Nov 25, 2012

Bosnian Cook by Alija Lakišić

Thanks to him we have the first book containing valuable information about various kinds of Bosnian cooking with hundreds of recipes for savory dishes cakes and sweets. Alija Lakišić holds the view that Bosnian cooking represents the culinary art of the Bosnian people and those of Herzegovina, influenced by elements of their culture and containing much of the oriental way of life, so that in many ways it is a combination of the tastes of East and West.

Alija Lakišić has made a special study of the meals that used to be served in the local eating houses and households on special occasions. The number of courses differed, from a single dish (which means a meal for the poorest) to thirty in all. Formal suppers — in Bosnia the evening meal is the most important one — abound in different courses. The first written recipes and menues in Bosnia are contained in the documents compiled by Isa Beg-Ishaković in the second half of the 15th century, and later in a volume compiled by Gazi Husrev-Beg in 1531. Let us take a look at one of of these old menues: first, native brandy ( rakija) and savoury tit-bits served on a large platter before actually sitting down to the table. Then follows: a dish of onions, a broth of cabbage, boiled and roasted meats, meat pie, and finally pilaf. All these dishes were served with excellent Herzegovina and Dalmatian wines, to be followed up by rice pudding, baklava (a sweet made of raisms and ground walnuts steeped in syrup), small had and Turkish delight of various flavours.  At that time, feasts in Sarajevo and other larger towns in Bosnia always had at least twelve courses not counting minor ones served in between, which, if included, would bring the number of courses up to eighteen. Here is an example of one such evening meal with all its courses: ginger, broth (the Sarajevo or Beg variety), stuffed turkey, Sarajevo baklava, sorrel pie, cheese or meat pie, stuffed vine leaves, pilaf served with sour cream, pancakes, rice pudding, and, to finish, strong black coffee to be drunk while smoking a long oriental pipe or waterpipe (nargileh ).

The looking for some old woman who would reveal to him the secret of how to make the original Džandar baklava, a sweetmeat made of 24 layers of paper-thin pastry. It is very obvious that the old Bosniaks cared little or nothing for what we now call a "proper diet". They ate inordinately, their food was steeped in fat and their desserts were over-sweet. However, they took their time over their food, savoring every morsel. Lakišić has selected some of these old Bosnian recipes for our readers who can try their hand at them and then, we hope, thoroughly enjoy eating them.