Sep 17, 2012

Bosnian cuisine

Manydishes that did not originate in Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose oriental originis undisputed, have over time acquired characteristics that differentiate themfrom the same dishes prepared in the East (Iran, Turkey). The cuisine, or, to bemore precise, the traditional culinary art of Bosnia and Herzegovina is based onthe culinary skill of the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which combines theirown cultural elements with foreign recipes, thereby endowing them with aspecific stamp characteristic of Bosnia.
Because the culinary art of the medieval Bosnian kingdom was confined to the noblemen's castles, we can say that the year 1462 marks the birth of traditional cuisine in Bosnia. That was the year when the first aščinica, a restaurant for the townspeople, was opened. We do not have precise evidence about the contents of the menu at the time. However, we do know that 400 years later the variety of meals available throughout the year in an aščinica in any larger town in Bosnia and Herzegovina spanned over 200 different dishes. The common characteristics of these dishes are:
 Bosnian cuisine contains an abundance of vegetables, meat, fruit, milk and dairy products;
the dishes are not made with a browned-flour base (roux), and strong or hot spices are not used. When spices are used, only very small amounts are added to the food so that the taste of meat is not diminished;
 cooked dishes are light because they are prepared in small amounts of water and cooked in their own natural juices, without a roux. The resulting sauce thus has a minimal amount of oriental spices. As a rule, quality dishes are not prepared in fat but are boiled in the juices of cooked meat, which is rich in proteins, and the juices of vegetables;
roasts and many pies, both sweet and savory, are popular;
 broths and soups are practically compulsory;
a wide range of sweets are available.

The function of the traditional large hearth (measuring 2-4 metres in length), 1.20 metres in width and 1.5 metres in height) in the ašinica, as well as in the bakeries where most dishes were prepared, was twofold. New dishes could be quickly prepared on the hearth and other dishes could finish cooking, so that that area also served as a kind of visible menu. The dishes were laid out on plates on the hearth, for which only wood or charcoal was used, so that they kept continually warm and the customer could choose which dish he wanted and in what quantity.
The hearth in an aščinca consists of three parts. The first is a burner with very hot fires. There are three troughs 20 cm to 30 cm wide and 20 cm to 40 cm deep into which embers are poured or charcoal is burned. Some dishes are quickly prepared here, while others finish cooking and are sauces which are mixed in of flavouring. The skill of a chef is measured by the quality of these sauces and the way he used them in different dishes.
The second is a compartment for plates. The hearth also serves as a warming table because all of the plates are warmed there at a steady temperature. Here the dishes are also arranged into individual serving.
The third is a cauldron. It is used for cooking soups and broths and for keeping them warm. 
The kitchen of the aščinca was situated behind the room where food was served. It consisted of an area where the dishes were prepared and the kitchen hearth where the fires were prepared and the kitchen hearth there the fires were kept burning and the final touches were added to the dishes. Above the hearth were pothooks from which cauldrons hung, while on the hearth itself was a small clay oven for preparing roasts and pies. One corner was designated for the making and drying of pastry dough, next no it was an area for brewing coffee. Since most town in Bosnia and Herzegovina had running water, the kitchen also had a separate area for the washing and drying of dishes. Apart from these rooms the aščinica also had a to a room containing the butcher's tools. There was usually a cold storage room located in the cellar where food was kept and preserved. The bakery, which was separate from the aščinca, was used for the baking of different types of pastries, as well as cakes and pies and dishes prepared in pots. Once the bread and pastries were baked the fire in the bakery hearth was kept burning so that other dishes could be cooked on this low heat.
Larger aščinca as well as karavansarajs (hotels) had large trays with small samples of the dishes and many spoon so that the guest could try each dish. A different spoon was used the sampling of each dish, and a bowl of water was provided for the immediate disposal of used spoons.
Surviving historical date tells us that during celebrations, weddings, gatherings and picnic all ethnic groups used the same rich and varied menu consisting of twelve to thirty different dishes.