Bank holiday burgers: Montenegrin pljeskavica and ajvar

‘Bank holiday’ and ‘beautiful weather’ are two phrases which are rarely found together in the same paragraph, let alone the same sentence, but we experienced a happy aberration this weekend, which saw three gloriously sunny days in a row. I think the explanation for this incredible phenomenon is the fact that we weren’t camping: we had initially planned to, but that plan fell through, and you can bet your bottom dollar that if we had been out in the wilderness somewhere, it would have tanked it down the whole time.

What makes all of this even more amazing is the fact that the weather is set to return to its usual gloomy self throughout the rest of this working week (16 degrees and heavy rain, anyone?), making our good fortune on the weekend even more, well, fortunate. So believe us when we say that we did our best to make the most of it!

Although most of Saturday was spent doing necessary domestic chores, at least some of these included gardening (an acceptable task in nice weather), and we were able to finish the day on a more pleasurable note by a) having dinner in London with Ash’s mum and sister and b) doing so wearing summer attire and not having to carry coats.

934a Brasserie Zedel collage compressed

Sunday saw us complete another 15 miles of the Thames Path Walk, by walking from Putney Bridge to Kew Bridge on the south bank, then following the same stretch of river in reverse along the north bank. For us, the relative heat made for perfect walking weather, and we very much enjoyed a day spent in the sunshine (and a couple of restorative G&Ts afterwards), although we suspect that some folk may have found it a bit warm!

935a Ash with 3 pound ice cream compressed

936a End of Leg 3 compressed

Monday, though, was when we managed to combine the beautiful weather with our next Good Food on Bad Plates dish. Bank holiday + sunshine = BBQ as far as we’re concerned, and we were lucky to have four lovely friends come over to join us. They contributed some awesome dishes, such as buffalo wings and lamb skewers, but they were also willing guinea pigs for our Montenegrin pljeskavica, or Balkan burgers. Apparently the national dish of Montenegro is actually cevapi, which are essentially skinless sausages, but as we’d already made those as our Serbian dish, we followed the example of Sasha from Global Table Adventure and opted for burgers instead of sausages. Perfect barbecue fare! We’d made ajvar (roasted pepper sauce) before too (also with our Serbian dish), but never over the coals, so were excited to give that a go.

950a BBQ table compressed

Pljeskavica

Ingredients
450g beef mince
450g pork sausage meat
450g lamb mince
1/2 a small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 1/2 tsp paprika (we used smoked paprika)
About 1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/4 cup soda water
Ajvar (recipe below), sliced tomatoes, sliced onions and pita bread to serve

Method
1. Combine the three meats, then use your hands to mix in the onion, garlic, paprika, salt, pepper and soda water.
2. Form into burger patties (we opted for 5oz patties which seemed a good size) and allow to rest in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
3. Cook on the grill and serve with the ajvar, sliced tomatoes and sliced onions in pita bread).
Serves 6-8

937a Burger ingredients compressed

938a Burger mix compressed

939a 5oz burgers compressed

940a Burger patties compressed

941a Burger patties compressed

946a Burgers compressed

948a Burgers and pita compressed

Ajvar

Ingredients
6 red peppers (we used 2 bell peppers and 4 long sweet peppers)
1 aubergine
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt
Pepper

Method
1. Barbecue the peppers and aubergine until the skins are blackened (this can be done under the grill or on a gas flame if you’re not using a barbecue).
2. When cool enough to handle (or before then if you’re impatient), peel the blackened skins away from the vegetables and put the flesh in a food processor along with the garlic.
3. Puree until smooth.
4. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper and blend until fully combined.
Serves a lot of people – this makes loads!

942a Grilling vegetables compressed

943a Making ajvar compressed

944a Making ajvar compressed

945a Ajvar compressed

All in all, then, our bank holiday was pretty terrific. Sharing good food with good friends in the sunshine – what could be better? The burgers were tasty, although we did comment that the lamb didn’t contribute an obvious flavour and we’d consider leaving it out next time – it would be interesting to see how this affected the overall taste of the burgers. The ajvar was smoky and roasty deliciousness and we are looking forward to eating the leftovers for days to come! And all of that alongside all the other tasty dishes on our table was a real treat. It’s no surprise that we’re all feeling rather depressed about having to go back to work.

949a Assembled burger compressed

951 Everyone

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