in Ireland and lowest in Romania. Regarding clothing prices, Britain is the least costly and Finland is the most expensive. Prices for consumer electronics are lowest in Britain and highest in Malta. Hotels cost the most in Denmark and the least in Bulgaria.
Eurostat examined prices of 2500 consumer goods and services across 37 European countries (27 Member States, the three Candidate Countries (Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey), three EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) and four Western Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia).
The results of the surveys are expressed in “price level indices” (PLIs), which provide a comparison of countries’ price levels with respect to the European Union average: if the price level index is higher than 100, the country concerned is relatively expensive compared to the EU average and vice versa, if the price level index is lower than 100, then the country is relatively cheap compared to the EU average.
10 Least Expensive European Countries
4. Bosnia and Herzegovina
10 Most Expensive European Countries:
Macedonia’s Tasty Secrets
I will be honest, my knowledge of Macedonian produce was limited to aijvar, a delicious condiment which accompanies meat dishes such as cevapi/cevapcici. So when I visited the International Wine Festival in London I was surprised to find a few stalls dedicated to Macedonia (somewhat ineptly rather close to Greece!). My favourite Macedonian wines turned out to be that produced by Dalvina.
The Dalvina vineyards and winery are located near the city of Strumica, south-east Macedonia, in Povardarie,Strumichko-Radovishki wine region. This is the famous valley of the Struma and Strumeshnica rivers. The valley has a typical Mediterranean climate. Standing at an altitude of 380 m. and being surrounded by high mountains, the vineyard benefits from a constant light wind and an average temperature of 20.2 degrees Celsius during the period of vegetation. With 210 sunny days in the year, little rain and relatively low humidity, healthy grapes are ensured.
Dalvina winery owns 370ha of vineyards. The soil is mostly sandy with an excellent exposition of the terrain which is gently layed over the smooth hills. Grape varieties include those typical for the region such as Vranec, Zupljanka, Smederevka which are some 30 years old but also newer varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Carmenere and Cabernet Franc.
The synergy of fertile soil and moderate Mediterranean climate means the grapes develop a rich palette of aromas and tastes making juicy, fruity and also complex wines that makes them quite impressive on a world market.
The Dalvina winery is relatively new with a capacity of 22 000 hl. The latest gentle technology has been installed from reception of the grapes until fermentation. Traditional délestage wine making process is used for the red wines. Automatically controlled cap plunging enhances colour and aroma extraction. The main aim of the vineyard is to capture the unique properties of the grapes, the soil and microclimates of the area.