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Serbian Grandma and Sarma

Serbian Grandma and Sarma

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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.

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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.
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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.

DSC_1505_1280x851She also had these lovely homemade breaded things that reminded me of doughnuts. They were super!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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Rice

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.

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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

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placing filling into leaf

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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.

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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.

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Filling pot with sarma

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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.

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Done

Remove the lid and let cool! It’s now ready to eat! Prepare yourself for a taste of heaven. 🙂

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Delicious sarma

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Svargla

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. 🙂

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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.

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Cabbage heads in barrel

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Walnuts

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.

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Decor

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Norwegian alcohol

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 . 🙂

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Posted by on December 14, 2015 in Through my eyes

 

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Serbia’s British Friend


kev4What is one thing that can be very annoying about having so many Serbian Facebook friends? Having your inbox flooded with the same info and links on anything that is going on in Serbia. That is how I first heard of Kevin Shannon, the adventurer , who was planning to march all the way across Serbia. There were over 20-30 folks who were sending me something from the local newspapers and tv stations about him and his mission. We had connected over Facebook and he asked me to join in on part of journey. I wish I had taken the opportunity to do so not only for my health, but to experience a little bit of his adventure.

We bumped into each other again the “Exit Festival Global Adventures” tourism conference. I was there to giving a presentation on my social network and blog while he was there to present  “Walk Serbia”. I decided to quiz him with some more detailed questions about his time in Serbia.

1. Where are you from and what do you do?

So: my name is Kevin Shannon and I’m from the UK. Currently I run my own small creative design studio called Chips & Gravy studios

2. How in the world did you get the idea to “walk across Serbia”?
 

I originally visited Serbia the first time in the autumn of 2010 whilst on 10,000 km cycling expedition from the UK to the far end of Turkey and then back again. On that visit to Serbia I completely fell in love with the country and made some great friends. During the 3 to 4 months that I spent in Serbia I spend most my time in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Sabac and Nis. When I returned home I realised that I’d only seen a fraction of Serbia and although I had learnt about the country a little there was still Hell of a lot more to see. So I decided that one day I would return to Serbian  and walk the length of the country.kev2

3. What did you know about Serbia before you came here? 

Before I visited Serbia first time I didn’t really know that much about the country. I had simply drawn a line across Europe and Serbia happened to be on that path. I knew the region was obviously famous for conflicts and I had a they recollection of seeing the NATO bombings on television when I was younger, but that was really it. But as I was cycling through countries before I got to Serbia I was warned that Serbian people what do horrific things to me once I crossed the border. Of course I don’t believe this but when your cycling on your own across Europe these warnings do not fill you with confidence.


4. Prior to visiting Serbia for the first time, give me four words that you would used to describe it…
Unknown, War, Scary, New
5. How long did your walk take?
The walk is actually two walks. The first in February 2013 took me five weeks and during that time I walked from the border with Hungary down to the city of Nis. My second walk was in July 2013 and I walked from south west Serbia back to the north of the country, which also took five weeks.kev1
6. Biggest complication.
The biggest complication was issues from walking with such a heavy pack. My left knee became very sore during the first walk, and during the second walk I had horrific blisters on the sole of one of my feet.
7. Funniest situation.
I was in a small village about 75 km north of Nis, feeling very tired and the little homesick and out of nowhere a group of young kids came up to me with pieces of paper and pencils. The oldest had a hand written note in English which said that they were big fans and have been following my journey in the newspapers. Because they knew my route, they knew I would be passing through the village and so had taken it in turns to keep a eye out for me, just so they could get an autograph – they had been waiting for 3 days.kev5
8. Favorite part of your journey.
The end? No, i’m just kidding. It’s actually very hard to pick a favourite part of the journey because so much happened but if I had to say one thing it was the generous hospitality everybody that i met on the road.
9. How would you compare Serbian food to your normal cuisine back in England? 
Serbian food is very rich with strong flavours, and of course there’s a lot of meat. Which is really the case in England. I guess if I had to make a comparison I would say that Serbian food it’s very much like a traditional English roast dinner that is served in most households every Sunday – however in England you have that once a week  and in serbia you have it almost everyday
10. Did you ever feel threatened or in danger?

