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Monday, April 21, 2014

Roll It Up, Cook It Up, Eat It Up, Enjoy!

turkey sea kas garden patience sarma
Sometimes when you hitchhike you pray nobody is going to pick you up so you can enjoy the view little more
    Did you ever hitchhiked and didn't care is somebody going to pick you up or not? That thing happened to me once. It happens only on some really nice places. Mediterranean is full of those and hitchhiking tours around Mediterranean countries can last longer then expected. We were hitchhiking on Mediterranean coast in South-eastern Turkey. You are standing with your thumb up, white stone and olive trees on one side, sea and clear blue sky from the horizon line up on the other. Looking a little bit here, a little bit there and wish nobody ever stops so I can watch that scene for ever and ever.
turkey sea kas garden patience sarma
Each few kilometer ride gives you one more magnificent view
    Eventually changing one by one few kilometer ride, you reach your destination. Hippie getaway, antic archaeological site, sea turtle kindergarten, buzzing party town with tree houses all in one, Olympos, Turkey. We came there, pitched our tent, looked around and almost fell unconscious. Camp grounds and tree house pansions are in the valley with lemon and mandarin trees for shade, From each side of the valley there is a rocky mountain, and the valley follows small mountain river that goes through Roman archeological site, covered with moss and ivy vines. At the end of the road, view suddenly opens up to the beach where river ends up it's bumpy flow. It's a beach where turtles come to lay their eggs, and backpackers come to drink their beers and enjoy the morning sun after the wild party nights. If you swim close to the river mouth, you will feel drastic changes of water temperature with warm sea and cold mountain river colliding. Bloodthirsty fishes will bite your leg hair and even more bloodthirsty archeological site guards will ask you to pay the entrance into the site each time you wanna go to the beach (it's the only way).
turkey sea olympus garden patience sarma
Famous Olympus tree house pansions
    This natural wonder is little bit spoiled by thousands of backpackers partying there every day. Tree house pansion offer much commodity, two meals a day and a numerous excursion to near by natural sites, like eternal flames of Chimera. At one of those tree house pansions we decided to pitch our tent, so for the price we payed for, we got traditional (?!) Turkish breakfast and fantastic vegetarian dinner. While eating dinner I tried something that will totally change my look on traditional Balkan sarma dish.
turkey sea olympus garden patience sarma
To get to the beach you need to pass some mystical Roman ruins

    Sarma is a dish made of rolled cabbage, sauerkraut, wine or garden patience leaves filled with various stuffing that in Serbia is usually made from rice, mince meat and onions. In my country sarma is a festive dish, so people serve it on various happy occasions like: weddings, patron saint days, Christmas or Easter feasts etc. There are few ways to make sarma in Serbia, the difference is mainly in kind of leaves you will put the stuffing in and some additional stuff you put inside the pot while cooking it like smoked meat when you stuff sauerkraut leaves. In Greece and Turkey on the other hand they use various kinds of stuffing, so you can find authentic vegan sarma. In Turkey they call this dish Yalanci Dolma which means ''fake dolma (sarma)'' in English. Both Turks and Greeks use wine leaves roll the stuffing in. It's mainly eaten as a  meze and the stuffing is made of rice spiced with mint, lemon, sometimes tomato puree or pine nuts.
turkey sea olympus garden patience sarma
And fallow the cold mountain riverbed.
    First time I tried to make this dish I couldn't find any wine leaves around. I went to the market and bought garden patience leaves. It's a plant that grows literately everywhere, and people use it's leaves in Western Balkans to roll standard non-vegan sarmas. I didn't have much hope with this combination, but I was amazed with the result. Vegan Yalanci Dolma with garden patience leaves rocks!

turkey sea olympus garden patience sarma
Everything pays off when you see the beautiful beach at the river mouth. Only bad thing it's crawling with backpackers as you can see on this photo.
-Garden patience leaves, you usually get around 10 when buying it on the market, since you make very small rolls (sarmas) with this leaves you should take 2 packs or 20 leaves,
-Brown rice (you can use white rice as well), one cup, 250g (8,8 oz),
-Onions, one big one,
-Lemon, you'll need one smaller or one half of a bigger lemon,
-Mint, black peppercorns, ground pepper, oregano, salt, thyme, water, ground pepper,
-(Optional) one spoon of tomato puree and some pine nuts.
garden patience sarma
First stage of rolling garden patience leaf sarma
1. Finely chop the onion and add it to the smaller pot on few spoons of pre-heated olive oil. Sprinkle some salt on it.

