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Thursday, 30 July 2009

Recipes For Croatian Cheese Štrukli & Ćevapi







 Croatian Ćevapi u lepinji - my personal favourite way of having them whenever I visit Croatia, loaded between lightly toasted tasty flat bread with some onion. Just the basics. After traveling all the way across the pond from non-cevapi country, the various sauces or side orders are secondary. (Not to be confused with Serbian testicle steakettes or their similar versions but which are made with kangaroo and/or camel meat)





On my recent trip to Croatia I got to try a fair amount of different foods from the different regions of Croatia. Zagreb offers are for some reason always my favorite, but the seafood dishes I tried on the coast were exceptionally tasty. (I don't nearly eat seafood enough these days) I was really impressed with the menu's of some of the restaurants I visited. Špageti na Slavonski at Restoran Nokturno really hit the spot with real pieces of špek (slanina) cheese from the Slavonija region. I was smart enough to bring back with me to Canada some good cookbooks that covered quite a bit of what Croatian gastronomy has to offer.

This Croatian recipe is a very popular one for Croatians world wide and it is easily the most simple one to make. Not complicated or involving lots of ingredients and steps in making them at all. Different variations of it can be found in all of the South Slavic languages speaking countries, and even other places in Eastern Europe, like Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and even Germany these days just under different names. (Romanian 'Mititei' are the same basic concept) Mostar, as Herzegovina’s de facto capital in the republic of Bosnia and Hercegovina, has been notable for centuries for it's Croat population, and they are credited with enabling its ćevapi variation to be considered Croatia’s best, bringing their particular twist in making them to other parts of Croatia. They started to make an appearance during the Croatian-Ottoman wars and Ottoman-Habsburg wars among the Croatian soldiers and population along the border areas because they were easy to make with simple and readily available local ingredients, and importantly they weren't required to be smoked or even formed in a casing like regular sausages are. (kobasa, kobasica etc) If you can make a seasoned homemade hamburger patty from scratch, then you can make these without any problem whatsoever.

Depending on which country you are in, bread or lepinje, (pita-like buns lightly toasted on the grill) and dimensions of the Ćevapi (CHE-VA-PEE) are actually part of the recipe/dish. Different regions serve them their own particular way to add a local twist to the dish. The average person not familiar with them would categorize them simply as a kind of meatball, but they would be only partially correct. It should be noted, the darker they turn when being grilled, the more moisture is inside. It means that they're not burnt, but rather a sign that they are juicy on the inside. The best tasting ćevapi are never dry, always light, fluffy and juicy. The secret ingredients to get them to the perfect texture are bread crumbs (makes them softer), baking soda (makes them fluffy) and mineral water (adds moisture and bubbles to keep them from being too heavy and dense), when you eat a bunch of properly prepared and correctly cooked ćevapi, you won't feel weighted down as if you just ate meatloaf or thick burgers. You have to try them to understand.

Like I said, this is easily the most simple of dishes to make with the most simple basic ingredients and steps that even  a child can make them. (Seriously, I used to make them when I was a kid, except I always liked to put a little extra cayenne pepper and onions into them because I'm good like that) When you've been swimming or playing water sports on the beach for hours, or sweating it out on the ice rink or skiing etc, then THIS is the stuff that hits the spot afterwards. This here is the basics, you can have them which ever way you like. They are very tasty and I encourage you to make lots of extra portions. Izvolite!.....







Croatian Ćevapi



SERVES 4

Ingredients

* 1 1/2 lbs ground pork
* 1 lb lean ground beef
* 1/2 lb ground lamb
* 1 egg white
* 4 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 cup mineral water
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 2 teaspoons ground blackpepper
* 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon paprika
* 1 onion, finely chopped
* 4 pita bread or white bread or rolls



Directions

1-In a large bowl, combine the ground pork, ground beef, ground lamb and egg white. Add the garlic, salt, baking soda, mineral water, black pepper, cayenne pepper and paprika. Mix well using your hands.

2- Form into finger length sausages about 3/4 inch thick. Arrange in a plate.

3- Cover with plastic wrap or wax paper and refrigerate for one hour to one day, to let the flavors settle and the mixture become firm.

4- Preheat the grill, medium-low heat. Lightly oil the grilling surface.
In the case of using a barbeque, also lightly oil the grilling surface.

5-Grill cevapi until cooked through, turning as needed. The grilling usually takes about 30 minutes.