I never really felt threatened or in danger, even in small Kafanas in the middle of god knows where surrounded by big, burly Serbian guys. The biggest issue with regards to safety to me was the packs of wild dogs. They were always a concern when I was walking in the mountains or sleeping out at night.kev6

11. What 4 words would you use to describe Serbia after walking from top to bottom and back?

Beautiful, friendly, Great food, my second home 

 

12. Will you return to Serbia? What would you say to someone that is considering a visit to this part of the world?

Without shadow of a doubt I’ll be returning to Serbia – in fact I returned earlier this year for a conference where spoke about my was through Serbia. I already have plans to take my fiance to Serbia,  have my stag party there and maybe one day by small house somewhere where I can spend my summers (not walking)

 

kev7

 13. You have decided to publish a book about this exciting adventure, right? Tell me a little about the project.

OK, So the project was quite simply to walk through Serbia to try and discover the real Serbia. In my original trip to the country i felt i’d only scratched the surface and was intrigued to see more of the country so i set up Walk Serbia. When you look around the internet looking for more info on Serbia you’re met with a lot negativity (except for a few sites included yours) and i decided that i wanted to create a document of my personal journey to not so much counteract the negativity but give a truthful view of a country. Now, don’t get me wrong, i expected it to be a positive trip due to prior experiences but i was open to negativity also – i essentially wanted to create a truthful account of spending 10 weeks tramping around the country. And this is, i hope, what i’ve done.
I’m still in the process of writing the book – i’ve rewritten some chapters 4 times – but i decided that i would set a date (in my head) for it’s release. So now i’ve set up a website – walkserbia.com – which will be the hub for all things to do with the book including, the opportunity to buy the book, perhaps some videos from the road, exclusive photos and information on speaking engagements and a potential book tour. For the moment i’ve thrown up a very simple landing page which has a small blurb about the book and an area to signup to the newsletter which will give you exclusive updates, a free chapter here or there and an exclusive discount on the final book. I set up the newsletter for the reasons i just mentioned, but something amazing happened when i did – i realised just how much interest there was in reading the book; not just from Serbia but from all over the world. Serb’s from Australia, the USA and Canada and even South Africa have sent me messages to tell me they would like to buy copies for friends, families and co-workers which is exciting…and daunting.
My plan for releasing the book was to self-publish and through friends in Serbia distribute the book there and of course here in the UK. But, with the response i’ve had so far i’m not looking at other options. I’m thinking about getting the book translated into Serbian, i’m going to start looking for distributors in the US and Australia AND if the list keeps growing i could have a great opportunity to promote the book to publishers around the world  which will then (if i’ve done my job right) help to give the world a better understanding of Serbia.
Just like the journeys themselves felt like a community – i had people tweeting, facebooking and emailing to help influence what i should visit and where during the walk – the book is starting to feel the same.

 

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2014 in What others think

 

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My Serbian Food in Pictures


Karađorđeva šnicla

Karađorđeva šnicla with potatoes, bread, and a sopska salad

One of the reasons that I have yet to leave this country is the vast amount of delicious foods! I wanted to share some of my past food experiences with you. Hope you enjoy!

Easter dinner with colored eggs, stuffed peppers, pork and lamb soup

Easter dinner with colored eggs, stuffed peppers, pork and lamb soup

 

Homemade meal from a friend's house in Nis

Homemade meal from a friend’s house in Nis

Kafana meal with cevapi, fries, sopska salad and Zajecarsko pivo

Kafana meal with cevapi, fries, sopska salad and Zajecarsko pivo

Sarma, pickled peppers, green onion and homemade bread

Sarma, pickled peppers, green onion and homemade bread

 

Fish soup (ribala corba) bread, and Zajecarsko Pivo

Fish soup (ribala corba) bread, and Zajecarsko Pivo

 

Komplet lepinja. Specialty from Uzice, Serbia.  Grease from a roasted lamb on bread with egg and kajmak

