AJVAR – THE BALKAN CAVIAR

By Irina Janakievska
http://balkankitchen.co.uk/
@balkankitchen

Published in the TML Magazine Issue 13, 2021

Ingredients
  • 2 kg red romano or bell peppers, washed and patted dry
  • 1 aubergine (300g), washed and patted dry
  • 45-60 ml sunflower or olive oil
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • Flaked sea salt and black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7.
  2. Place the peppers and aubergine on two large parchment lined baking trays and roast for 40-45 minutes (turning over halfway) or until the skins are blistered and slightly charred but the flesh still juicy.
  3. Remove and place in a large bowl, cover with cling film (or re-usable food wrap) and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes to room temperature. This allows the peppers and aubergine to finish steaming while cooling which will make peeling them easier.
  4. Peel the aubergine, and peel and de-seed the peppers. Place them in a colander over a bowl and allow to drain for 5-10 minutes, discarding the drained juices. Then finely chop the pepper and aubergine flesh (or blitz in a food processor for 30 seconds to a rough consistency).
  5. Place a medium sized saucepan on a medium-low heat. Add the pepper and aubergine mixture and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, to remove any residual moisture.
  6. Then add 30ml of the oil, the sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt and a generous grind of black pepper and continue cooking for 20-30 minutes, stirring constantly. The mixture needs to gently bubble but must never stick to the bottom of the pan, so it needs constant attention.
  7. If the mixture starts to look dry, add another 15ml of oil and continue cooking. Depending on how your mixture is absorbing the oil you may need to add the final amount of oil. Test the ajvar as you would jam – place a little of the mixture on a clean plate and run a teaspoon through the middle. If the ajvar stays separate and does not flood back and there is no oil “leaking”, it is ready. If not, continue cooking the ajvar for a few more minutes. Taste the ajvar and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt to your taste. Allow the ajvar to cool for 10 minutes and spoon into sterilised jars.

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