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…

Ajvar

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

Instructions

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

Ćevapčići

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.

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Recipe: Adriatic Mussels in White Wine & Parsley

The winter is the best time to indulge in mussels on the Adriatic coast of Slovenia and Croatia.  This is a very simple recipe for steamed mussels and ensures the taste of the fabulous, succulent mussels shines through and is not dominated by any other ingredient.

Adriatic Mussels

Here’s my foolproof recipe…

Ingredients

1kg mussels, with the beards and any barnacles removed, any open mussels should be disguarded

250ml white wine (Malvasia would be ideal)

2 garlic cloves, crushed

3 tbsp parsley, chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

Instructions

Put oil, wine, parsley and garlic into a stock pot and heat until it reaches a simmer

Place the mussels into the pot

Put a lid on the pot and allow the mussels to steam for 4 to 5 minutes

Serve when the mussels are open, with bread to mop up the sauce

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Russian Zakuski / закуски Recipe: Baked Cauliflower Cheese

While the Russians may not have created signature cauliflower cheese they do indeed have their version and enjoy it with gusto.  It’s a great side dish or one for their zakuski board.  It’s by far one of my favourite ways to eat cauliflower, only perhaps overshadowed by fried cauliflower in breadcrumbs.

Russian Zakuski / закуски Recipe Cauliflower Cheese

Here’s my recipe…

Ingredients

Cauliflower florets

3 tbsp plain flour

100g butter

500ml milk

500ml sour cream

100g grated hard cheese

Instructions

Boil the florets in water for five minutes, drain and set aside

Heat the flour in 50g butter until golden brown

Add another 50g of butter to the pan and the milk

Whisk continuously to prevent lumps

Allow the sauce to thicken, then add sour cream

Simmer for five minutes

Put the cauliflower into a greased gratin dish

Pour over the hot sauce

Sprinkle with grated cheese (to ensure the top browns, add a few tbsp of butter to the top)

Russian Zakuski / закуски Recipe Cauliflower Cheese

Bake in the oven on 180°C until golden brown (approximately 25 minutes)

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Russian Zakuski / закуски Recipe: Marinated Sardines

Talk to most people about Russian cuisine and the likelihood is they’ll say, “Don’t they just eat meat and potatoes; or eat caviar and drink vodka?”  I’m hoping to try and change people’s attitudes as there is so much more to this nation’s cuisine.  One of my favourite Russian zakuski dishes (though I realise they are not to everyone’s taste) are marinated sardines.  They are served cold so they are an ideal starter for a dinner party as they can be prepared in advance.

Russian Zakuski / закуски Recipe Marinated Sardines

Here’s my recipe…

Ingredients

Sardines, gutted and cleaned

2 white onions, finely chopped

1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 parsnip, peeled and finely chopped

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

500ml fish stock

1 bay leaf

4 tbsp cider vinegar

50g plain flour

Instructions

Toss the sardines in flour and fry in oil until browned

Russian Zakuski / закуски Recipe Marinated Sardines

Remove sardines from pan and allow to cool

Meanwhile, fry the vegetables in oil

Russian Zakuski / закуски Recipe Marinated Sardines

Pour over the stock and add the bay leaf

Cover and simmer for 20 minutes

Add vinegar to taste and leave to cool

Pour the marinade over the sardines and allow to marinade for up to three hours

To serve, place on a platter and drizzle over the marinade

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Russian Zakuski / закуски Recipe: Tomatoes Stuffed with Mushrooms

Russian Zakuski / закуски mushroom stuffed tomatoes

There are many Russian zakuski dishes (small, introductory dishes usually part of a welcome board serves to guests on arrival) that also double as impressive, party-piece starters.  These tomatoes are no exception.  The large tomatoes are stuffed with a mushroom and sour cream sauce which can all be prepared before baking for just 30 minutes before serving.  Ideal!  Should you have any mixture leftover it can be frozen for up to one month and used as a pasta sauce or sauce for a grilled chicken breast.

Russian Zakuski / закуски mushroom stuffed tomatoes

Here’s my recipe…

Ingredients

500g mushrooms, chopped (I use a mixture, wild are best but shitake and chestnut will do if availability is limited)

125ml sour cream

25g butter

1 white onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp parsley, chopped

4 large beef tomatoes

100g grated Gouda cheese

Instructions

Gently fry the onion, when softened add in the mushrooms

Russian Zakuski / закуски mushroom stuffed tomatoes

When sauteed add in the sour cream and parsley

Allow the mixture to cool

Cut the lids off the large tomatoes and hollow out the middle

When the mixture is cool, fill the tomatoes

Russian Zakuski / закуски mushroom stuffed tomatoes

Sprinkle the tomatoes with cheese and bake in an oven at 180°C for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top

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Celebrate the BAFTAs with Grey Goose le Masque

Are you planning on watching the British Academy Film Awards on Sunday night?  If so, why not get into the spirit with a delicious Grey Goose le Masque.  Grey Goose will be playing host to the official after party for this year’s prestigious British Academy Film Awards in London at the iconic Grosvenor House Hotel in Mayfair, and to celebrate the awards, Global Brand Ambassador, Dimi Lezinska, has created the superb Grey Goose le Masque cocktail, inspired by the iconic BAFTA masque award.  The cocktail perfectly encapsulates all the glamour of the big screen and will be served to the evening’s glittering guestlist as they celebrate the night’s successes.

