Kosovo has an array of tasty traditional foods. Among them, flija is the most distinctive.
By Besa Beqiri for Southeast European Times in Pristina – 16/01/09
A traditional Christmas spread in Kosovo. [Laura Hasani]
Kosovo's cuisine is very compatible with its continental climate. The daily Kosovo menu, highlighted by a variety of meat and pies, synchronises well with the cold winters and hot summers. With its stormy history of conflict and conquest, Kosovo has developed a cuisine to which Albanian, Turkish, Serbian, Croatian, Greek and Italian cuisines have all contributed.
Before winter's subzero temperatures hit in earnest, Kosovo residents prepare their pasterma -- dried beef and also pickle vegetables to store in barrels for winter consumption. Kosovo winter cuisine additionally includes hajvar in mild or hot varieties, as well as pinxhur (made of peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, garlic, oil and salt), which comes from a tradition shared by many Balkan countries, such as Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Hajvar is made of red peppers. Women fry the peppers first, then peel and grind them. They boil the ground peppers in oil and then salt them slowly for hours. When the mixture is ready, they can and store it in cool places like cellars.
Kosovo is also known for its rich variety of pies. The best known of all and most distinctive one, flija, is prepared year-round but is a summer favourite.
Bake flija above an open, wood-fed fire slowly. Mix white flour with water and salt, leaving the mixture more or less hollow. Grease a baking pan with oil or butter. Put the first layer of the mixture of flour, water and salt in the baking pan. Place a special metal lid called saci, heated earlier over a fire, on the baking pan to bake the first layer. Remove the saci, add a second layer of the mixture, and grease it with butter or oil and a special dairy product called maza. Place the saci again on top of the baking pan to bake the second layer. Continue until the baking pan is full. At this point, put the saci on again to bake the whole thing properly. Arrange flija pieces in a circle to imitate the sun's rays. Villagers attribute this practise to an ancient pagan tradition of sun worship.
Christmas pie is an obligatory part of every Christmas dinner.
Mix flour with water and salt. Knead the mixture until it becomes tough. Roll it into small balls to make pastries. Bake them singly.
Grease the baking pan with oil or butter.
Clean out a pumpkin and boil the contents in water. After boiling it, dispose of the water. Add oil, sugar and a bit of salt to the pumpkin.
Place the pastries in a baking pan one by one and grease them with the boiled pumpkin contents. When the pan is full, place in oven.
The Christmas pie was a main dish in the past. Nowadays, it is more of a symbolic meal.
A popular dish in Kosovo is proja, a type of cornbread.
Ingredients (serves 4-5 people):
Combine cornstarch, white flour, eggs, milk, yoghurt, cheese, oil and yeast. Mix well and place in pre-greased baking pan. Bake till mixture turns light red; serve with yoghurt or cheese.