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.