Monday, March 6, 2017

Mira & Safija

It's been almost nine years here. My family, friends and colleagues in Turkey have kept asking for all those years about how I exactly feel about being a foreigner in Sarajevo. 

Some of them expect me to start complaining about possible homesickness, conflicts with the locals, and/or the language barrier and its fatal consequences. Some others expect me to praise the beauty of the landscapes here, to be carried away by the nostalgia for the former Yugoslavia and/or to trace the presence of the Ottoman Empire in this fabulous land. 

Such expectations naturally require a detailed discussion of my experiences in Sarajevo so far. When I started this blog that was actually what I had on my mind: documenting my individual level of exposure to Sarajevo culture. So, this post, in that sense, will serve as just another story to build my own story in Sarajevo intended to meet some of those expectations.

Well, what I love most about living in this city is that I am surrounded by people from culturally diverse backgrounds. This has its practical consequences for me such as having the opportunity to meet different cuisines and several religious, philosophical, political and ideological views encapsulated in one single city. 

Interestingly enough, this diversity has not resulted in chaos as most of the locals complain about. On the contrary, as a foreigner, I feel like just another pinch of spice  added to this amazing mixture of flavours. 'I too am one of those many 'different' components of life in Sarajevo after all and I am no different then.' This is very welcoming and this is the very feeling I have when I think about my place in this city, which has been confirmed by endless examples in the past nine years.

Please take a look at the two photos below. 

I found the basket full of all those greens in it in front of my door one day after a hectic day at work. It did not take me long to guess who left the basket there because it was not the first time that I had received such gifts from the same person: Teta Mira. She is an elderly neighbour who brings you some kale or Swiss chard leaves from her own garden just because she knows that you are still breastfeeding and greens are good for the baby. 

Teta Mira's treats

And I received some fresh raspberries in that tupperware accompanied by some fresh mint leaves and flowers from Safija, a dear friend, when Asya returned from a playdate at her place. Since she is a dietician and knows the best about combining food, she made my day by sending this little gift to us. 

Safija's afternoon treats 

I believe even these two individual examples of kindness and thoughtfulness on their own would be enough to describe the fantastic people I live among in Sarajevo or how grateful they make me feel every now and then. Yes, this is what I like most about living in Sarajevo.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Eggs and Pacifiers

Ferida is my second daughter but she has introduced me to lots of new and challenging adventures such as breastfeeding for one thing. I'm not going to write a post about how holy you feel after each nursing or the role of oxytocin in socio-emotional functioning in mothers. No. This post is about eggs and pacifiers which have become inseparable from our life for the last six months. 

In Bosnia, when it is your baby's first visit to a place such as a friend or relative's house, the baby is given eggs as a gift. The custom, I assume, has some pagan roots dealing with the connotations of an egg: the full cycle of life, the symbol of earth, fertility, beginning of life, rebirth, renewal and hope. There could be other things that have made the egg a preferable gift. Eggs are always easily available and a valuable source of high-quality proteins. Well, Ferida has been visiting friends and relatives with me for some time now and imagine how many eggs we have received during our visits. It's pretty difficult to take the eggs home without breaking them though! 

As a new-born and even before that we received lots of pacifiers as a gift for Ferida. Although it's not a custom to give pacifiers here, they hit number 1 on the chart of baby gifts we have received. However, Ferida, as a breastfed baby, has kept refusing them. I don't know exactly why but she has shown no interest in them at all and I haven't forced her to take them. This has definitely made life harder for me because I myself have to replace all the functions that a pacifier has. On the other hand, looking at the brighter side, I won't have to go through the pacifier weaning stage and invent tales about the pacifier fairy taking it away! Well, the thing is having so many pacifiers around the house and using none is now simply annoying. I'll definitely get rid of them at the next swap market. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Baking Bread in a Closed Clay Pot


Waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread is the beginning of another dream. 


250 grams all-purpose flour
250 grams whole-wheat flour
300-350 ml mineral water
20 grams fresh yeast
9-10 grams salt 
 5 grams caster sugar


1. Add the yeast to the mineral water and stir until the yeast is dissolved completely.
2. Add salt and sugar to the yeast-mineral water mixture. 
3. Add the flour slowly. Knead for some 10 minutes until you shape it into a ball. 
4. Put the dough into the bowl and a damp cloth over the bowl. Leave the bowl somewhere warm for one to two hours until the dough doubles in volume. 
5. Punch the dough down and shape it using a bit more flour to prevent sticking, if necessary. 
6. Put the dough into the bowl again and cover it with a damp cloth again. Leave the bowl in a warm place for another 30 minutes. The dough should rise some more.
7. Meanwhile, apply a light coating of vegetable oil to the inside of clay pot/baker or Dutch oven and heat it to 250°C. 
8. Get the clay pot/baker or Dutch oven out, place the loaf inside of  the clay pot/baker or Dutch oven. Put it back in the oven.
9. Bake for about 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 200°C and continue baking for another 10-15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.*
10. Let it cool down completely before slicing. 

*You can double the amounts of ingredients here. In that case, remember to bake the dough longer.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Eid al-Adha in Sarajevo, Vol II

Remember the post about how the meat is shared with others on Eid al-Adha in Sarajevo? Well, consider this post as volume II then.

The meat is divided into small portions and sent to relatives, neighbours, and those in need around you as the practice goes in most muslim countries. What makes me write this post is the interesting Bosnian custom to sprinkle nigella seeds over the meat before putting it into those printed plastic bags. 

I believe this custom originates from the Prophet Mohammad's advice to use nigella seeds: 

'Use the black seed because it has a relief of all diseases, but death.'

