Some posts contain compensated links. Please read this disclaimer
for more info.
Is it a sauce, is it a dip? – why do you need to incorporate ajvar into your kitchen!
It’s always good to be on the lookout for new and delicious dishes from around the world. The problem is, a lot of them require ingredients that aren’t that easy to source in every country, and somehow, they never really taste the same! Thankfully, some are easy to make and have that incredible range of taste sensations to enjoy. One of those dishes is ajvar.
Ajvar is popular in the Balkans – Serbia, Croatia, and Macedonia all use it. It’s even a must-try food in Romania! I am still not so sure who ‘owns it.’ All I know is I love it.
It is part dip, part sauce, part spread, and occasionally considered to be a relish. The jury is out on what it can be defined as, but it’s delicious all the same!
Ajvar is a blend of the freshest red bell peppers and eggplant. The beauty of this dish is that it is so versatile, and you can enjoy it as part of many meals, such as pasta, meat dishes, and even as a snack with some fresh bread.
The best time to make and enjoy ajvar is when the red bell peppers are harvested and, therefore, at their very freshest, around Autumn time. You’ll quickly see people carrying huge bagfuls of them around when the harvest is complete, and you can bet that a massive amount of them are destined to be mixed up as ajvar.
My favorite way to enjoy ajvar is with cevapi. Please try this ajvar recipe and then tell me how you like to eat yours.
1 hour 20 minutes
Is ajvar a sauce, is it a dip? Either way here is how to make ajvar. This really is an easy to make ajvar recipe anyone can try!
- 4 medium-sized red bell peppers
- 1 medium-sized eggplant (optional)
- Olive oil, around 1/3 cup
- 2 (or more!) garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 teaspoons of white vinegar
- Salt and pepper, the amount depends on your personal taste
- See the notes section for optional extras
- Preheat your oven to 240°C (470°F)
- Take a medium-sized baking tray and cover it with baking/parchment paper
- Cut the eggplant into large pieces and arrange on the baking tray
- Cut the red peppers into halves and arrange them on the baking tray
- Cook in the oven for around half an hour, ensuring that the peppers have gone a rather attractive shade of black!
- Take the eggplant and peppers from the tray and place them into a large bowl. Cover the bowl (I use a plastic shopping bag to help them steam) and set aside for around 20 minutes
- Once cooled, remove the skin from the eggplant – you don’t need the skin, so it can be thrown away
- Peel the peppers, remove the core and the seeds – again, you don’t need these bits, toss them
- Transfer the remaining pepper and eggplant into a food processor, add the garlic
- Add the oil and vinegar to the food processor and add as much salt and pepper as you like
- Pulse the contents of the food processor until a smooth consistency is achieved
- Take a medium-sized saucepan and empty the contents of the food processor inside the pan
- Over a low heat, simmer the contents for around half an hour, ensuring that you stir constantly. The sauce should become thick as it simmers
- If you think it needs more salt and pepper, add a little at this point and stir to combine
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool
- Enjoy on your čevapi
1. We do need to address the eggplant side of things because not everyone enjoys this ingredient. If that is the case, you can omit it entirely and simply make the ajvar with the peppers only.
2. Also, if you want to make it spicier, you can add in a few roasted chilis, for a real kick!
3. If you’d like a stronger more smokey flavor, first grill the peppers on an open flame (like your gas stove!) so the skin goes black.
How To Store Ajvar
You can store the ajvar in a container that has a lid and is airtight for anything up to two weeks, but if you want to keep it for longer, you should can it. In order to do this, you need to mix up the recipe method just a little.
If you are planning to preserve your ajvar, do the following:
- Do not add garlic to the recipe, as it doesn’t tend to maintain very well
- Use sunflower oil instead of olive oil
- Use small jars and ensure they are washed well and sterilized before you add the ajvar
- When you are simmering the sauce, you should do this for an hour
- When filling up the jars, fill it to the top, leaving around a 1 cm (0.3 inches) free
- Once filled, put the jars in the oven and leave them there for around 10 minutes on a low heat (about 100°C/210F)
- Once the 10 minutes are up, add sunflower oil to each jar to fill it up to the top
- Please make sure the lids are on well, and place them somewhere dark and cool, covered over with a cloth, for around 48 hours
- You can enjoy your preserved ajvar this way for about six months.
More Balkan Food Recipes