Did You Try Making: Marija Petrovic’s Chaotic Spread
INTERVIEW: Marija Petrovic // Palachinka blog // Belgrade, Serbia
A mathematician by trade, Marija, the Belgrade based blogger of Palachinka, has always felt the happiest while feeding people. For Issue 04 of Countlan Magazine, Marija shares her recipe for Chaotic Spread (in Serbian: Urnebes Salata) the quintessential spread that goes well with Belgrade’s popular pljeskavica (A special type of local hamburger – see photo towards the end of the post)
01 Why did you start blogging?
After following a number of blogs, it came to me that I should try blogging too. In late 2007, I posted a couple of recipes online and instantly fell in love with the process of food styling and making photos. I upgraded to a better camera and have been taking photos of food and blogging ever since. I am also a co-founder of Mezze, the first online Serbian food magazine. So proud of it!
02 Why did you choose Urnebes salata, ‘the Chaotic spread’ for summer?
Urnebes salata is a spicy, garlicky spread that can be found at every Serbian fast food stand. It is a condiment that my friends and I used to eat on top of burgers after a night of clubbing when we were hungry as wolves. The chaotic spread is the most common condiment to eat with a burger, pljeskavica. In Serbia, we do burgers a bit differently. The bun is not a typical bun. It is a tiny round loaf of bread called lepinja. The chaotic spread is one of those smelly foods that we all crave, but avoid because of all the garlic used in the recipe. I have a memory of my friends and I devouring these burgers topped with urnebes salata in the warm summer evenings.
03 When visiting Serbia, which three foods would you recommend tasting?
The first thing to try is kajmak (salted or unsalted). Kajmak is made by skimming full fat milk and collecting it in layers. My favorite is the milder one. It’s perfect on a piece of fresh bread with thin slices of bacon and some tomatoes or spring onions.
Next is ajvar. It is a red pepper relish made from roasted red peppers that are peeled, mashed and then cooked some more. Every autumn, my family makes a lot of ajvar. The recipe has been passed down the generations. Ajvar is something that is indescribably good and you just have to taste it!
In the winter, you must try one of the dishes made with sauerkraut. Our sauerkraut is a bit different than in other European countries. The best way to taste it is in a dish called sarma (minced meat wrapped in soured cabbage leaves and then cooked) or podvarak (fried sauerkraut with meat and bacon that is baked in the oven).
04 Where do you dine in Belgrade?
When you travel, my personal recommendation would be to eat where the locals eat. This means any Serbian fast food (pljeskavica for example) or dining at a kafana. In the kafanas, I would recommend trying the barbecue, baked beans and sarma. Try visiting Kafana Čubura.
Next, I would recommend eating at Lorenzo & Kakalamba restaurant. It is a fusion of Florentine and Serbian (to be more precise, region around Pirot city) cuisines. It is an amazingly successful fusion of the two cuisines that will leave you speechless. The interior itself is outstanding too and to me it always felt as if being inside the Eyes Wide Shout movie.
Finally, there is restaurant Dijagonala. It’s a high end, high class restaurant with great food. Many people think it’s the best restaurant in the city.
05 Do you entertain at home?
When the occasion arises for a get together, I prefer to arrange it at my country house near Belgrade. We have a big yard that is perfect for outdoor cooking. My signature dish for these occasions is a version of goulash, made in a cauldron, over an open fire. It is stewed for a minimum of five to six hours. While the goulash is cooking, we have drinks and the boys prepare the barbecue. The goulash is ready to eat as the sun sets. It is the perfect moment to sit down and dig into a bowl of goodness.
06 Which food “idols” inspire your cooking?
My favorite cooks were always the grandmothers of my family. Everybody liked whatever those ladies prepared. I continue to try and replicate the taste of the dishes they made, but somehow, I always feel like mine is never the same.
07 If you could dine with three people, who would you choose?
If I had to choose someone other than my loved ones and family, I would dine with Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsey. I would choose Anthony Bourdain because, like me, he eats anything and that kind of company is good to have while traveling. I would choose Gordon Ramsey because I am really curious what he would say about my cooking. I wonder whether he would he trash it When I watch him on television, I feel like I know nothing. For the third guest, I would select a few really bad Serbian television chefs because I think they could learn a few things from me.
Recipe: The Chaotic Spread (Urnebes salata)
450 g feta cheese
5 tablespoons sour cream* (with 20% milk fat)
3 large cloves garlic
1.5 teaspoons sweet paprika
a couple of teaspoons chili flakes (adjust to taste
Squash feta with your fork. Stir in sour cream so that it combines with the feta. Next add the pressed garlic and paprika and mix it into the cheese. Finally, add the chili flakes (as much as you like).
This spread should be very spicy, but still, adjust everything to taste. Begin with one clove of garlic and a few chili flakes. Leave the spread in the refrigerator overnight before you eat it. Flavors will combine and develop during that time.
Rosemary Pork Skewers
500 g pork, cubed
a couple sprigs of rosemary
Prepare the skewers first. Strip all the rosemary leaves except for a few centimeters at the top of each stalk. Sharpen the other end of each stalk with a sharp knife (be very careful while you do it!) which you will use to spear the meat cubes. Rub the skewers with Vegeta and pour some oil over the meat. Marinate the rosemary skewered pork overnight in the fridge. When you are ready to cook, heat some oil in a pan or grill and cook the skewers until they’re done. If you are frying instead of grilling, fry the meat on a high temperature until the meat browns. The crispy bits left over will make a nice gravy that you can soak your bread into later.
Serve with freshly baked white bread and a Chaotic Spread.
**Vegeta seasoning is an all purpose seasoning made with salt and dried vegetables. It is available to purchase without MSG. If you can’t find it just use salt instead.
*In Serbia we use fresh farmers market cottage cheese instead of sour cream. In this recipe I suggested sour cream as an alternative to Serbian cottage cheese which may be harder to find. Combining feta and sour cream will give the spread the most accurate taste you can get.
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