Komplet lepinja. Specialty from Uzice, Serbia. Grease from a roasted lamb on bread with egg and kajmak

 

Fresh fish from a small village near Uzice

Fresh fish from a small village near Uzice

 

they raised these fish in a stream by the restaurant

they raised these fish in a stream by the restaurant

 

Mixed meat platter from Kod Srbe

Mixed meat platter from Kod Srbe

 

cevpai, steak, and big cuts of pork with some fries and veggies

cevapi, steak, and big cuts of pork with some fries and veggies

Sopska Salad

Sopska Salad

 

pizza with something called "beef sauce" smeared all of it

pizza with something called “beef sauce” smeared all of it

 

plate of fresh roasted lamb at Mokra Gora

plate of fresh roasted lamb at Mokra Gora

 

different meats from a restaurant at Zlatibor

different meats from a restaurant at Zlatibor

 

Gurmanska pljeskavica

Gurmanska pljeskavica

 

palacinka or Serbian pancake

palacinka or Serbian pancake

 

Eurocream and Nutella... sweet creamy hazelnut spread they put on pancakes

Eurocream and Nutella… sweet creamy hazelnut spread they put on pancakes

 

a few of the condiments you can get on your burgers

a few of the condiments you can get on your burgers

 

Sarma or stuffed sour cabbage rolls... my favorite

Sarma or stuffed sour cabbage rolls… my favorite

 

meat tray from a friend's party

meat tray from a friend’s party

 

big pljeskavica with bread, urnebes, and fries

big pljeskavica with bread, urnebes, and fries

 

little pumpkin pies

little pumpkin pies

 

cheese pies with spinach in them

cheese pies with spinach in them

 

snack tray of pavlaka, ham and fried zucchini

snack tray of pavlaka, ham and fried zucchini

 

my favorite snacks... cheese, ajvar, crackers and a big bottle of Zajecarsko Pivo

my favorite snacks… cheese, ajvar, crackers and a big bottle of Zajecarsko Pivo

 

after dinner drinks of Nescafe and boiled wine

after dinner drinks of Nescafe and boiled wine

 

Serbian traditional drink, rakija that was served in a glass of crushed ice

Serbian traditional drink, rakija that was served in a glass of crushed ice 

 

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2014 in Through my eyes

 

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Tip # 7…. You MUST experience a Slava!!!!


 

Prior to visiting Serbia….. if anyone would have asked me what the word SLAVA meant… i would have said ” a slavic woman”. I would have been totally wrong. Serbia is country where 85-90% of the population is Orthodox Christian. They have some very unique traditions and beautiful churches and monasteries spread all over this beautiful country.

Slava or Krsna slava is the celebration of the home patron saint. It is one of the  greatest characteristics of the national and religious lives of the Serbian people. It is an exclusively Serbian custom and is one of the most important days of the year for most Serbian families. Slava is actually the celebration of the spiritual birthday of the Serbian people. It is based on the day their ancestors first accepted Christianity. Their saint is a “protector of their home”. They pass the saint down from father to son. There are many, many saints but some of the most common are “nikoljdan” or Saint Nicholas, “jovanjdan” or Saint John, “djurdjevdan” or Saint George, and St Sava … the slava of Serbian Schools…etc…. there are hundreds of them…..

A Slava celebration is most similar to our Thanksgiving day feast. They do have some differing customs depending on the household. Some of the requirements of a slava are :

  1. picture or icon of the patron saint
  2. lighted candle or “slavska svijeca”-reminds them that Christ is the “light of the world”
  3. wheat or “zito” usually grown in a small bowl- represents the death and resurrection of Christ.
  4. slava bread or cake or “svlaski hlejb ili svlaski kolac”- represents Christ as the bread of life.
  5. red wine- represents Christs blood

There are different customs depending on the household. Some celebrate with apples floating in wine or rakia and they try to catch them with their mouths. Also the slava bread is broken and each guest is given a piece. Most slavas are a three day event. The majority of Slavas are held during the winter months. There is a saying “where the Serb is, Slava is also”

