Ajvar or Aijvar is a specialty dip or salsa that is popular in Greece and Serbia. The dish can be eaten as a dip, side dish, salad or a bread spread. The dish was first made in Serbia and is commonly referred to as a Serbian salad. It is popular in Yugoslavia and the Balkans, and Serbia has a commercial production of 640 tons per year that is primarily exported.
History of Ajvar
Gourmands state that the dish was the favorite of Alexander the Great and was an integral part of his meals. The name Aijvar could be a derivative of havyar which means salted roe or caviar which resembles the appearance of the dish. The dish could have been prepared by the lower middle class to mimic the taste and look of caviar, which was and still is, very expensive. The dish was very popular, but for some reason, domestic production and consumption decreased in the 1890s. Commercial production was started but the taste of commercial variant is dramatically different from homemade version. Belgrade restaurants offer simpler versions to tourists.
Ingredients Used and Ajvar Recipe Overview
The best crop of red bell peppers or chili peppers is in mid-autumn and the Roja variety is preferred to make the dish. These fresh peppers are washed and roasted and then allowed to cool. Traditionally, the peppers are roasted in an open fire along with aubergines. Modern methods include wiping the skin free of water and baking in a medium hot oven. When the skin cools, the skin peels off in the form of blackened strips. The left over mash of peppers is cleaned of the seeds and then mashed into very small pieces. Due to the roasting or dry broiling, a wonderfully barbequed aroma arises from the mashed pulp. The mashed pulp is then mixed with garlic, vinegar, olive oil, aubergines, and stewed for several hours till it forms a fragrant soft spread. This also ensures that the spread lasts as long as possible.
Serving and Eating Aijvar
Ajvar is traditionally served during the winter season as a seasonal delicacy. The dish can be served as bread spreads, as a salad, as a side dish and as a snack. Before serving, a little olive oil and sliced garlic is added. The spread goes particularly well with grilled meat. It is also served as a dip with Mediterranean meze or appetizers, cheeses, grilled fish like salmon, and even cold salads.
Popular Ajvar Recipe Variations
Ajvar is traditionally prepared with red bell peppers only but other variations may include yellow peppers, and green peppers that will change the color of the dip. Aubergines are also added to the mush and this can change the taste of the dish.
A single serving of 30 gms Ajivar contains 1 5 calories.