Bakka’s Macedonian Red Pepper Ajvar

It always takes me by surprise when I am told that people actually cook my recipes. South Africans have a ‘you HAVE to’ tendency, it drives ‘the husband’ bonkers, so sorry but true to nature, if you only make one thing from my blog – this should be it!

When last have you ate something where you actually had to pause and just go ‘wow’. I was lucky enough to have Bakka’s (her name) relish over the Christmas period while on holiday with family. I had the privilege of popping into Bakka’s kitchen and she showed me first hand how to make this pot of gold.

What interesting tales the older generation have and Bakka is blessed with great memories. She grew up in Macedonia where money was very scarce but enthusiasm for food was plentiful. She went on to tell me tales of foraging up mountains to pick the traditional leaves for Macdonian mountain tea, of which I was lucky enough to have some. Her father slaughtered 2 pigs a year and the year was spent, curing and preserving all they can from the precious pigs. Fat was saved for frying or as she say if you were lucky enough some of the fat was eaten with Polenta. I gather it might be similiar to the Italian Lardo. Days were spent helping around the farm and waiting to see what her father brought back from his hunt, pigeons, rabbits and even the odd duck! 


I felt nostalgic hearing all her tales, what full lives they led? Lives filled with hardship but also a great appreciation for where their food came from and a zero waste policy. Will we have similiar stories to tell? 

Bakka remembers at least 20 jars of the Ajvar was stored at a time in the cellar, ready to be eaten in Winter. 

You can mix the colour of the peppers if you wish. Bakka keeps her Ajvar jars in the fridge topped with oil. Start the recipe a day before.

Bakka’s Ajvar 

Makes plenty!

Ingredients

  • 4kg peppers 
  • 500g of jalapenos
  • garlic (about 120g) – cut into smallish pieces
  • salt
  • vegetable oil

Method

  1. Grill the peppers evenly on all sides either on the bbq or over a gas flame. The peppers should still have some texture so be aware of not overcooking them. 
  2. Continue to grill the jalapenos over the open flame as well.
  3. Once all the peppers are grilled, skin the peppers and remove all the pips and skin.
  4. Skin the jalapenos and depending on how hot you would like the Ajvar, remove half the pits of the jalapenos.
  5. Drain the peppers on a rack with a roasting tray underneath, overnight. Bakka keeps her peppers outside where it is cool, protected from insects, but not in the fridge.
  6. The next day cut the peppers and jalapenos into 1cm dice making sure all the skin is removed.
  7. Cut the garlic into very small pieces but do not be tempted to put the garlic through a press. 
  8. Add a good of glug of oil to a heavy base pan on medium heat, add peppers and stir. Cook for at least 30minutes (lid off) Bakka says this part is really important, you are looking for the peppers and Jalapenos  to ‘melt and come together’. You should not be able to distinguish between peppers and Jalapenos. 
  9. Stir the garlic into the mixture and season well.
  10. Fill into warm sterilised jars preferably straight from the oven.
  11. Bakka lets the mixture cool down completely before popping on the lids.

Ready to be enjoyed with everything!


I enjoyed mine with some homemade Italian crispbreads.

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