This post is by: Kay (my lovely wife and writer for K’s Kitchen!)
Since the end of August, I started to see lots of sacks of paprika at vegetable shops in Kosovo….Yes, this is a sign that autumn is here and therefore the season for Ajvar has started….Indeed, leaves are turning yellow and it was zero degree at night in Prishtina few days ago (early October)!!
Today, I’m FINALLY introducing you to one of the most popular Balkan dishes (sauce), Ajvar. I never knew about this very popular Balkan dish until I moved to Kosovo. Ajvar is basically a sauce made of red paprika and spices. According to the website and some recipes that I have seen, eggplants and onions are sometimes used, however, my Kosovar friends tell me that Ajvar is strictly with paprikas and the one mixed with other vegetables are actually called Pinxhur. Both of them are often used as a dip or part of the appetizer (Meze) with bread. You can also use it as a sauce for meat, or even as a pasta sauce. Here is the link for the history of Ajvar, for those interested.
Ingredients (makes 1.5 litters)
Onions: 1 finely chopped
Garlic: 3 cloves finely chopped
Chili: 3-5 (depending on your preference)
Olive oil: Half cup
Vinegar or lemon: 1 Tablespoon
Salt: to taste
Pepper: to taste
How to cook (cooking/preparation time: 60 minutes)
(1) Roast red paprika and eggplants in the oven at 240 C° for 25-30 min or until they are roasted. You may want to cut the eggplants into haves if they are big. Turn the vegetables around half way through to roast them evenly. Roast chilies as well, but please don’t put in the oven too long! Mine exploded in the oven!
(2) While roasting, sauté the onions and garlic with 1-2 table spoons of olive oil very well until they are brown and very soft.
(3) When paprika and eggplants are done, put them in a pot and leave them for 5-10 min. Peel their skins and take out the seeds of paprika, cut them in pieces, and mash them with a masher.
(4) Put the mashed vegetables, chopped chilies, and sauteed onion & garlic, as well as olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, into a blender and blend them until the chunks disappear.
(5) Adjust the taste by adding more salt and peppers. In my case, I have added more chopped spicy Sri Lankan chilies (-:
(6) Serve Ajvar on the plate together with other dips or meze along with some bread (ideally Arabic or pita bread). Today, I decided to serve with some olives from Macedonia (thanks to Todd’s recent trip to Lake Ohrid).
That’s a lot of Peppers!
As I wanted to make it properly, I bought a sack of paprika and used 10 which produced almost 1.5 litters of Pinxhur Ajvar! If you would like to try first, you can probably cook a half portion. If you sterilize the bottle, they say that Ajvar lasts for couple of years. This is the way how people in the Balkans used to prepare (and still prepare) the preserved food to be ready for winter. Kosovar Moms also like to point out how healthy this is, especially since one red paprika is said to have more vitamin C than a lemon.
Was that easy? Delicious? Tell us how tasty it was, or how it all went horribly, horribly wrong