One of my dearest friends here in Serbia is a Norwegian from the northern region of Norway. We met up last winter at Horus Nargile Bar and have been great friends ever since. He was born and raised in Norway, but his father’s side of the family are Serbs from Croatia who were forced out of Zagreb during the 90’s. He’s in his 2nd year of English medical school here in Novi Sad.
Church in Sirig
Last Sunday, he asked me to go with him and his beautiful girlfriend to his grandmother’s house in Sirig, Serbia for lunch. Sirig is a pretty little village about 20km from Novi Sad. I knew all about his grandmother’s cooking because I was there for a birthday party last summer and she sent over some sarma for me a few times so I was thrilled to go. He tells me that his grandma is going to teach me to make sarma :)
We arrived at his granny’s house around 1pm. She lives in a big, beautiful home right in the heart of Sirig. There are tons of fruit and nut trees in her back yard, a large garage and two floors of living space. She had the table all laid out and prepared for our arrival. The older women in Serbia really know how to take care of a dinner guest. We had some of her homemade rakija and beer, and then she brings out this lovely homemade soup.
Next round of food comes after she clears the soup and bowls from the table. The ladies seem to refuse your offer of assistance :) This round was some appetizers of cold meats, homemade cheese, cvarci (fried pork fat), cabbage salad and pickled red peppers.
She also had these lovely homemade breaded things that reminded me of doughnuts. They were super!
The next round of food was some delicious pork and beef goulash that was poured over pasta noodles, fried pork strips and some delicious fried cauliflower. That’s the first time in my life I tried fried cauliflower, but it was really good.
Nikola, grandma and Valerija
By now we have eaten ourselves into oblivion. We have to take a break for my sarma lesson. Sarma is one of my favorite foods here in Serbia. It’s a leaf of soured cabbage with meat and rice rolled up inside it.
1/2 kg of pork with chopped onion in a bowl
She starts off by putting 1/2 kg of pork into a bowl with a cut up onion.
1 carrot, one potato, and another onion
She likes to put a carrot and a potato in her sarama. You don’t have to, but it’s her way of making it. She throws one of each into the food processor and grinds them up.
add it to the meat and break open an egg
Once it’s all ground up, she throws it in the bowl with the meat and adds one egg to it. You need to put in some salt, pepper and a little Vegeta (Serbian salty spice).
Next, you want to add a cup of rice that has been sitting in water for a few minutes to the mixture of meat, etc and mash it around with your hands until it’s all mixed together.
Soured cabbage leaves
Then you get your soured cabbage leaves ready. You will then roll up your pork filling into balls and place a large ball in the middle of the cabbage leaf and then wrap the leaf around the meat filling
placing filling into leaf
Wrapping the sarma
Once you finish wrapping the sarama, you place a large poton the stove. She adds some bacon in the bottom to flavor it up.
Strips of bacon in the pot
Stack the wrapped sarma around the entire pot, one row on top of the next, until you have it full.
Filling pot with sarma
Unused leaves on top
Once you have the pan full, place some unused leaves on top of the sarma and add some sausage , if you like , then place the lid on top. You can turn it on high heat until it gets hot, then turn it down to low heat and cook for 1.5 hours.
Remove the lid and let cool! It’s now ready to eat! Prepare yourself for a taste of heaven. :)
By time the sarma is ready, i’m hungry again. I eat 5 of them and then Nikola’s girlfriend asks me if I’ve ever tried something called svargla. I’m a guy who usually likes everything so I accept a slice. The second it hits my mouth it almost triggers my gag reflex. The taste is HORRIBLE. It’s soft and meaty and reminds me of a juicy meatloaf. Blah! My friends tell me not to eat anymore of it and that it’s mainly a food for old folks. :)
Barrel of sarma
After dinner, the grandmother takes me down to her basement to show me how she makes the soured cabbage. She has a large plastic barrel that she fills with full heads of cabbage, cuts a cross in the base and adds salt to it. After a few days, they are ready for sarma. She also has a lot of nuts from her walnut trees that she separates in the basement.
Cabbage heads in barrel
Nikola takes me upstairs to check out the living quarters up there. It’s massively big and beautiful just like a second house. They have a bar with many different kinds of alcohol in beautiful bottles.
Nikola and I throw down a shot of this Norwegian alcohol that he brought from home. It wasn’t too bad at all.
It’s time to head back to Novi Sad. The neighbor girls are driving back in their car so grandma calls to ask if we can ride with them. They have room so we all squeeze into her little car. Grandma sent me off with bottle of rakija, jar of peppers and a container full of sarma! :) What a great way to spend a lazy Sunday! I learned a little something, filled my belly and had a slight buzz . :)