garden patience sarma
Cutting off petioles of garden patience leaves, which will use later to put at the bottom of the pot so sarmas don't stick
2. Wash garden patience leaves, cut the petioles off and cut the central vein from the back of each leaf, with the move that looks like cutting a fillet. This way leaves are not going to break when you roll them. If you want your garden patience leaves to be even more flexible, wash them with some hot water or soak them into the boiling water you are cooking rice with (step 3) for a few seconds.
garden patience sarma
Cutting the veins from garden patience leaf
3. Finely chop central leaf veins and add them to the onions when they become translucent, also add dry mint leaves, thyme, some ground pepper and if you decide to use tomato puree and pine nuts add them to in this stage. In the end you add the rice you washed before and one cup of water. Wait until it starts boiling, turn it down to the middle of the and put the lid on.       
garden patience sarma
Stage two of rolling garden patience sarmas
4. After rice soaks all the water, turn down the heat and leave it for some time to cool off. Take one bigger pot, pour little bit of olive oil in it, put in garden patience petioles and spread them around the pot's bottom.
garden patience sarma
Stage three of rolling patience leaf sarmas, now we just need to roll it from root to the tip of the leaf.
5. In this step you will roll your sarmas. Put garden patience leaf on chopping board with face side up. Put half of one spoon of rice on the approximate center of the leave. Fold both sides (left and right) of the leaf and then roll it from the root side to the tip. If you got cuboid looking roll with no rice stuffing falling out of it, you rolled your first sarma. Congratulations! :) After that lay it in the bigger pot. Do the same with all the leaves. When you put all the sarmas in the pot put extra stuffing (if there is some) on top.

6. Slice lemon thinly and put slices on top of the sarmas. Add a few black peppercorns, some oregano, more mint, thyme, salt, olive oil and pour two cups of water on top (0,5 liter, 1 pint).
garden patience sarma
Garden patience leaf vegan sarmas
7. Put bigger pot on the burner, first turn it to the maximum and after the water starts boiling turn it down to the middle of the scale. You should cook your sarmas until rice absorbs almost all the water. When there's only a little bit of juice left, turn down the burner and leave your sarmas covered for some time.

    These types of sarmas are served for meze, although you can eat it as a main dish as well. In Turkey and Greece people usually eat it with yoghurt which is the best option if you are vegetarian. If you are vegan it goes really nice with some fine cucumber salad with garlic and dill, tomato-onion salad etc.
garden patience sarma
Vegetarian Garden patience leaf sarmas with yoghurt
    This is also a great dish for followers of macrobiotic diet, it's totally in according to all macrobiotic standards, just skip adding tomato puree since tomato is a night-shade plant and considered too yin and use brown rice. You can also cut amount of lemon at least in half which will give much milder taste to the dish. 

    This is a spring dish, because garden patience is picked in spring time. Preparing this dish is a great fun and if you want to prepare some bigger amounts it's always fun to have some help from people you like to chill with.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dr. Pepper

peppers stuffed with beans
Still hot bean stuffed peppers

   ''The misleading name "pepper" was given by Christopher Columbus upon bringing the plant back to Europe.At that time peppercorns, the fruit of an unrelated plant originating from India, Piper nigrum, was a highly prized condiment; the name "pepper" was at that time applied in Europe to all known spices with a hot and pungent taste and so naturally extended to the newly discovered Capsicum genus.'' (Thank you Wikipedia:)
    Peppers came from Mexico, it was brought to Europe immediately after the discovery of Americas, around the year 1493. To be honest I can't imagine how Europe had looked before peppers came.
    Balkan people love peppers. They can't live without it even during winter times, so they stack their peppers in so many different ways. I'll try to list some of those here:

