sarma - sm - ©

Expedition To Macedonia I: A Journey In Time And Place

Last time, we explored the dining customs of Greece. This time, we’ll tour the ancient roots and traditional dishes of Macedonia – a once-powerful kingdom that ruled the Greek peninsula from the Aegean to the Adriatic, and from modern-day Serbia to Athens…

SIRENJE VO FURNA - © macdoniancuisine.comSirenji vo Furna: Macedonian ‘upside-down fondue’! Literally, ‘Cheese in the Oven’.
Usually uses at least three kinds of meltable cheese with additions of mushrooms,
bacon and other savory ingredients. It’s always found at Pizza Parlours,
and at most restaurants…

Ancient Macedonia dominated the Greek Penninsula from the Adriatic to Byzantium (Istanbul) for hundreds of years in pre-Christian times. It was a crossroads for traders and invaders alike, all of whom brought contributions to the culture and the kitchen. Today, the ‘region’ of Macedonia is officially recognized to extend across parts of Greece, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia, and Kosovo. The modern-day nation of Macedonia is much smaller, surrounded between Greece, Bulgaria, Serebia, Kosovo and Albania. But its culinary personality is still big, rich and varied…

On the menu today…

Sarma: This is a Macedonian dish (they have more than just one!) and a universal favourite. Sarma are basically Stuffed Cabbage leaves.

Sarma - ©

But the Cabbage leaves must be fermented, and the stuffing must be made of rice and the leanest ground beef mixed with onions, tomatoes and some smoked meat for flavour. Some modern cooks simply mix in a jar of Sauerkraut with the filling to impart the fermented cabbage flavour component and wrap the Sarma in fresh cabbage leaves.

Tavce Gravce: Macedonian Baked Beans require pre-boiled white (Navy) beans, a roux (thickening paste) or slurry, and dried red pepper flakes.

mmmmTavce Gravce - ©

Paprika is also usually added as are sausages or spare ribs. The beans are them baked inn a deep casserole or clay pot. Tavce Gravce a traditional Macedonian fravourite for Friday lunch!

Polneti Piperki: High on every Macadonian’s list of dinner favourites is Polneti Piperki, which is simply Green Bell Peppers stuffed with Ground Meat and Rice liberally spiced with Sweet Paprika. The peppers are baked in the oven until the Peppers are well-dome and served piping hot.

Turlitava: A hearty pork stew made with large chunks of lean meat and a wide variety of veggies which may include potatoes, paprika, eggplants, peppers, okra, tomatoes, onions, carrots, garlic, and zucchini.

Turlitava - ©

The veggies are first seared in a frying pan then added to the meat in a deep casserole and baked until the meat is fork tender. Though not strictly traditional, you can make a satisfying and filling vegetarian (vegan) version just by leaving out the meat.

Selsko Meso: You might call this the classic Macedonian stew. You can use either pork or beef, and it always turns out just as delicious. But the traditional recipe calls for pork. In fact, Selsko Meso is often referred to ‘Pork and Mushroom Stew’.


Selesko Meso - ©

To the meat, you add small pieces of smoked meat (for flavour), onions, tomatoes or ketchup, cream cheese, mushrooms, peppers, spices, salt and wine. The mixture is baked in a clay pot, low and slow, until the meat is tender. Those who’ve had it say you’ve never tasted anything like it!

Musaka: From the same Ottoman cultural roots, Macedonian Musaka is quite different from the traditional Greek dish. About the only similarity is, it’s layered. Layers of sliced potatoes are covered with a mixture of ground beef and fried onions (spiced up with salt, pepper and red pepper) that’s been cooked to the consistency of a thick spread. After a final layer of potatoes, an egg-based topping is added and the casserole is baked until the potatoes are fork tender.

Kebapi: (Also known as Cevapi) Almost every culture includes some sort of Sausage in its recipe book. Minced meat, onions, salt and pepper are mixed well (as if you were making Meatballs) and formed into sausage shapes. They’re a summer favourite on the grill and can be found on most restaurant menus year round.

Pastrmalija: Like many corners of the world, Macedonia has a popular flatbread-based dish popularly referred to as ‘Pizza’. Pastrmalija are oblong flatbreads topped with diced pork or chicken and bits of pork fat. They’re baked until the bread is browned around the edges, like a Pizza.

Pastrmajlija - ©

In some areas, they top the pies with eggs (which cook in the oven) and fermented hot peppers – like Italian Pepperonccini. In fact, You can make your own knock-off Pastrmalija using Nan Bread ‘loaves’ from the supermarket, your own leftover pork or chicken, and Pepperonccini. Even the kids (aged 12 and up; or whatever age they are allowed to use the toaster oven) can make these unsupervised.

Shopska: This is the national Salad of Macedonia. It’s a simple salad, not unlike the ubiquitous Chef’s Salad: chunks of tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, and some olive oil and salt are tossed together, and served as a starter for most Macedeonian main meals.

Shopska - © macedoniancuisinecom

The olive oil and cheese are particularly important; the traditional ‘recipe’ for Shopska specifies lots of grated cheese both in the mix and on top.

And that’s just for starters…

Tomorrow, we’ll look at classic Macedonian Baked Goods, Condiments and Beverages…

~ Maggie J.