Serbian Šnicla (Sort of)

Lovely word, šnicla. The Slavic caron, háček, inverted hat over the s immediately marks it as exotic. Phonetically šnicla uses the whole mouth to pronounce it – lips, tongue, teeth. It’s almost as good a word as schnitzel, which is the translation of Serbian šnicla. Pounded thin meat, sometimes filled and rolled, breaded and fried or baked, šniclas are typical of traditional Serbian cuisine.

tenderizing_pork

A friend of mine once described a pork dish to me – in mouth-watering gastronomic superlatives – that she and her husband enjoyed on one of their forays into Serbia. I should perhaps explain that these friends met at University in Belgrade back in the day when the country was still Yugoslavia. Now, they periodically visit, catch up with old friends and find every opportunity to sample the food they love, full of meat, peppers and creamy cheeses.

peka_2

This is my interpretation of the dish my friend described, a kind of šnicla in that the pork is pounded thin, filled and rolled. However, it isn’t breaded and I’ve slow cooked it in my Balkan peka, my clay pot with the domed lid. The pot was made by a northern Greek potter who not only sources his own clay, but takes pride in reproducing traditional Balkan cooking shapes. Note the little “horns” on the ridged handle! It is similar to Römertopf pots which can be substituted – only remember to soak it before using.

And, I’ve got two more words for you – kajmak and ajvar. I’ve already posted on ajvar, the red pepper condiment of Southeast Europe, in my post Ruby Red Spread. Kajmak (sometimes spelled kaymak) is a kind of salty clotted cream from Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, etc. – essentially from the same region as ajvar. Kajmak isn’t something you readily find on your supermarket shelves, so I’ve included two ways of producing something that resembles kajmak – see Cheat Kajmak below.

pork_ajvar_kajmak_rolls

Slow Cooked Pork, Ajvar & Kajmak Rolls
These are pork šnicla – pounded thin pork leg steaks, smeared with ajvar and rolled with a portion of creamy kajmak in the center. The “sort of” in the title of the post pertains to the absence of breading and the slow method of cooking in the peka.

  • 10 to 12 thin pork leg steaks (escalopes)
  • 1 cup ajvar
  • 1/2 cup kajmak
  • Oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Preheat oven to 320 degrees F. Liberally oil the inside of your clay pot. Take the pork steaks (escalopes) and pound them with a meat tenderizer until very thin.

pork_ajvar_kajmak_rolls_prep1

Smear about a tablespoon of ajvar on each pork steak. Put a dollop of kajmak at one end and fold the pork over. Roll carefully and loosely so as not to squeeze out the ajvar.

pork_ajvar_kajmak_rolls_prep2

Do this with each of the pounded pork steaks and line them up in a single layer next to each other and fairly tightly packed in the clay pot. It does not require the addition of any liquid.

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When you have finished with all of the steaks, smear the remainder of the ajvar on top, sprinkle with a little salt and dried oregano.

pork_ajvar_kajmak_rolls_prep4

Place the lid on and cook in the oven for 2-1/2 hours. The kajmak will keep the meat moist, but may also produce a slightly curdled liquid. Lift rolls out with tongs when done.

kajmak

Cheat Kajmak
These are two methods of producing a creamy spread that approximates a salty kajmak. Or…find the authentic substance in a food shop or one that specializes in Balkan products. Note that Turkish kaymak that I have found in our local Turkish supermarket seems to be slightly different – not salty and more like English clotted cream. These recipes make far more than you will need in making the pork rolls. Serve a little dollop of it with the cooked pork. It is also very good with baked potatoes, bashed new potatoes or simply on its own as a spread.

Method 1

  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Cream the crumbled feta in a food processor or press it through a fine sieve. Mix with the cream cheese and sour cream until smooth.

Method 2

  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Soften the butter and mash the cream cheese and butter together, sprinkle on the salt and mix in.

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16 comments

  1. Now i have a great recipe to try the ajvar i bought months ago! …in town every year there is an event… A kind of fair dedicated to european food… There are stands with cuisine from greece, poland, germany, france… And also balcanic… And i came back home with that sauce! …now i saw also a big supermarket sells it… I’ll check if a find the kajmak too! Anyway…great recipe!

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  2. I had to try pronounce Snicla right away according to your description and I think I may have come close to succeeding 🙂 It looks wonderful. Putting it on my dinner list!

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    • A mouthful, isn’t it? It’s a great meat dish. If using other types of pots, it might be best to alter temperatures and cooking time – rely on similar recipes for guidance. I love cooking with my clay pot, but realise not everyone has one.

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  3. It looks great! Judging by the apparence of the ingredients, it must taste delicious! I love your clay pot. I have to admit I have never cooked with a clay pot. And how do you clean it? I guess no dishwasher?

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    • Cooking in a clay pot is really worth the hand cleaning. You guessed right, it does not go into the dishwasher. It is glazed on the interior, so not much sticks and is actually easy to clean, if a bit unwieldy (being quite big). Paula Wolfert has an excellent book called “Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking: Traditional and Modern Recipes to Savor and Share” in which she discusses many different types of traditional clay pots and the types of foods cooked in them – obviously Mediterranean.

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