In the Balkans, ćevapi is considered a national dish. Every household has their own secret recipe to this simple yet tasty meal. The diverse countries in the Balkan region – Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, and Macedonia, to name a few—each lay claim to their own nuanced versions on this finger-sized sausage, utilizing different combinations of meats and spices.
The core ingredients equated with the sausage are ground beef, a generous amount of minced garlic, a pinch of salt, and freshly ground pepper. The “secret ingredient” in preparing the ćevapi is baking soda, making them more tender and moist. In my interpretation of this dish, I add a pinch of cayenne to enhance the heat of the ćevapi.
There are many things that make ćevapi unique. For starters, they are made with a mixture of beef, lamb, and/or pork. This mixture of meats creates a very unique flavor and texture in the sausage. Another unique element to these sausages, and a very exciting one, is that they are uncased. Unlike bratwurst or other cased sausages, you don’t have to have a sausage stuffing attachment to make these tasty sausages.
Finally, these guys are grilled, which means, like any grilled sausage, they benefit from a nice infusion of smoke. However, since these sausages don’t have a casing keeping all the smoky goodness on the surface, the smoke flavor really penetrates deep into the sausage. And, since these sausages are made up of fatty meat, as the fat drips onto the coals, the flames spring upward, creating a gorgeous crisp to the ćevapi and a smell that is to die for. You will serve these sausages with a Balkan roasted pepper mixture called Avjar. You can buy it from you local Balkan store or make it yourself. You can find my recipe for homemade avjar here.
ćevapi + ajvar with flatbread
- two cups of wholewheat flour
- one teaspoon of salt
- half a teaspoon of baking powder
- three quarters of a cup of warm water
- three tablespoons of olive oil
- six hundred grams of minced beef
- two garlic cloves
- one teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
- one teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- one tablespoon of olive oil
- one medium sized onion
- ajvar, for garnishing
- sour cream, for garnishing
- parsley, for garnishing
In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Stir in the warm water and olive oil and knead to form a moist dough. Cover the mixing bowl with a kitchen towel and let rest for thirty minutes.
Place the minced beef in a large bowl, then peel and crush in the cloves of garlic. Add the bicarbonate of soda, and cayenne pepper, and seasons with salt and freshly ground pepper. Mix together to make a smooth, pliable mixture.
Divide the meat into twelve to fifteen pieces and roll each one into a sausage shape, about the length of your index finger and two centimeters thick. Place the ćevapi on a baking sheet, cover with cling wrap and chill in the refrigerator until needed.
Remove the flatbread dough from the refrigerator and heat a skillet on a medium to high heat. Divide the dough into roughly eight balls. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each ball and cook the flatbread until they start to brown on the bottom, about two minutes. Flip and cook until browned on the other side, about two minutes. Repeat this with the remaining flatbread dough and set aside to prepare the ćevapi.
In a preheated griddle, add the ćevapi and grill for ten to twelve minutes, or until cooked through.
Spread some ajvar on top of the warm flatbreads, with a couple of cevapi on top of each, a dollop of sour cream and onions on the side to serve.