Ajvar

Ajvar is, for lack of a simple description, a red pepper and eggplant based relish type of sauce slash condiment, which is very popular in the Balkan region of Europe. Think Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, think lots of meat sizzling on the BBQ. Of course like all good things ajvar is pretty versatile, and to be honest I can eat it pretty much like I do ketchup.

Ajvar is best known, however, as the traditional accompaniment for cevapi. You know, those small skinless sausages you may have seen and weren’t sure what they were or how they taste. Cevapi are a staple at our BBQ’s because everyone loves them, and while on holidays recently we had some for lunch in the old town of Mostar in Bosnia, where East meets West, where Christian, Orthodox, and Muslim all intersect, and where cevapi are pretty much the local dish to have. Traditionally they’re served with some diced raw onion, a warmed lepinja {flat Turkish bread}, and of course lots of ajvar. {Just don’t burn your cevapi like someone did when cooking mine.}

You can find ajvar pretty easily in most supermarkets and deli’s these days but this is definitely one of those times it’s just so much better to make your own. It’s also one of the easiest things in the world to make, so no excuses.

GLUTEN FREE | VEGETARIAN | VEGAN | LOW FAT | LOW SUGAR

what you need

  • five red capsicums {or peppers, I used the round ones but long would work too, however you may need only one eggplant, or increase the number of long peppers instead}
  • 2 medium or 1 large eggplant/s, the rounded variety rather than the long skinny ones
  • one garlic clove, minced
  • juice of half a lemon
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
  • fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped {which I actually forgot to add to mine, still tasted fine but I’ll definitely add it next time 🙂 }

what to do

Heat the oven to about 200 C. Place the peppers and eggplant on a lined baking sheet, no oil and no seasoning, just as they are, and roast for about forty minutes to an hour, keeping an eye on them to make sure they don’t blacken too quickly. Turn regularly so they soften and all sides are cooked through evenly. Remove from oven and cover with foil to cool for about ten minutes or so.

Scrape the flesh {including seeds but no skin} from the eggplant into a glass bowl.

Taking the peppers, remove the skin, which should come off easily. Discard the seeds and scrape the flesh into the bowl with the eggplant. Don’t worry about chopping it up. Add the garlic, lemon juice, a few tablespoons of olive oil, a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and blitz with a stick blender until smooth.

Add the vinegar and parsley, blitz again, and check for seasoning. Transfer the ajvar to a small saucepan, and simmer on very low for about thirty minutes.

And that’s it! Cool and serve, it keeps refrigerated for up to ten days, not that it’ll last that long.

And by the way, the authentic cevapi experience looked something like this:

Not bad at all.

🙂

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