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
- 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
- Sour cream (optional)
- Pickled peppers (optional)
- Shredded lettuce (optional)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pop two or three in a flatbread with a smear of ajvar, shredded onion, sour cream, lettuce and a pickled pepper or three.
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.