However, I haven't heard or read anything else to explain how the custom started and evolved and among Bosniaks. If you know anything about this, please drop me a line or leave a comment under the post. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Carrot & Garlic Soup

I haven't got much to say. This soup is good food indeed.



2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
450 grams carrots, peeled and grated
1,2 - 1,5 litres boiling water or vegetable stock
salt and black pepper 
(Optional) ground dried mint


1. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the garlic, then fry for a couple minutes until softened. 
2. Add the carrots and cook until the colour changes. Add salt and pepper. 
3. Add water/stock, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat. Cover and cook for 15-20 mins until the carrots are tender.
4. Using a hand blender or food processor blitz until smooth. Return to pan, taste, add more salt if necessary.
5. (Optional) Season with ground dried mint before serving.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Eid al-Adha in Sarajevo

I've always enjoyed spotting differences between things. Since I moved to Sarajevo, I've been doing it so much between Turkish customs and traditions and the Bosnian ones. This has actually revealed a lot about Bosnian identity in different ways. Well, I'd rather write another post about this and go back to a detail about Eid al-Adha in Sarajevo that I've wanted to share with you for a long time. 

On this religious festival, muslim people share the meat of the sacrificed animal (usually a cow, but can also be a camel, goat, sheep or ram depending on the region) with relatives, friends, neighbours and the poor and needy while remaining some meat for themselves. OK, there is nothing different about this practice in Bosnia and Herzegovina, muslim Bosnians share the meat too. However, there is something different about how they do it: printed plastic bags are used to put the meat in and share. These small bags are white usually with the picture of a ram and the bajram greeting on them. 

I find this tradition quite interesting. It shows, first of all, how meticulous Bosnian people are when hygiene and customs are concerned. Almost everybody uses these bags which you can buy at any grocery shop or supermarket. I think this is the extension of the Western mind that's been shaping Bosnia since the Ottoman rule left the region. 

Secondly, the bajram greeting printed in green on these bags tell you a great deal about the Turkish heritage in these lands. It reads 'Bajram šerif mubarek olsun'* on the bag (take a look at the picture above) and the same greeting is written in Arabic letters which is the Ottoman Turkish itself. The cultural tradition of greeting each other with this phrase is still in use as it was introduced in the Turkish language during the Ottoman rule. The greeting has been preserved in the way it was adopted long long years ago. Amazing! 

* 'Have a blessed celebration/festival'

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Britain vs. America: Vegetable Names

I've come across this video on Anglophenia in which Kate Arnell teaches seven vegetables with different names in America and Britain. Quite useful whichever side of the pond you live.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

September Drinks

When I first saw the pears my father-in-law offered me the other day, to be honest, I wasn't thrilled at all. They were pretty small and had very dark skin. They seemed tasteless or even rotten. 

Appearances can be deceiving. They were super sweet and soft inside which inspired me to make a September drink to offer to my guests on bajram* visits. After adding some dried figs and cloves, it turned into a perfect seasonal drink with a sweet and pleasant taste.

All you need to get this zingy drink is place pears, figs and cloves into a pan, fill it up with water and bring to a boil. Then simmer until all the ingredients get soft and release their flavours into the mixture. Then add caster sugar, stir until sugar is dissolved and remember that the amount of all these ingredients depends on your personal taste. Play with them. 

* Both Eid and Eid al-Adha in Bosnian.

Getting Ready for Eid al-Adha 2015

My mother-in-law never skips traditional Bosnian pie for bajrams* (both Eid and Eid al-Adha celebrated by Muslims). She makes two types of the well-known pie (one with cheese and one with minced meat**) the day before bajram. You wake up to the smell of the fresh baked pies and drool until the men come back from the bajram prayer at the mosque. The breakfast table is set and everybody digs in. 

A panorama in 12 folds showing Muslims returning from their Mosques after Eid prayers in the Mughal Empire

* Eid in Bosnian 
**Bosnian pie is also made with spinach or other green leaves, squash or potatoes.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Back to the Kitchen: Zucchini Fritters

2 medium zucchini, grated
1/4 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
zest of 1 small lemon
1 clove of garlic, minced
handful of grated cheese, Parmesan or pecorino
pinch of dried oregano and mint
handful of fresh parsley and dill leaves, chopped
salt and black pepper 
olive oil for shallow-frying

1. Add salt to the grated zucchini in a large bowl and set aside for 10 minutes.
2. Place a colander over the sink and press the zucchini against the holes of the colander with a wooden spoon to extract the water. You should squeeze out small handfuls at a time. 
3. Put the zucchini back to the bowl. Mix in all the other ingredients (except olive oil) and scrunch it all up very well with your hands.
4. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry tablespoons of zucchini mixture over medium-high heat until golden brown on each side. 
5. Serve warm with yogurt.  

*Wring out the zucchini very well. Otherwise, your fritters will go soggy.
* Adjust the herbs and flavours to your taste. Leave out or add in any ingredient. 
* If the mixture turns watery, add more breadcrumbs. 
* Don't over-crowd the frying pan with fritters. 
* Drain the fritters on paper towel before serving. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Lemon Cake

 " is not truly one, but truly two."

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
125 grams butter, softened , plus extra for greasing the tin
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons finely grated zest (2 lemons)
4 medium eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease the baking tin or mould
 with softened butter and dust with flour.
2. Dust flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and
3. Beat together butter, sugar, cream and lemon zest in
 another bowl using an electric mixer until pale and creamy.
4. Add the eggs one at a time mixing slowly through.
5. Stir in olive oil, vanilla extract and lemon juice. 
6. Sift in the flour mixture and using a spatula mix until well
7. Bake for 45-50 minutes until a thin skewer inserted into
 the centre of the cake comes out clean
8. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or spread jam over before