Bosnian cevapi with ajvar

I’ve been looking for a way of using up some steak mince I picked up on the cheap, and stumbled across an interesting-looking but frankly ridiculous recipe for Balkan sausages by Jamie Oliver. Clearly not designed for anybody on a budget, it involves such fripperies as sparkling water and over a 1.1kg of two different types of mince. I appreciate it’s designed to feed six but, truly, when did you last?

My own research into cevapi – plural of cevap, a Slavic cognate of ‘kebab’ – reveals that his inclusion of pork is fairly anomalous too (although Serbian versions frequently mix in lamb instead). I’ve gone for beef and beef alone (typically Bosnian, so I read). And don’t be scared of the bicarb on the ingredients list; it changes the texture from ‘meatball’ to that springy consistency familiar from curry house sheesh kebabs.

The ajvar (“eye-vhar”) that comes with it is made from a small aubergine (70p), some garlic paste (or whole garlic cloves, if you have them), a little olive oil, some lemon juice, and a chargrilled red pepper. The original recipe called for six (LOL), but I picked up a large jar of pre-prepared ones from the ethnic aisle for something like £1.40. They turned out to be romano rather than bell peppers, giving the finished product a slight piquancy – always good in my book.

Serves: 3 (two dinners and one leftover lunch)

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 1hr

Ingredients:

  • 500g steak mince (£2.62, ‘Whoops’-ed at ASDA)
  • 2 red onions (1 grated, 1 shredded)
  • 1tsp bicarbinate of soda
  • 1.5tsp hot paprika
  • 1 romano or red bell pepper
  • 1 small aubergine (70p)
  • 2tsp garlic paste / 2 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 egg
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Flatbreads
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Pickled peppers (optional)
  • Shredded lettuce (optional)

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Method:

  1. In a bowl, mix together the beef, grated onion, bicarb and paprika. Crack in the egg and use your hands to combine. If it’s a bit too liquid, mix in a few dried breadcrumbs.
  2. Shape into 8 small, fat sausages with wet hands, and pop into the fridge to firm up for as long as possible (at least 2 hours). This gives the bicarb its chance to work on the texture.
  3. Prick the aubergine with a fork and pop it onto a baking tray in a hot oven for 45 minutes. Remove, allow to cool, then scoop out the flesh.
  4. Place the chargrilled pepper and garlic into a blender, with the flesh from the aubergine. Blitz, then add a glug of olive oil, a splash of lemon juice, and season to your taste. Pop into an old jam jar (sterilised with boiling water) and it’ll keep in the fridge for a week or so.
  5. Once chilled, cook the cevapi on a griddle (or frying pan if that’s all you have) using a little very hot oil. Finish them off in the oven if they’re fairly fat and you want to make sure they’re cooked all the way through.
  6. Pop two or three in a flatbread with a smear of ajvar, shredded onion, sour cream, lettuce and a pickled pepper or three.

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I’ve got just over half a jar of ajvar left, so I’m currently thinking up ways to use it up. Watch this space.

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