- they dry it and grind it and that powder they add to most of their dishes, in the west also known as paprika (name for pepper in Eastern Europe),
- they dry chili ones, smoke them, crush them and add them when they wanna make a hot dish
Drying peppers in Souther Serbian villages
- they pickle it and eat it as a salad,
- they make ajvar, spread made out of grilled aubergines and peppers and eat it as a side dish or a bread spread,
- they roast it and leave it in the freezer, so they can make roasted pepper salad in winter or eat it in an omelet,
- they put it raw in the freezer so they can add it to the dishes like đuveč (mixed vegetables in clay pot baked in an oven)
- and last but not least, they dry big pieces and keep them for making stuffed pepper dishes during winter time.
    Stuffed peppers are the Balkan's funkiest dish. You can stuff them with various stuffings, and make the vegan, vegetarian, tasty, nice looking... Coolest thing to bring out in front of your guests from foreign lands because it's so colorful. Dried stuffed peppers in winter is the thing you need to forget about the weather outside and start thinking about where you're gonna go when the summer time comes.
dry peppers soon to be stuffed with beans
This is how dry peppers look like
    I saw big dried peppers long before I found out what people use them for. You can't miss them on Serbian markets. Although for a long time I didn't know what they use them for. One time my Mexican friend wanted to make some home made Mexican dish and bought those. He thought they are chili like the ones in Mexico, they weren't, so he needed to add some chili paprika to make his dish taste more Mexican. Few years after that i went to my friends place in Niš, southern Serbia. His mom made stuffed dry peppers (with rice and meat), and that dish was amazing. I made it immediately after I got home and since then I'm addicted to it, although I stopped adding meat to the original recipe after some time..
    I especially like peppers filled with beans. That's a traditional dish that's mainly eaten in southern parts of Serbia, as well as in Bulgaria and Macedonia. I changed an old recipe a bit, adding more onions and tomato pure. Since there's a sacred rule, that if you prepare oven baked beans you should add a lot of onions to it, I figured it's not gonna be any different with oven baked beans that's baking inside peppers, and I'm very proud to say I was right.

- dried peppers, you usually get 10 in one pack you buy at the market,
stuffing peppers with beans
Stuffing peppers with cooked beans
- beans (use white beans, I fucked up and bought some dark beans before, so I used in dish to get rid of it. I mean it was good, but white kind is better for these kind of dishes), 250 grams (8,8 oz),
- onions, one big one or two medium ones,
- tomato pure, 2-3 spoons
- garlic, thyme, chili, salt, bay leaf, black peppercorns...

1.  Put your beans to soak in the water the night before. 

2.  Do the same with your dried peppers few hours before start making this dish. 

3.  Take beans out of the water and cook them until they start falling apart from  their skin, you'll need around and hour maybe hour and a half if somebody cheated you and sold you beans from last year harvest. Take a casserole and put some oil at the bottom. 

stuffed peppers and the onions in the casserole
Putting bean stuffed peppers over the sliced onions into the casserole
4.  Take a casserole and put some oil at the bottom. Slice the onions and spread sliced onions around the bottom of the casserole. 

5.  Take beans out of the water, add thyme, chili, salt, 2 crushed garlic cloves, grind black pepper and some oil. Mix it in a bowl. Take peppers out of the water and stuff one by one with beans, after you stuff each pepper hold two sides of the top tight for a second and put it on top of the onions one by one until you fill the casserole. 

6.  Take one cup of the water you cooked beans in add tomato pure to it and mix it with a spoon. Pour that mixture over the stuffed peppers, add some more salt, thyme, one bay leaf and some more whole black peppercorns. Leave it in the preheated oven for at least 45 minutes (hour is also ok) on 200 degrees. Check it from time to time.
stuffed peppers with millet kasha
Stuff peppers with parsley on top served with millet kasha

     If you are vegetarian you can eat this dish with one spoon of sour cream or cream cheese. If not it goes well with vitamin salad, cabbage salad, sauerkraut  etc.
*Photo of drying peppers is taken from the web site

