Wednesday, 25 February 2009

"Zees 'uge sausage ees very suspicious!"

The week of gaping silence is due to me having spent most of that time in the bosom of my loving family (standard greeting from my brother: "What are you doing here?"). Fresh blood for my culinary experiments! My mum picked out "Spiced Cevapcici" for me to make on Saturday evening, presumably because it looked like one of the 0.06% of Lighten Up recipes which aforementioned brother might contemplate eating. As it turned out the little blighter slunk off with some friends and didn't make a reappearance till the next day, but hey ho.

11. Spiced Cevapcici
12. Ajvar Relish

Cevapcici (or ćevapčići, if you're feeling lavish with accents) are sausage-like patties popular in the Balkans. Jill's comprise beef, lamb or pork (I used lamb, though having googled around a bit I think pork might be more usual), garlic, allspice or nutmeg, cloves, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. Basically you just mulch everything together (isn't "mulch" a satisfying word?), then form into small, flattened sausage shapes. Or at least, that's the idea - I found that to end up with the number specified I had to make fairly large sausages; super-cevapcici, if you will. When you're ready to cook you just brush them with olive oil and grill or barbeque them - my mum actually has a barbeque built into her hob, so out came the skewers:

Cevapcici being barbequed, minus the giant flames which periodically englufed them.

The traditional accompaniment to cevapcici is apparently a red pepper and aubergine relish called ajvar. Nope, I hadn't heard of it either, but handily Lighten Up includes a recipe for that, too (it's in the "Extras" section at the back). It's easy stuff - all you have to do is roast the vegetables for half an hour, skin them (admittedly the instructions don't actually say to do this, but trust me, you need to), then add the chopped flesh to a food processor along with some olive oil, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and seasoning, and blend to a coarse purée.

My sister's boyfriend eyed this particularly suspiciously.

I made plain rice to go alongside as I had a vague (and possibly entirely inaccurate) idea that it was somehow in keeping with the Eastern European character of the meal, but actually we felt that both the cevapcici and avjar tasted more Middle Eastern, and I'd probably go for flatbread or couscous next time. I'd also make at least one of the components a whole lot spicier - considering that the cevapcici come from the 'Spicy Food' chapter, and that the relish is described as being "devilishly spicy", they were a bit of a let-down on the heat front (and that's despite me being very heavy-handed with the cayenne). Plus, having seen other pictures of ajvar floating around on the internet, all of which are day-glo orange, I have a feeling that the peppers to aubergine ratio is meant to be a lot higher: the Lighten Up recipe uses equal numbers of each, whereas others I came across tended to go for three peppers per aubergine, which might up the tanginess a bit. Don't get me wrong, the meal was still tasty, but pepped up a notch it would be even tastier.

I tried to get my family to step into Mike's shoes and offer up gripping, insightful comments, but with limited success.

Me: "I need you to say something pithy and succinct to describe those kebab things I made the other day."
Dad: "Kebaby."

And this from a man remowned for his erudition...

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