From winning hearts to winning wars, this straightforward no-nonsense kebab can do it all
Across the length and breadth of this crazy multicultural world; divided by caste, race, religion, language, and ideals, there is one thing that unites us in love and satisfaction. Sandwiches. Sure, they look different in every country, but the basic concept of a filling between bread is essentially universal. We may play favourites with fillings of course, but there’s not a lot of ways it can go wrong. In fact, the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina love their take on the concept so much, that they made it their national dish.
Ćevapi or ćevapčići is a traditional grilled dish featuring two types of minced beef – and sometimes lamb in the ratio of 2:1 – inside flatbreads served with condiments such as chopped onions, sour cream, kajmak (local milk cream/malai), various sauces like ajvar (roasted red pepper sauce) and salt. This simple construction of meaty goodness is cherished across the Balkans with unique variations of the dish in Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Slovenia.
The dish is Ottoman in origin, with the name itself deriving from the Turkish ‘kebap’ (kebab), and was a go-to solution to fuel armies on the move. The skewered patties and koftas of meat were roasted over open coals and served five or ten to a plate. It was the simple sustenance to keep a conflicted nation fed. This dish is so beloved, that people today even joke that it should be the national emblem as it was what truly brought the country together rather than the colours on the flag itself.
It’s eaten at any time of the day, breakfast, noon, and night, with grill shops or Ćevabdžinica plying their fare at all hours. Each spot has its own cautiously guarded recipe and it’s said that no two Ćevapi are quite the same because they take on the personality of those making them. A dish with heart, and humour, this Balkan dish has all the charm to win you over.
● 900 gms finely chopped mince meats (whatever combination you choose)
● 3 cloves garlic, minced
● 1 tsp fine salt
● 1 tsp black pepper
● Turkish flatbreads (substitute with pita in a pinch)
● Chopped raw onions to taste
● Sour cream
● Red Bell Pepper Ajvar or a chilli sauce of your choice
1. In a large bowl, combine the mincemeat(s) and tip in your salt.
NB: Other spices are optional at this stage, but not traditionally used.
2. Knead the mixture with clean hands for 5 minutes.
3. Cover the meat, store in an airtight container and refrigerate overnight.
4. The next day while the meat is stool cool, stir in your garlic and pepper.
5. With oiled or wet hands, shape the meat mixture into sausage shapes as wide as an index finger.
6. Preheat your grill. Ideally, you should use a charcoal grill.
7. Brush the grill with some olive oil.
8. Grill the kebabs on medium heat (approx 165℃ - 190℃) until evenly grilled and browned on all sides.
9. Serve warm with flatbread and condiments.