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Summer of Cabbage Love

Vegan oven baked sauerkraut

''Metaphorically, bigos means "confusion", "big mess" or "trouble" in Polish.'' (Thank you Wikipedia:)
    Why Woodstock is such an important event in music history? It's not only because so many big names played there, it's also because it was one of the first massive festivals that gathered hundreds of thousands young people, with nothing else then music, peace and love. I visited some cool festivals too. In my city there's one really big festival, in the beginning it started like Woodstock, as part of political protest, but later it turned commercial, and now ticket costs more then 100 euros. Although line up is quite cool. The greatest festival I ever visited was Woodstock.
One of the first photos of the festival I saw on the internet looked something like this. When I saw it I knew I need to go there by any means necessary.
     I didn't do it with some time portal or by taking large quantities of LSD. I really went there, by train, from Berlin. I guess by now you already know, that I'm talking about Polish Woodstock. It's one of the biggest festivals in Europe. Like on original Woodstock entrance is free. You aren't gonna listen to Jefferson Airplane or Credence Clearwater Revival, but there are bunch of Polish bands you never heard of, who after a lot of beers, soft drugs and presence of 500 000 people around you sound like Jimmy Hendrix's Star Spangled Banner guitar solo.
    Anyway I was there, jumping around to sounds of Polish rock, eating cheap Hare Krishna vegan portions, drinking dusty beer, playing hide and seek with people camping near me and of course there were the mud baths. Everything one great festival has to offer. And the crowd around me was cool, some cute Polish girls from Lublin, squatters from Netherlands who came to the forest 2 weeks before the festival and were the first who set camp there that year, 2 Gothic chicks from Berlin and a guy with Polk High Al Bundy football jersey, some Polish hippie-like guy and a girl who dug 2 big holes in which they stand for the whole day, Hare Krishna guys who are aggressively smiling at people and bunch of festival freaks from different countries, that I missed to exchange numbers or facebook accounts with. After only one night there I knew I hit the right spot, and that this festival is like no other, at least in Europe.
I couldn't believe this is gonna be the place where I'll find sauerkraut dish

    In the middle of all that I see Serbian flag in the crowds. I was seeing that flag almost every day at the concerts, but I was always to fucked up to go check whose is it. One day I firmly decided to check the Serbian flag, I go there, and I see a friend from Belgrade waving the flag.... Wooow man, wtf, what are you doing here?!
After some beers, he tells me:
 -Do you know they serve podvarak at the food stands?
-Nooo shit? They eat it here too?!
-Yeah man, they call it bigos in Polish, and you get a good portion too, for just one euro.
I guess people who read this blog already noticed in this post, my appreciation to any dish that contains sauerkraut. Podvarak is a sauerkraut baked in an oven with smoked meat and is one of the things I really missed when I turned vegan. Until one day,  I decided to make vegan version of it. Just to remember my Woodstock days under the sun.Vegan podvarak turned out great, and here is the recipe:

-sauerkraut, 1 kg (2,2 lb)
-potatoes, 2 big ones, or 3 medium size (around 600 grams=21 oz),
first step in making vegan oven baked sauerkraut
After puting onion slices in oiled casserole
-onions, one big onion,
-garlic, chili flakes (smoked) or sweet paprika powder, bay leaf, black peppercorns, thyme, salt, oil.

1.  Oil your casserole and put sliced onion in it, spread onion slices around the whole bottom of the casserole. Put some salt on the onion slices, crush the garlic and add it too. 

2.  Then put the first layer of sauerkraut on top. Cut potatoes in cubes and add them on top of the sauerkraut. After adding the potatoes sprinkle some salt, chili or paprika (depends do you like it hot or mild), thyme, drop few peppercorns and bay leaf on top. Then add second layer of sauerkraut, the potatoes again, and same spices go on top. Last layer should be sauerkraut, and after adding all the same spices on the very top, pour some oil on your dish. 

3.  Sauerkraut loves fat, so don't be stingy with oil. I usually use cold pressed sunflower oil. Cover the casserole with aluminum foil, tuck it in. Leave it in preheated oven for one hour on 200 degrees. After that take it out, take off aluminum foil, leave it for a minute or two to rest and then put it back in the oven for another 30-45 minutes on the same temperature. Watch your oven from time to time, so it doesn't burn.
Second step in making vegan oven baked sauerkraut
After adding first layer of sauerkraut, potatoes and spices.
    Podvarak is a great dish, people usually prepare it in the winter when they pull out their first sauerkraut out of the barrel. It goes well with some yogurtif you are vegetarian or some cooked (pickled) red beets salad with garlic. You can serve it with black bread and some buckwheat or millet kasha.

    Only person who probably missed original 1969. Woodstock more then me is my dad. He was 16 at a time and he was all into each and every band that played there. Back then they were ordering records from London record stores by post, working hard in the fields to earn money for new records of: The Beatles, Janis Joplin, The Who and Joe Cocker and his favorite musician of all times was Carlos Santana. I think most of people from Yugoslavia loved him, probably because they could feel in a right way his distinct fusion of latino sound with rock'n'roll, so unique, emotional and new in 60's USA and since Yugoslavia already heard and loved latino music with Yugoslav mariachi music from the 50's that made him really popular among Yugoslav youth. So while making this magnificent dish, try imagining how it felt to be on dairy farm on Catskill mountains, near the hamlet of White Lake in the town of Bethel, state of New York, while Black Magic woman was played.

