It's not hard to find a juicy burger and crispy fries in Pristina, but indulging in the young capital's Italian or Irish offerings means missing out on some of the best Balkan comfort food around. Whether cozying up in a corner restaurant or being invited into the home of mountain-dwelling Kosovars, fill up on traditional pastry, meat and savory accompaniments.
In the U.S., summertime campfire baking may consist of melting chocolate and marshmallows together with graham crackers. In Kosovo, a large, flaky, signature pie is the masterpiece that comes out of hours around an open fire with family and friends. Flija consists of layer upon layer of a simple crepe-like batter cooked in a flat round pan with a special metal cover heated over the coals. Between the thin layers of pastry, a melted cream-cheese mixture gently is applied. The flija is cut into wedges like a pie and serves as a base for all sorts of tasty adornments, from sweet honey or jam to pickled vegetables and cheese.
Meat lovers can find something to chew on in Kosovo. Residents prep for the winter by preparing pasterma in advance, a dried beef served with pickled vegetables. One favorite casserole in the country, elbasan tava, is a hearty mixture of chunks of lamb baked with a blend of corn flour, yogurt, eggs and garlic cloves. Raznjici is a Balkan kebab that usually features pork or veal. Cevapcici consists of barbecued minced meat -- much like a sausage without the casing. To find a traditional patty-shaped meat dish, ask for the Balkan burger known as a pljeskavica, which can include beef, veal, pork or all of the above in the mixture.
Burek blends Kosovars' love of meat with flaky flija layers in a pie that depending on the filling and one's tastes may be consumed for any meal of the day. Call it Kosovo's traditional fast food, as bakers roll minced meat or vegetables with the dough, slice up the finished product and serve it with yogurt for an anytime snack. Burek may be stuffed with cheese, spinach, fruit filling or chunks of potato. Not every traditional bread in Kosovo is light and flaky, though, as households regularly enjoy proja with a meal. This cornbread becomes extra rich with yogurt and cheese blended into the batter of flour, cornstarch, eggs and milk.
Ajvar, a savory relish that may include red bell peppers, eggplant and garlic, works in harmony with Kosovo's other main dishes as a complement to flija, a condiment for pljeskavica or a spicy kick for a veggie burek. According to the Southeast European Times, ajvar gets its start by frying red peppers before they are peeled, then grinding and boiling them. The mixture is slowly stirred for hours while salt and oil are added to the paste, with hot peppers added for a spicier variant. A similar paste called pinxhur combines eggplant, tomatoes, garlic and peppers; both are canned and stored.
- Photo Credit Igor Stevanovic/Hemera/Getty Images
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