Grey Goose le Masque

Mixed with delicate elderflower, grape and fresh pear flavours, the Grey Goose Le Masque is the perfect accompaniment to the BAFTAs and is the cocktail to be seen sipping this awards season.  However, if you can’t make the party, why not whip up a batch before watching the awards!  Here’s how…

Ingredients

30 ml Grey Goose vodka
15 ml MARTINI Gold vermouth
35 ml Fresh-pressed organic Golden Delicious apple juice
5 ml Organic elderflower cordial
4 drops Bombay Sapphire London dry gin

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice

Shake and double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass with a gold rim

Finish with a squeeze of white grapefruit zest

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Russian Zakuski / закуски Recipe: Meatballs Braised in Sour Cream

The Russians are not commonly famed for their cuisine yet the nation boasts some fantastic dishes.  In my opinion, the simple are always the best and I love these Russian beef meatballs braised in sour cream which would make up a zakuski board for guests upon arrival.  They are very easy to make, though they do require some time as it is best to chill them thoroughly before cooking to prevent them breaking up.

Russian Beef Meatballs in Sour Cream

Here’s my recipe…

Ingredients

500g minced beef

50g breadcrumbs

3 tbsp chopped parsley

1 small white onion, grated

20g plain flour

25g butter

3 tbsp sunflower oil

700ml sour cream

Instructions

Mix the beef, two tbps of parsley, breadcrumbs and onion

Form the mixture into small balls

Roll the balls in the flour

Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes

Fry each ball in oil and butter

Russian Beef Meatballs in Sour Cream

Rest the meatballs until just before serving

When you want to serve them, heat sour cream in a saucepan and add the meatballs

When everything is thoroughly heated serve and sprinkle with remaining parsley

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Recipe: Soča River Trout Wrapped in Pršut

When I first visited Slovenia the Detela family took me out to a restaurant one day for lunch.  This was the dish I ordered and I love it!  It’s fresh, tasty and as I found when I tried to make it recently, not actually that difficult.

Soška postrv s pršutom

Check out my recipe below…

Ingredients

1 trout per person gutted, cleaned and patted dry

4 slices of proscuitto ham per fish

1 clove of garlic per fish, crushed

1 tbsp finely chopped parsley per fish

250ml white wine

50g butter

Seasoning

Instructions

Generously butter a roasting dish large enough to fit the fish laying flat

Place the garlic and parsley into the fish

Wrap the prosciutto ham around each fish to seal it, season with salt and pepper

Soška postrv s pršutom

Place fish into roasting tin

Pour wine over fish

Place in oven on 180°C and roast for 30 minutes

Remove the fish from the oven and keep warm

Simmer the juices until slightly thickened

Serve the fish with the sauce poured over it and a generous wedge of lemon

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Russian Zakuski / закуски Recipe: Grated Carrot with Horseradish

Russian zakuski dishes are small, introductory dishes normally served to guests on arrival after a long journey and prior to an indulgent feast.  Carrot is a popular and cheap base for many zakuski recipes.  This particular concoction is entirely that, an amalgamation of several recipes.  The taste may be a bit unusual but it is certainly pleasing.  Plus, it also makes a great alternative salad side dish.

Russian Grated Carrot with Horseradish

Here’s my recipe…

Ingredients

2 carrots, finely grated

200ml sour cream

50ml creamed horseradish

Juice and zest of one lemon

Cracked black pepper for seasoning

Instructions

Place carrot in a bowl

Drizzle over lemon juice

Mix the sour cream and horseradish

Top with cracked black pepper and lemon zest

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Russian Zakuski / закуски Recipe: Smoked Salmon with Olives

The tradition of the zakuski board dates back to the 18th Century.  On arrival guests would be greeted with a bountiful board of small dishes, a bottle of vodka, possibly a bottle of sparkling Georgian wine, and of course a bubbling samovar for tea.  What better welcome could one wish for?  Not all of the dishes are complex… one of my favourites is simply smoked salmon arranged decoratively with green and black olives.

Russian Zakuski Salmon & Olives Recipe

Here’s the (ever so) simple recipe below…

Ingredients

Smoked salmon slices

Green and black olives

Juice of one lemon

Instructions

Fold then roll the slice of salmon to form a nest and arrange on a plate

Place an olive into each nest of salmon

Drizzle over lemon juice and serve