* Since all 4 days I camped on Polish Woodstock I was on all kinds of substances, I didn't took any photos there. Although I asked some of the people I met there to lend me some photos for this blog post. Now they are searching their old photo archives, looking for those. Until they find those I put some interesting photos of the festival I found on the internet, on web sites: and

Vegan oven baked sauerkraut
Enjoy vegan podvarak a.k.a. weganskie bigos.

Friday, April 4, 2014

De la Soul Food

wheat main ingredient for making koliva
Wheat is one of the first cereals that get domesticated, it happened around 10 000 years BC.
    ''In the Japanese Orthodox Church where rice is mainly eaten, koliva is commonly made from rice sweetened with sugar and decorated with raisins.'' (Thank you Wikipedia)

    Koliva is a sweet dish people prepare for religious feasts and funerals in Orthodox Christian countries. I liked it a lot when I was a kid and I still do. People don't expect much from the cooked wheat, but believe me it one of the best sweets I ever tried, plus is healthy unlike most sweet food you can buy these days.
    Custom connected with eating koliva on religious holidays and funerals comes from the ancient world. Koliva wheat in the Ancient Greek Parthenon symbolizes earth goddess Demetra. From Ancient times this custom passed to the  Byzantine world, and later people of all countries that accepted Orthodox Christianity, directly or indirectly from Byzantine started eating koliva. In Serbia today you can eat koliva on funerals or patron saint days (each family has their own patron saint), when every family organizes a feast at their home.
    Outside religion, you can try koliva at the old style confectionery shops. They usually serve old Balkan sweets like baklava, halva, koliva, šampita(creamy dessert) etc and drinks like lemonade and boza (refreshing wheat flour drink). 
    Basic recipe for koliva contains only wheat, walnuts and sugar, but I change it a bit to make it more tasty (to me, and hope to all of the people who are reading this blog). People usually put same amounts of uncooked wheat, walnuts and sugar in their koliva. I started eating it when I switched to macrobiotic diet, and I didn't put sugar in it at all. Since sugar is like cigarettes, one is too much in the beginning, but after some time you smoke 20 a day, and you want more. Actually wheat by itself is sweet, but we are all used to much higher amounts of sugar, that we take with other desserts, so to us wheat feels like tasteless. Although you can put as much sugar as you wish in your koliva, most of the Balkan housewives put the same amount of sugar and wheat, and it can't be sweeter than that. So my recipe goes like this:

-wheat, one cup, 250 g (7,7 oz),
ingredients for making koliva
Some necessary ingredients for making koliva
-water, 3-4 cups,
-raisins, 50 g (1,2 oz),
-walnuts, around 50 g (1,2 oz),
-some cinnamon, some lemon zest, 2 cloves, some lemon juice,
-you can put as much sugar as you want, or eat it without sugar like I do. If you have some money to spare you can also put malt sweetener instead of sugar.

1.  Put raisins to soak in water and leave them like that for few hours.  

2.  Put water in the pot, when it boils, add the wheat and turn down the burner to the lowest possible temperature. Cook until wheat soaks up all the water from the pot. 

3.  Take a blender, put cooked wheat in it and blend it good, after that put the wheat in a plastic bowl, add the raisins, cinnamon, some lemon zest, crush 2 cloves with a pestle and add them too, add sugar if you want and few drops of lemon juice. Put the koliva on a nice plate grind the walnuts and sprinkle them over the koliva. Save some whole nuts to decorate your koliva.
Koliva with ground and whole walnuts, raisins and cloves on top.

    As i said earlier people usually eat koliva in ritual purposes, but as it's very tasty and healthy dessert you can eat it when ever you want. You can also use all kinds of dry fruits or nuts for your koliva such as: dry plums, dry apricots, peanuts (which is not actually a nut, blah, blah, blah...), almonds, cashews etc.

    This recipe can completely can fit into macrobiotic diet. You shouldn't use sugar, but I think you shouldn't use malt sweetener either, first because it's expensive (although tasty), second because wheat and raisins are sweet by themselves and in my opinion don't need any additional sugar when you use to it, and if you fallow this kind of diet I guess you already ate a desserts that are even less sweet. Be careful with walnuts, sprinkle only a little bit on top. Enjoy! 

