Being the second generation of Croatian descent makes me proud to carry on the tradition down to my children the history, the culture, and by all means the cuisine. There is an endless variety of favourite summer dishes of the Croatian Cuisine that we absolutely love. But there is one certain favourite dish that we all crave when we visit Croatia . . . ćevapčići.
All over Europe, you will see rich images of beautiful scenery, different cultures, and the most authentic cuisine rich with flavors and textures no one has ever surmounted.
Although the scenery is undeniably memorable, by any means, it’s hard to forget about the food. It all seems to taste so much better than home. My husband and I often talk about the food that we eat there when we visit Croatia. How it just tastes different.
My mother-in-law is famous for her burek. It’s like a meat pie but made with puff pastry. My husband makes it once in a while but cheats by making it with store-bought puff pastry. His mom makes everything from scratch.
You see how everything tastes better in Croatia. Lol !!
So there you have it, we identified one amazing dish that we learned how to make from our elders. There is another traditional dish that is famous for all Croatians (and other Bulkan countries) and loved by all. We just never attempted to make it ourselves. We would patiently wait until our summer vacation to Croatia to have it.
ĆEVAPČIĆI – A CROATIAN/Bosnian DELICACY LOVED BY ALL
Every time we visit my in-laws in Croatia, we would either buy ćevapčići already made just ready to put on the grill or the much easier way . . . go out to a restaurant and buy it. We did it both ways. And both ways were Ah-mazing.
I never quite thought of the origins of this especially admired delicacy.
Ćevapčići is mostly found in the Balkan countries. But it originated centuries ago from the Turkish culture. Ćevapčići are finger-sized minced meat goodness best made on a hot grill or better yet barbeque. They derived from the dish called “kebab” made famous from the Turkish culture.
Slowly through the generations, the kebab dish made it to the Bulkan lands and was later called ćevapčići. Ćevape (for short).
SARAJEVO – the Palace of Bosnia
My husband, also Croatian, was actually born and raised in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Hercegovina which is the hub of ćevape central. Lol !! He educated me on how Sarajevo is most famous for the ćevape. Sarajevo has derived from the Turkish “saray” meaning palace.
You could find ćevape everywhere and anywhere in the Baščaršija (old city/marketplace), which is a major tourist attraction in Sarajevo. The name Baščaršija derives from the Turkish language meaning “bazaar” or “market”.
When speaking of ćevape, he says, it brings back memories of his youth and young adulthood, going out with friends to famous spots. The Baščaršija was the place to go. You could find everything there from material things to delicious eateries.
If you ever have the privilege of traveling to Croatia, you must visit the beautiful, authentically cultured city of Sarajevo. My husband speaks very highly of Sarajevo with such pride and joy having grown up there.
MY INTRODUCTION TO ĆEVAPČIĆI
I was introduced to ćevapčići in the early 80’s when I visited my Croatian family in Krk, Croatia. I went to many Festas (fiesta/celebrations) in different towns celebrating saints days.
The only dish they served there was … yes . . . ćevape. They looked like little hamburger rolls no longer than your finger. I tried them and omg were they delicious. Give me more.
And it is a must to serve it with green onions, ajvar (pronounced “ayvar”), and “kajmak” (a yogurt-like creamy drink). These were like the must condiments when serving ćevape. And you cannot forget the somun or the lepinja. These two items are like pita bread but a little thicker and bigger. It’s a pocket to hold your ćevape. Lol. No really.
When you grill your ćevape, you would also place the lepinja onto the grill. When the ćevape are done, you put them into half of the lepinja, add some onions and ajvar or the kaymak and there you have your authentic Croatian/Bosnian ćevapčići.
TRADITION THROUGHOUT GENERATIONS.
So, almost 40 years later, I wanted to keep the tradition going and make the ćevape myself (with the help of hubby lol).
We bought a lot of meat. We like to make bigger batches and freeze them so we have for future dinners. So, easy for our hectic lives.
THE MAKING OF A DELICACY
To make ćevape, you want to use different types of ground meat. To make authentic ćevape use 3 parts ground beef to one part lamb and one part veal. We made it using all three of these cuts of meat. You don’t have to but we gave it a go.
You can only use 2 if you would like. It’s more beneficial to use the lamb as opposed to the veal. Unfortunately, sometimes you might not find ground lamb. So you will have to go to your butcher to get it ground.
I came across ground lamb when I was out grocery shopping and it dawned on me to make some ćevape. We just happened to be talking about how good they were when we had it in Croatia last year.
We bought 2 batches of meat. Yes, we were crazy. But now we have a few dinners waiting to be made. Each batch consists of 4 lbs. of meat: 1lb. Ground Veal, 1lb. Ground Lamb and 2 lbs. Of Ground Beef. You will add to it onions, garlic, and seasonings.
With the seasonings, keep it simple. Only salt and pepper is really needed. We added another seasoning called Vegeta. I hope you can find it in your grocery store. Maybe a specialty store. It is an awesome pantry staple to have. It’s good for any dish you make from soups to rice, to meats. We use that s**t on everything lol.
Four pounds of meat makes about 80-ish ćevape. That’s 2 dinners for the 4 of us at 10 each.
We didn’t make both batches the same night. We’re not that crazy. LOL
You have to remember to marinate the meat mixture when you add the ingredients all together 24 hours or overnight will suffice. This is what makes the meat so juicy. My mouth is watering already and I haven’t even gotten to the recipe.
So without further ado, here is the “sacred” recipe:
- 2 lbs.Ground Beef
- 1 lb. Ground Lamb
- 1 lb. Ground Veal
- 1 Onion, finely chopped
- 4 Cloves Garlic, minced
- 4 tbsp. Salt
- 4 tsp. Pepper
- 4 tbsp. Vegeta
- 3 tsp. Baking Soda
- 1/2 cup Carbonated Water (Radenska)
1. Knead all three grounds of meat. Add the onion and garlic and knead the meat until blended.
2. When adding the seasonings, I listed 4 tbsp. This is an approximate amount. You will knead the meat 2 or 3 times. Each time you knead the meat for about 2-3 minutes, season the meat and continue kneading. You will just have to judge by tasting a little bit of the meat and spitting it out until you come to the right consistency you are happy with. And don't forget the baking soda and the carbonated water. This will keep the meat soft and moist.
3. Cover meat mixture and put in the refrigerator for approximately 24 hours or just overnight will do.
4. The next day, you will knead the meat some more for about 5 minutes before you start shaping them.
The Ćevape are ready to be formed:
5. Forming Ćevape: Here’s a cool trick to use. Instead of forming them by hand where you roll them into a ball and then try shaping them into finger-like forms by hand, try this.
Take a plastic sandwich bag, spray a little bit of oil into the bag (so meat will not stick), roll about a tbsp of meat in your hand and put it in the bag. Now take something flat like a spatula and slide the meat to the end of the bag. This will make your perfectly finger-shaped Ćevape.
7. If you want to freeze them: place them neatly on a freezer-safe platter or dish, cover them with plastic wrap and you are good to go. You now have future dinners waiting to be grilled.
8. If you are ready to grill, place the amount you need to serve, on a hot grill/bbq. As soon as they start to brown, keep flipping them around on the grill. This way they will not burn.
We here at Sly's The Limit hope you enjoy this wonderful recipe. It's quite easy to make. It's a very simple recipe.