Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Adventures in Food: The Balkans

I like things to be well organized and categorized. Balkan food, however, is not easy to categorise into distinct countries. (In fact, there is even debate on which countries ARE Balkan countries! I take it to mean countries on the Balkan Peninsula i.e. including Greece and Turkey). I encountered this a lot in my travels, particularly in South America. But I think the recency of the split of Yugoslavia into Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and so on, means that many of these places still cook a shared cuisine. And that's to say nothing of the influence of other neighbours such as Austria, Hungary and Italy, and the Mediterranean Sea and climate! These are some of the commonalities that I found across all of the Balkan countries we visited (including Bulgaria in early 2015!).


Fruit brandy found from Turkey to Slovenia. Lots of different flavours depending on the fruits/herbs/spices used.

Greek salad/shopska salad/Çoban salatasi

This standard salad always contains tomato, cucumber, onion, white cheese and herbs; pimp it up with capsicum, olives and capers; dress it with olive oil and/or lemon juice.


The Balkan pesto! This common spread is found in even the smallest shops. It is a paste made from roasted eggplants, sometimes with eggplant and chilli added. You can eat it with bread and cheese, or as a side dish.


I can't get enough of kaymak! It's a clotted cream with very high percentage of milk fat. It can be used in sweet or savoury dishes and adds a creamy richness to anything. I most enjoyed it with fried dough puffs in Bosnia. Found across Turkey and the Balkans.


This savoury pastry was really my saviour when we were on the road, as it qualifies as a filling, handheld, readily available vegetarian snack! Put plainly, borek is a filled, flaky phyllo pastry. I have had such as range, from cheese cigars, to potato and spice filled
lunches, to on-the-go spinach and cheese. And! In Greece, you can get a sweet custard borek in the form of galaktoboureko.

Stuffed vegetables/dolma/japrak/yemista

Another veggo standby! I had stuffed tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants, zucchini and vine leaves in my time in the Balkans. Yum yum!

And there you have it. I won't go into dessert (see my individual country posts), but I hope that for anyone travelling to the Balkans this is a good starting point for the kinds of foods you can expect to encounter.

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