    Koliva will make your afternoon tea great, it's also high energy food, so it will give you enough strength to go do some workout in the afternoon, go play football, basketball or go clubbing in the evening. This is a literately Balkan soul food, and it's prepared with ingredients that almost every house has in the whole world.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

From Russia with Kasha

forrest buckwheat kasha
Forests of Russia
    Despite the name, buckwheat is not related to wheat, as it is not a grass. Instead, buckwheat is related to sorrel, knotweed and rhubarb. (Thank you Wikipedia)

    This is like my 6th post here and I already violated one of the first rules of this blog. I promised I'm gonna write about Balkan vegan and vegetarian food and here I am writing a post about one truly Russian dish. Buckwheat kasha (Гре́чневая ка́ша) is as Russian as a bear playing balalaika in birch forest (hope you don't mind me using stereotypes). All Slavs ate kasha though, but only the East side Slavs keep eating it up to this day. Slavs on Balkans probably ate kasha when they came to these lands, probably even longer, like up to the end of Medieval times, but then they were seduced by the Ottoman Oriental delicacies and crops coming from foreign lands like corn, tomatoes, peppers etc and they forgot their warm kasha.
grains buckwheat kasha
Grains used by early Russian settlers of Siberia.
    I think buckwheat kasha is the healthiest breakfast you can find. It gives you strength and makes you warm, during  cold winter days. People of Siberia know best. It's also light enough to be eaten during summer months.
    I traveled to Russia, Belarus and Ukraine lots of times, but I will always remember my first trip there. I went to some volunteer camp near city of Volgograd (ex Stalingrad) in steppes of Southern Russia. We were camping in a steppe for 7 days. All those flat grass lands around, really make you hungry. In that camp we were eating kasha all the time, kasha with some milk for breakfast, kasha with some carrots and potatoes for lunch cooked in s huge pot, and residues from lunch we ate for dinner. Next time I went to Belarus, since I didn't have much money while I was there, I ate kasha all the time. For breakfast of course, sometimes even for lunch and dinner. As you can see, I survived. After that trip I start eating kasha in Serbia, usually for breakfast, but sometimes I eat it on the side with some other dish, instead of rice or bread.
steppe buckwheat kasha
Steppe in Russia near Baikal lake
    My last trip to Russia was last year, my friends and me went to Transiberian Railway journey, and went all the way to Mongolia. In Russia long train rides are very common. Country has the longest rail tracks in the whole world, and with train you can get to some really cold and remote places. I've heard that in a year or two they are gonna built rail all the way to Yakutsk, capital of Yakutia and one of the coldest cities in Siberia.
    Buckwheat kasha is great dish for long train rides. With buckwheat that's already roasted you just need to pour hot water inside, wait for a while, and you have your healthy breakfast. Longest train journey we took was 3 days in a raw. We saw some wonderful scenery while riding on the train, birch and pine forests one after another, mighty rivers like Volga, ObYenisei and Angara. You see huge Siberian industrial cities as well as small desolate villages in the middle of wild Siberian taiga. Crown of the trip was Lake Baikal. Huge lake, bigger then Adriatic sea, and unbelievably clean. We went to the Olkhon Island. There are only few villages there, and from the place the ferry arrives to the first village you have around 50 kilometers of great views of the lake and nearby grassy hills and the scenery that looks like an American prairie from the Western movies. We camped on one of the beaches close to the village. Lot of people camp there, during the night temperature falls to only 3 degrees Celsius (37 Fahrenheit), although it's August. Russians don't care much about that, they swim in the lake, even bring portable saunas (Banya as they call them). I ask one guy there, where can I find drinking water. He shows me huge lake in front with a hand gesture. I was looking at  him like wtf. He takes plastic bottle, goes to the lake, puts some water in it and drinks it. That's says a lot about not just Baikal lake, but the all Siberia and even Russia. Baikal is bigger then Adriatic sea, and you can drink water from it, and it was the best water i ever drank.
baikal buckwheat kasha
Magnificent Baikal lake

    So back to kasha. As i said I usually eat it for breakfast by itself, but sometimes I sprinkle it with some gomashio or pumpkin seeds. There are two ways to prepare it, both are right ways, for one you need more time, but is also in a way easier, I cold it the lazy way:

- buckwheat (it's better if it's already roasted,
if not you need to roast it in a dry pan for some time), one cup (250 grams),
- water, one and a half cup 
- salt and oil.