The first Slava I attended was an amazing and an experience i will never forget.  The customary greeting when entering the home is ” cestitamo  vam Krsnu Slavu” or “greetings on your patron saints day”…I noticed a bowl of wheat growing on the table and many, many different kinds of food strung about the table. Sarma is one of my favorites. It is soured cabbage rolled up around meat, rice and other ingredients. It is also customary to bring a gift…. exp bottle of wine or flowers.. Don’t eat prior to attending the slava because you will be expected to try everything and that is A LOT!!! We also had live music at my friends home. It is a very unique, special and memorable celebration that you can always treasure! IT IS A MUST WHEN VISITING SERBIA!!!!!!

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2012 in Uncategorized, When in Serbia

 

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Serbia is not in Russia!!!!!!


It is really sad that so many people have no idea about this great little country in the Balkans! Many of my friends back home thought I was going or am living in SIBERIA!!! They are spelled similarly  but are veryyyyyyy different! Siberia is located in Russia. Serbia is a beautiful country located in the Balkans. The world wide media has destroyed the good name of Serbia and its people. Many of those that have heard of this little country only hear the negative propaganda like “serbs are cannibals” “serbs hate everyone that isnt serb” “serbs commit genocide on a daily basis” “serbs are terrorists” or you hear only about Slobadan Milosevic, Ratko Mladic etc…. the REAL side of Serbia and its people do not get broadcast in the mainstream media!!!

Here are some interesting facts and figures on Serbia…..

  • 34,136 sq mi or about the size of Indiana
  • population .. approx- 8 million
  • capital and largest city is Belgrade with 2.5 million people
  • located on the almost the same longitude as Chicago, IL so it has all four seasons
  • #1 exporter of raspberries in the world
  • “heart” of the former country of Yugoslavia
  • located north or Greece, West of Bulgaria, South of Hungary and East of Bosnia in the Balkans.
  • currency is the dinar… current exchange rate $1=79 dinars.. it pronounced like “deener”
  • was controlled by the turks for 500 years
  • has been ruled by kings , communism for 40 years and now a democracy
  • 85% of the population is Orthodox Christian
  • it has two autonomous regions… Kosovo and Vojvodina
  • Kosovo is the heart of Serbia and its Orthodox religion but is recognized as an independent country by many but not me
  • Vojvodina is the northernmost region and is nicknamed “land of 26 nations” because it has many immigrants living there
  • NATO went on a 3 month bombing mission over Serbia…starting in the spring of 1999
  • birthplace of scientific genius Nikola Tesla (actually he was born in modern day Croatia but he is a Serb)
  • very athletic country .. home of 4 time world champion water polo team and European swimming champion and volley ball champions.
  • birthplace of NBA legend Vlade Divac and over 25 NBA players
  • home of #1 tennis player Novak Djokovic
  • only country in the world to celebrate SLAVA (explain in later)
  • make a fantastic homemade brandy called rakija out of fresh fruits like plum, apricot, peach, apple… it is very strong
  • one of the few countries that has 2 Christmas celebrations (dec 25th and Jan 7th) and 2 new years celebrations (Jan 1 and Jan 14th) this is due to the use of a different calendar.
  • home of YUGO automobile… no longer in operation
  • English is required in primary school and the majority of population under 30 speak fluent English
  • all high schools are specialized toward your college major or occupation. they take testing after 8th grade and make a “wish list” of their career occupations and based on their results , are placed into whatever high school they qualify for…. exp… medical, economic, agriculture, music…..
  • two alphabets.. one is latin and the other cyrillic. Cyrillic is the official alphabet and all legal and govt papers are in cyrillic
  • has hills, fertile soil in the north, beautiful landscapes and has the Danube river run through it
  • borders 8 countries .. 9 including Kosovo
  • free medical care
  • has a high unemployment rate… around 25% compared to 9% in the USA
  • has a GDP of $79 billion dollars compared to USA-$14.5 trillion
  • per capita income approx $7,000 USD compared to $49,000 USA
  • beautiful women, awesome food, friendly and hospitable people that will welcome anyone into their home!
 
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Posted by on January 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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