The Balkans are famous for many things - these days most of them are not nice at all - the financial crisis in Greece; the influx of refugees, corruption, low standards of living, high crime rate and so on and so forth. But, on the other hand, the Balkans have amazing landscapes, great food and hospitality (according to foreigners) to offer those who dare venture into that.
Point is, that very few people do so. And even if they do - the food is normally out of the question to taste. To us, the natives, there is nothing better for breakfast than a loaf of bread with sudzhuk (dried sausage that tastes way better than a salami), luitenitsa which is better than any ketchup you can come up with (or ajvar, or pinjur - or whatever the name in the country).
It seems that, however, foreigners look at those the way an European would look at a table in the Sahara or with an exotic tribe somewhere in Oceania and there offered to eat roasted scorpions or dried slugs for breakfast.
Some of the dishes do look weird or dangerous for your health, but trust me, any of those is 1000 times healthier than a hamburger.
And here we come to the question - why is that so?
First we have to start with a little bit of history and geography.
The Balkans = The Balkan Peninsula (in case someone doesn't know) are situated in the southeast of Europe - if you have the map - start from Spain and count the peninsulas - the Balkan is the third one from left to right. The name comes from the longest mountain range (Stara Planina in Bulgaria also known - for some reason - as Balkan)The climate is relatively warm and in most parts allows for four seasons to appear. That means that there is an abundance of spices, products and times of the year that give birth to some very strange results.
The second factor, as I mentioned, is history. The Balkans are at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Because of that many nations wanted to rule there or just traveled through and people came in contact with many different cultures, races and of, course - cuisines.
So when the Ottoman Turks invaded and conquered the peninsula at the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th century, there was a lot there already. The conquerors, as all others before them, brought their cuisine with them.
For most nations on the Balkans the existence within the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire lasted between 400 and 500 years. For that time, of course, the conquered had enough opportunities to get to know the new trends and they started adopting some Turkish words.
So here we come to the problem - who invented kiopoolu? If you ask any of the Balkan nations, they will all proudly declare it was them. Judging by the name, however I am more inclined to think that it was the Turks that brought it to the Balkans. And it is not only that dish - nearly half of the cuisine on the Balkans is like that. I will keep that track in later posts.
So, how do we prepare kiopoolu?
In case you want to taste that dish you'll need:
- baked and peeled RED and GREEN peppers (you can bake raw ones in the oven of you don't have them ready)
- baked and peeled eggplant (same as above)
- garlic (put as much as you can tolerate)
- parsley (same as above)
- black pepper
- olive oil (or whatever else you prefer)
So the first thing you have to do is to mash the peppers and the eggplants together - I prefer to have more peppers than eggplant but it is up to your preference. There are no strict rules - each one does it differently. DO NOT USE THE BLENDER - you'll get a ketchup - like substance that has NOTHING to do with the original. The point is to get a paste in which you can see the ingredients.
Then you add in the garlic, parsley and the spices and can eat that on a loaf of bread.