Lazy boy way
1.  Pour water into the pot and put some salt in it as well. Wait until water boils,

2.  Then pour buckwheat, stir it and wait until it starts boiling again. After that turn off the burner, pour some oil and cover your kasha. You wait a while (for few hours) and your kasha is ready.

    Piece of cake, there is other way too if you don't have time to wait and you need your kasha momentarily. I call it the yuppie way, since I mostly prepare it this way in the morning before work: 

Yuppie way 

1.  With this way of preparing kasha, you'll need same ingredients. Leave water on the stove until it boils, put some salt in the pot as well. 

2.  When the water boils pour the buckwheat and leave it on the highest temperature uncovered until buckwheat soaks most of the water. 

3.  When it's only small quantity of water left, cover you kasha, turn down the temperature of the burner to the lowest and leave it like that for around 10 minutes. 

4.  After 10 minutes turn off the burner, pour some oil into your kasha and leave it covered for another 10 minutes.
Buckwheat kasha

    So that's kasha, cheap, easy, healthy, tasty.... It's great in the winter with a warm tea for breakfast, or in the summer with some fresh salad, for dinner or even lunch. Russians live on kasha for centuries, and to be honest I've never seen healthier people then Russians.
Accept kasha, Russians love their veggies they often grow them organically in their dachas, even in cold Siberia. This photo was taken from the train near city of Krasnoyarsk in Siberia.
    This is a great breakfast for followers of macrobiotic diet, especially in winter. Buckwheat is most yang grain you can find and if you want a complete warm yang punch in the early morning, you can skip adding oil to your kasha, and add some roasted pumpkin seeds on top together with gomashio. It just can't get any better. 


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Star of the Orient

istanbul pilaf chickpeas
Istanbul from the boat, north side of Golden Horn Bay, with Galata tower
Pilaf is a national dish in Afghan, Uzbek, Swahili, Tajik and Bukharan Jewish cuisines. (Thank you Wikipedia)    

    Pilaf is a dish that's popular in whole Balkans. Not only Balkans, people of Caucasus too can't live without fluffy rice, people of Middle East, Central Asia, even India. Afghanistan, occupied country known by it's poppy fields and insurgents also enjoys pilaf on daily basis. They say Europeans first saw pilaf when Alexander's Macedonian armies reached country called Bactria. Rich country, with very hospitable people, and what did they offer to the famous Macedonian ruler... Pilaf, what else?!
   On Balkans pilaf is known as the dish that came with Turks. In Serbia people prepare it with chicken, pork or lamb and it's known as a dish that always contains meat.
    Some 4 or 5 years ago I was traveling around Turkey. Spend some cool days in Istanbul, riding across the Bosporus on those city boats back and forth and haggling for stuff I'm not gonna buy just for the hell of it. One day in a kebab shop i saw they sometimes serve rice with kebabs instead of pita bread. Rice wasn't plain it had some chickpeas in it. Although back then I wasn't much into cooking, so for me chickpeas looked like hazelnuts, and i was like wtf, rice with hazelnuts, these Turks are crazy. Not a long time after that, I realized how stupid I was, pilaf with chickpeas, what a great idea!
spice bazar istanbul chickpeas pilaf
Spice bazaar in Istanbul
- rice, they usually make pilaf with round-grain rice (in Balkans we have an authentic kind called Kočanski rice from town Kočani in Macedonia), although i often use brown rice. You need one cup (250 g or 8,8 oz),
chickpeas pilaf
- water, 3 cups if you're using brown rice, 2 cups if you choose round-grain rice
- chickpeas, half of one cup (around 120 g or 4,2 oz),
- carrots, you'll need two big ones,
- onions, one big one,
- garlic, one clove ,
- cumin, tumeric (curcuma) powder, bay leaf, black peppercorns, ground pepper, cardamon clove, thyme, salt, oil, vinegar (or lemon juice)... That's about it.

1.  First leave the chickpeas to soak in water for the night, that way you'll need much less time to cook them before adding them to the rice and other ingredients.  

2.  After whole night of soaking drain the chickpeas and boil them, if you are using canned ones you skip first 2 steps, raw ones you need to boil around an hour (if you left them soaking the night before) or 2 hours if you didn't. After that drain them and save the water.  

