The proja is a kind of flat corn bread, very common in the Balkan countries. Plain or garnished with cheese, vegetables or ham, proja is an original and tasty alternative to bread and can accompany many dishes.
What is proja?
Proja is a type of traditional flatbread, consisting of cornmeal and wheat flour, as well as eggs and vegetable oil. The classic recipe also includes sparkling water, which lightens and aerates the preparation.
Proja is usually cooked in a large square or rectangular mold then cut into small squares and served hot. It is also common to find it in the form of muffins or small balls.
In terms of texture, that of the proja is quite dense and is close to a cake. Rich and comforting, it is a particularly popular dish during long, cold winter days.
What is the origin of proja?
Originally, this maize bread was mainly consumed among peasant families in rural villages, especially during the period of poverty following the Second World War.
Simple to make, cheap and satisfying, the authentic proja contained only 3 ingredients: cornmeal, water and salt. Over time, the recipe evolved to become the one presented here.
Today, it is a culinary specialty consumed in most Serbian, Bosnian and Macedonian homes. If you are lucky enough to attend a family celebration or any major celebration (such as a wedding) in one of these countries, it is likely that a large plate of proja will be part of the dishes scattered on the table.
How to eat proja?
The proja is tasted either plain or garnished with various ingredients.
Plain, the proja perfectly replaces the traditional bread during the meal. It is ideal to accompany saucy dishes, a soup or a green salad.
As a side, it is common to decorate the proja with different types of crumbled white cheese. It is usually covered or stuffed with farmer’s cheese, feta cheese, goat cheese or cottage cheese. In Serbia, the cheese-filled version is called proje sirom or projara.
It is also possible to garnish it with ham, bacon or vegetables, such as spinach, zucchini or broccoli. Cut into small cubes or individually baked in muffin cups, the proja is a real delight as an appetizer or for a buffet.
Finally, some recipes may contain yogurt or crème fraîche. Without altering the taste, yogurt adds a little mellow side compared to the traditional recipe.
Variants of proja throughout the Balkans
While traveling the roads of the many countries belonging to the Balkan peninsula, you will be able to discover dishes similar to the recipe of the proja. If the ingredients and the presentation may vary according to the destination, they all have in common to be based on corn meal.
In Bulgaria, it is the kachamak that comes closest to the recipe of the proja. This dish is actually a Bulgarian version of Italian polenta. Kachamak can be served in a large dish in the form of a porridge or shaped into large flatbreads. It is usually covered with crumbled feta or sirene, a Bulgarian cheese, and is usually eaten at breakfast.
Mamaliga is a traditional recipe that comes straight from Romania. It is made patties or small balls that are then pan-fried. The mamaliga balls are served rather as an appetizer, again with cheese on top.
Very simple to make, the proja is a dish that is both festive and consistent. Many foods can complement the base recipe, so let your culinary creativity go wild!
The proja is a traditional flatbread from the Balkan region that is made from cornmeal. It is called proha in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- 1½ cup cornmeal
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sparkling water
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs beaten
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- Butter or margarine, for the mold
Preheat the oven to 480 F (250 C).
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix all the ingredients with the flat beater and knead until obtaining a semi-liquid, homogeneous, lump-free dough.
Pour the mixture into a 10-inch (24 cm) square baking dish previously greased with butter or margarine.
Bake for 20 minutes at 480 F (250 C). Then, lower the oven temperature to 300 F (150 C), and bake for 10 additional minutes.
- After 30 minutes of baking, insert a toothpick into the proja. If it is dry, it is fully baked. If not, continue baking for 5 minutes.
Cut the proja into 3-inch (8 cm) squares to serve.
You can optionally add crumbled feta cheese to the dough.