When it comes to sharing recipes, there are two kinds of people.
The first are wonderful creatures, such as Lady Kitchen, who ask “do you want my mother-in-law recipe for hummus?” And, literally a second later, she gives you the recipe, family history and description of possible variations. With joy and beautiful enthusiasm. One day I will arm myself with steel will (because I am a human failure as we all know) and I’ll make, photograph and share all these delicious miracles that Lady Kitchen treats me with. Or you can look there and fall in love.
The second kind are creatures living in the future, like my Serbian friend, Alenka, who tells a family story, asks “do you want a recipe for my grandma’s janija?” And then you have to chase Alenka for months for the promised recipe. Risking the end of friendship and snapping comments.
But finally I have the recipe! And I made it. And I have photos.
And, as you guessed a long time ago, I’m closer to Alenka than Lady Kitchen. I try to improve, so do not hesitate to poke and demand the promised good. 🙂
Janija is often called the “Macedonian stew”. It’s a traditional dish based on lamb meat.
Although it is also a dish of poor people, so there are a lot of variations based only on vegetables or with cheese substituting meat, like halloumi. As Alenka writes: “after the death of my grandfather, my grandmother was alone on the farm. My mother has already left. The farm was a little one, one goat, few chickens and goose. The larger part was occupied by a vegetable garden. Grandma learned to cook without meat. Because it was expensive and, for her only, it was a waste (her words). So she enriched her janija with hard boiled eggs or homemade cheese.”
In the first version I added fried tofu instead of meat, but later I gave it up. If you want, of course, you can add tofu, but I suggest that you cut the tofu into a very small cubes and really fry it up.
The recipe Alenka gave me is using canned tomatoes, but I replaced them with my recent discovery – Ukrainian beetroot caviar. This is beautifully called – beetroot caviar. I will have to made it, but for the moment I’m using premade ones, made by Weres .
Caviar is nothing more but coarsely ground boiled beets, carrots and onions. Seasoned with salt and pepper, with the addition of olive oil and lemon juice. I really recommend to look for it in stores, because it is much better for goulash and sauces than tomato concentrate or fried tomatoes. Beet caviar is certainly not characteristic for Serbia and Macedonia, but it is delicious. And beautifully composes with janija. I wonder what Alenka’s grandmother would say to the caviar…
As you can see, although the recipe was for janija “exactly the same as what my grandmother in Bogdanica had”, the effect is more Raven like. But delicious. So, I give you a recipe and my comments for it, and you decide for yourself whether to stick to it exactly or ue it as a guide.
Ingredients (for 4 people):
0,5 kg of potatoes (I chose small red potatoes)
8 small pearl onions or 2 – 4 medium yellow onions
30 dag of button mushrooms (I had brown, but white will be good too)
8 – 10 red peppers
1 jar of beetroot caviar (or a can of tomatoes, it can also be a tomato concentrate or passata)
if you use tomatoes in any version – 1 – 2 teaspoons of paprika paste – ajwar, adjika
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 tablespoons of frying oil (coconut, rapeseed or rice)
1 teaspoon of chili flakes (this is a mild version, if you like spicy food, then increase the dose)
1 teaspoon chili
2 teaspoons of sweet pepper
1,5 teaspoons of pepper (I used black pepper with lemon peel, coarsely ground)
if you want to add meat, traditionally it should be lamb, but it can also be a chicken breast (2 for that amount of vegetables) or turkey, or 30 dag of beef ribs
we can also use halloumi cheese or tofu
- First of all, we wash and peel the vegetables.
- Cut the potatoes into cubes, not necessarily small ones, “for a bite”. Rinse with cold water. We can add to this bowl washed mushrooms and onions.
- If we use plain yellow onions, then cut it into feathers. Really small onions can be added whole.
- Add chopped paprika into a separate bowl.
- If we use meat, then cut into cubes and season with sweet pepper. Put it aside.
- In a pot with a thick bottom, warm up the oil with olive oil.
- Set to the second burner and set to the smallest heating power. As if we were doing our janija on the edge of the coal-burning stove.
- Add the potatoes, onions and mushrooms and salt o the pot. Cook for about 5 minutes on low heat, stirring sometimes.
- If we use tomatoes, translate them into a small saucepan, add paprika paste, a little salt and pepper, half of sweet and hot paprika. Cook for a few minutes. You can blend it, but it is not necessary.
- Chopped peppers and beetroot caviar (or tomatoes pre-cooked with paprika) add to the pot with potatoes.
- Add the rest of the spices and cook janija, still on the smallest fire, until the potatoes soften. About 30 minutes.
- During this time, warm up an extra portion of olive oil with the frying pan and fry the meat on it. Or tofu. Or halloumi cheese.
- When the potatoes are tender, add fried meat / cheese / tofu and quickly boil the janija. Then move to the smallest burner and let it simmer for 15 – 20 minutes.
Serve hot with hot bread (I had rosemary focaccia.) Or other flat bread – tortilla, laffa, pita.