3.  Chop an onion, crush the garlic, put it on some hot oil. 

4.  When they get brown, add cumin, bay leaf, black peppercorns, crushed cardamom clove, some thyme and turmeric. Mix it all up.  

5.  Cut the carrots thin and add them to the pot. Add the chickpeas as well. , Add water use water you cooked chickpeas in, if there's not enough of that water add some from the tap, then add salt. Leave it to the boil.  

6.  Wash your rice in the drainer, then add it to the pot. When it boils again, cover it and lower the temperature to the lowest level on the scale. If you used brown rice it will take around one hour, if you used white rice it will take less. Anyway check your pilaf from time to time. 

7.  When all water disappears, add more thyme, some ground pepper, some vinegar or lemon juice and few spoons of oil more (pilaf is very fatty dish). Turn off the heat and leave it covered for about 20 minutes.

    When you serve pilaf drop some chili paprika flakes on top. If you are just vegetarian you can eat it with one spoon of sour cream on the side. Pilaf goes well with some sour salads like vitamin salad, cabbage salad, lettuce salad etc. It can be a main dish, or side dish.
chickpeas pilaf
Pilaf sprinkled with chili pepper flakes, served with lettuce salad

     If you fallow macrobiotic diet, pilaf is a great dish for you. You can easily synchronize the ingredients to be in-line with everything you learned from George_Osawa and Michio Kushi books. You just put same amount of brown rice, 200 grams of carrots (7 oz),  of onions and only 50 grams of chickpeas (2 oz). If you don't want your pilaf to be so oily you put onions on some water instead of hot oil, and just add some oil in the end. 

     When preparing this fantastic dish I always remember first time I went to Istanbul, it's great riverboats, spices stoles on crowded markets and row of fisherman on Galata Bridge. This city saw so much history and different cuisine influence and is as Balkan as it can be, although only one half of the city is geographically on the peninsula.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Spring Fever

   Who doesn't love spring? Although winters aren't what they used to be, we all anticipate that 21. March, officially the first day after which we start thinking about BBQs and hiking. Sometimes winters are light, like this one. It had spring temperatures, and that was really cool, but it kind a sucks out the spring fever. I mean, is there anything better then putting your first piece on the grill and opening a beer in the same time? Well, when that thing comes in January, it's somehow not the same. That's maybe the only good reason why I wouldn't live in those places of eternal spring. I mean where is the magic of anticipation.

Dolac Market in Zagreb, Croatia, coolest market I've ever visited.
    On markets on the other hand, spring is all present even in January. Lettuce, spinach, even tomatoes are there flirting with you, and it's really hard to stay on the right track. Then sometimes you  are not strong enough and you buy some of those, you make a salad, and you are like wtf, those are not spring veggies, it tastes like shit. That's why you should eat vegetables only when they are in their prime season. Just go to the market and by cheapest vegetables there and you'll be alright.
When spring comes to markets in my city.
    In April, you start eating spring veggies. There's lettuce, spring onions, radish and spring cabbage. There's also fresh parsley, celery and dill. You buy all those and mix them all up. That's what we call vitamin salad in Serbia. There is no definition for vitamin salad, it's basically every salad that contains more then one vegetable, that's not shopska salad. I experiment every spring and few days ago I found an awesome combination.
Use all spring onions, green part is also great.
-lettuce (half if it's small, or quarter if it's bigger)
-spring onions (one big or two smaller ones, together with green parts)
-radish (3 small, or 1 big one)
-spring cabbage (one eighth of one middle sized cabbage)
-salt, olive oil, lemon juice or wine vinegar and some black peppercorns, water.
    You will need one big bowl. Shred your cabbage in it, cut the dill and add it to the bowl, then put some salt on it. Take a pestle and hit it hard until juices start to come out. Then cut the celery, radishes and spring onions, grind some black pepper into your salad and cut lettuce leaves in stripes and add them too. Put some more salt on it, pour some olive oil on top, some lemon juice or vinegar and half a cup of water in the end and you got your salad.
    Serve it fresh, together with some grilled bread rubbed with olive oil and garlic (a.k.a. bruschetta) or in smaller quantities on the side with some other dish.
Meet your new favorite salad :)

First two photos i found on web sites of (Tržnica Dolac (Autor fotografije: P. Macek) and Thanks guys! :)