Looking for a spicy accompaniment with your meats or a piquant spread to smear on toasts and sandwich bread?
The cuisine of the Balkan region boasts of two rich and flavourful relishes – Lutenica and Ajvar. The bright orange colored sauces with their slightly grainy-chunky consistency are commonly found preserved foods in households across the Southeast European states. Families start preparing Ajvar and Lutenica in fall to be eaten during the colder months of winter; in fact, the ritual announces the coming of winter. Quite versatile in their use, they can be eaten as spreads, sauces, and relishes. Here’s more on these must-try traditional dishes.
The origins of Ajvar are often debated. This delicious treat is native to Macedonia. Known by varied names locally, it is prepared in several regions of the Balkan area including Albania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Bosnia, and Macedonia.
Roasted bell peppers are the chief ingredient in Ajvar. Traditional procedures included roasting the bell peppers over a flame. However, nowadays people also cook it in an oven or over a grill. Ajvar packs a lot of flavors. Roasting the peppers gives it a smoky flavor. Authentic Ajvar is less spicy as it makes use of the roga bell pepper variety. Roga bell peppers are red in color, elongated in shape, and sweeter to taste. There are spicy and hot varieties of Ajvar available too made by adding chilies. The tangy sauce varies in its consistency; it could be a smooth blend or a chunky paste.
There is no single recipe to make Ajvar. People have added other ingredients to the original recipe coming up with several recipe variations. The addition of roasted eggplants is the most common variation. After roasting the bell peppers over an open flame, they are mashed into a fine paste. This paste is slowed cooked with other spices and condiments such as garlic, black pepper, parsley, and salt, cooking oil, vinegar (depending on the recipe) to further enhance the flavor profile. Owing to its rich flavor and texture, Ajvar has also earned the moniker of the “vegetable caviar”
Regarded as a variety of Ajvar, Lutenica has a slightly different flavor profile. It is a spicy, tangy relish. Like Ajvar, Lutenica is prepared using roasted bell peppers. But unlike it, it includes tomatoes. The chutney gets its sharp and spicy flavor from the chili peppers used in the mix. The other optional ingredients include eggplants, carrots, and onions and flavoring agents such as salt, sugar, and vinegar.
Lutenica is not usually eaten fresh out of the cooking pot. It is left to age in glass bottles for a while before it can be consumed. It is served as a side dish with meat preparations, can be used as a spread on a toast or cracker or spooned out as a garnish with salads. Lutenica is also known as lutenitsa, and is a staple in the kitchens of Bulgaria, Serbia, and Macedonia. The thickness and spiciness of the chutney vary according to the region and personal taste.
Preparing Ajvar and Lutenica involves a lot of work. But the product is worth the effort spent. If you crave some but don’t have the time to make it, you can enjoy some Ajvar and Lutenica from Serdika Foods. They are must-try Balkan relishes.