6- Serve in warmed or grilled pita bread, white bread or rolls on a bed of chopped onions, with your choice of toppings such as kajmak, sour cream, cottage cheese, pickles, fresh peppers, ajvar or tomatoes.








Croatian Cheese Štrukli (Štrukli sa sirom)





Related recipe article: honestcooking.com


This mouthwatering dish, Štrukli (IN Croatian pronounced SHTROO-KLEE) is commonplace in Croatia and another traditional recipe that is popular. Especially in the Zagorje region as well as in and around Zagreb. There are various ways of presenting the final dish, but this one is the most traditional. I very much enjoyed having some in Zagreb on my recent vacation. There's something about the cooks and chefs in Croatia that always know that little secret tip in making every dish authentically Croatian or specific to the city/region you are in, and which always amounts to a tasty final dish.



Serves 8 to 10 - Ingredients:

5 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, 5 eggs, 1 tablespoon cooking oil, pinch of salt, 2 1/2 pounds dry curd cottage cheese or ricotta, 1 cup (2 sticks) butter - melted, 4 cups heavy cream.


Preparation:

* In a large mixing bowl make a dough from the flour, 1 egg, the oil and a small amount of salted water. Keep kneading the dough, either in the bowl or on a floured surface, until bubbles start to form and dough becomes smooth. Then shape the dough into a ball. Coat the surface with cooking spray, cover with a clean dishtowel and let stand about 15 minutes.

* While the dough is resting, make the filling: Mix the cheese with the remaining 4 eggs in a mixing bowl. Add salt and 1/2 cup of melted butter. Blend until the mixture is smooth.

*Sprinkle a large work surface such as a kitchen table with flour. Roll out the dough to paper-thin thickness. Then spread out the cheese mixture evenly over dough. Brush the dough with 1/2 cup melted butter. Roll up, jelly-roll fashion.

* Cut the roll into 20 pieces (the cutting is traditionally done with the rim of a plate).

* Boil the strukle in boiling salted water for about 10 minutes. Drain and arrange in a greased ovenproof dish. Preheat oven to 400°. Pour the remaining ½ cup butter over the strukle and top with cream. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until golden.

Double the recipe and freeze strukle after boiling them. Prior to baking, thaw slightly, place in ovenproof dish and top with butter and cream and then bake.

I will not be responsible however, if you consume massive amounts of this rich and tasty dessert and become obese.





This is a short video that gives you an idea about the basic technique involved, more or less cottage cheese, onions or eggs in the filling is up to the cook. These following versions are specifically Zagorski štrukli recipes from and popular in the northwest Zagorje region and in and around the city of Zagreb.




Here's some updated footage of Štrukli being presented on Italian television, so you know it must not taste like crap. 









Ana Ugarković on tportal.hr





If these 2 recipes turned you on, then you may want to check out some of the recipes cooked up by Ana Ugarković, who on her show "Kod Ane" (At Ana's), presents Croatian food from all the regions and invents some interesting recipes from her experiences. Ana switched careers from being a graphic designer and studying and working abroad to moving back to Croatia in 2002 and making cooking and gastronomy her full-time passion and career. For Croatian readers, you can also catch her show on HTV1 Monday to Friday. For more Croatian recipes, you can always click onto ever popular www.coolinarika.com

Related: dobrahrana.jutarnji.hr.

www.gastro.hr

www.facebook.com/MaliBarZagreb





Here's a quick look at one of Ana's episodes. Here she's making a yummy looking dish of squid with chickpeas and Croatian chard (blitva). I really like the way she says krčkaju/simmering. (kerch-ka-yoo) Since doing this post, Ana has opened up her own eclectic eatery/bistro and bar in Zagreb, you can see what kinds of dishes she's serving up these days at www.facebook.com/MaliBarZagreb.



Here she's making a dessert of chocolate cake with pistachios. (Torta od čokolade i pistacija)






Another good Croatian cooking and recipe sight is www.recepti.hr. The recipes are authentic Croatian, however the sight is in Croatian too. The videos for some of the recipes are short and to the point and let you see what the finished dish will look like when finished. Croatian readers should definitely check it out. Below is an example:









Croatian gastronomy is a very big selling point of things to experience when visiting in Croatia. So much so, that this theme is included by the Croatian National Tourist Board in their yearly tourism selling points.













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