You’ve just arrived in Croatia and you look for a simple little restaurant that looks rustic and seems to have a good vibe. You sit down at a very simply laid out table and, after perusing the menu, decide that you’re feeling particularly peckish and will attack a meat platter for two… Just for you!
The platter arrives at your table, stacked with what looks like chops, sausages, grilled chicken and a couple of different kinds of sausage that look local. The meat is piled upon rough cut chips (also known as fries or pomp frit depending on where you’re from!), and on the side is a healthy pile of sliced onions and a generous serving of some kind of red stuff… Not artificially red, like ketchup. But definitely enough colour to stain your favourite white t-shirt! There is a reason that red is a warning colour. Be warned: This delectable red substance is addictive!
Known here in Croatia as ajvar (pronounced aye-var with a rolled ‘r’), this dangerous red substance is delicious and very common! Not only served as an accompaniment to grilled meats, ajvar is traditionally included in a popular fast food called Čevapi (pronounced che-vah-pee, a skinless meat sausage that is often served in flatbread with ajvar and soft white cheese) and is wonderful as a snack on crusty bread or a vibrant addition to a charcuterie platter.
All over Croatia and the surrounding countries, ajvar recipes change a little depending on which family recipe it is made according to! And the base of this relatively simple garnish is always bell peppers and eggplant roasted on an open fire. Charred until they split and softened, the roasted vegetables are then blended with garlic and chili to taste. Add a drop of oil and salt to finish it off, and either serve immediately or put in jars to save for later.
Most of the ajvar that you will come across in restaurants are very non-spicy in flavor, with very little chili. This kind of ajvar is ‘blagi’ or mild. Or you might see an ajvar marked ‘ljuti’ meaning spicy. We’re big fans of spicy ajvar. Why not give both a try and let us know which one you like best?!