The Serbian and Balkan cuisine is full of mouthwatering appetizers that usually involve fresh, homemade bread coupled with some type of delicious spread. We already talked about the cheesy goodness known as Kajmak, so it’s only fair to cover another equally important relish, without which many Balkan dishes would feel incomplete. Today, we’re going to find out how to make a very popular spread primarily consisting of red peppers.
Yes, we’re going to talk about Ajvar.
What is Ajvar?
As autumn approaches, the streets of villages in south Serbia become filled with the aromatic smell of roasted peppers, as many households prepare their favorite winter relish. Ajvar has a very unique taste, and trying to describe it with words is easier said than done. It’s a mix of smokiness, spiciness, and sweetness all in one. Exceptional Ajvar has a thick texture and, coupled with a crispy bread bun, can be a meal in its own right. That being said, the smoky taste makes it a perfect dipping sauce for everyone’s favorite Balkan meat dish – cevapcici.
Whether you’re eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you should always have some Ajvar on the table. To help you make it at home, we’ll let you in on a secret recipe. Here’s how you can make Ajvar in your own kitchen, and enjoy it during the upcoming cold winter days.
The Best Ajvar Recipe
High-quality Ajvar is all about patience and having the right ingredients. Because of the amount of time it takes to make Ajvar, we recommend making enough of it to fill a couple of jars and then store them away, so that you can just grab them from the fridge whenever you are craving for a quick meal. Make sure to scale down and adjust the ingredient quantities, if you’re making a smaller amount.
For our recipe you will need:
10kg (22lbs) of red peppers (preferably Bull’s Horn peppers)
2kg (4,5lbs) of large eggplants
2 chili peppers (go with 4 if you want it to be extra spicy)
800ml (27oz) of vegetable oil
3-4 garlic cloves
50-100ml of vinegar (personal preference)
Add salt to your liking, we recommend no more than 5 tbsp.
Start by giving the peppers a thorough wash, and leave them to dry. When they are completely dry, place them on a cooking grate, and throw them in the oven for about 10 minutes on each side, or until their complete surface starts turning into a brown-darkish color. If you have a barbecue in your yard, you can use it for roasting, instead of an oven.
Once you’re done roasting the peppers, you want to transfer them to a separate bowl and cover them with a kitchen cloth or plastic wrap. While the peppers are cooling down, throw the eggplants into the oven, and roast them at the same heat (around 200°C / 400°F).
When both the peppers and eggplants have cooled down, you can start peeling off the charred surface and removing the seeds. Put them in a blender, and blend them together with chili peppers and garlic cloves. You can set aside a few peppers and slice them in long, thin strings. Add these strings later on, when cooking the mixture, so that the taste of peppers is really emphasized.
Now comes the fun part. Grab a huge pan and heat up the vegetable oil. Throw in the blended mixture, and cook on medium to high heat, while stirring frequently for about 2 hours, making sure that it does not burn. While doing this, you can gradually add vinegar to the mixture. Make sure to occasionally taste it and add salt accordingly. Once you’re happy with the thickness and the taste of the mixture, you can transfer it to preheated glass jars and store them away to cool down.
And there you have it. Genuine, delicious, homemade Ajvar waiting for you to grab a piece of crispy baguette and dunk it in!
If you liked this recipe and would like to see more similar articles on Serbian and Balkan specialties, make sure to regularly check our Rakija Lounge blog.
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