Juicy meat cubes, threaded on skewers and grilled with vegetables are widely known in many cuisines. The Balkan region has its very own dish as well, called raznjici.
There are many ways to prepare meat outdoors and these methods tend to be really promising because cooking in nature provides such flavors, one can never achieve in a simple kitchen.
Raw meat threaded on a wooden skewer and roasted above fire, is one of the oldest techniques to make it consumable and it used to be the most efficient way to feed nomadic people with lack of kitchen appliances, not to mention plates and cutlery.
Meat on skewers
Grilling meat on skewers is a widely used technique throughout Europe. Turks call it shish kebab (shish means skewer), Greeks call it souvlaki, it is shashlik for the Russians and the Serbian and Croatian call it raznjici.
Most recipes are pretty much identical, the only difference being the seasoning or the type of meat. Roasting the meat on a skewer (or on a sword in ancient times) originated from Asia or the Middle East and was adapted by the Mediterranean countries from the Moors.
What meat to use for raznjici?
Poultry is certainly not the best choice for this dish. You want more flavor and texture here. Pork (from a young pig), veal and lamb are the best meats, as they marinate quickly and can be roasted on a barbecue and stay juicy.
It’s better to choose a loose and fattier part for raznjici, such as shoulder or neck, because those are more flavorful and wouldn’t get chewy. The size of the cubes should be between 1 and 2 inches, but most importantly they must be cut the same size, so they take the same time to cook.
Marinade for raznjici
There are several types of marinade. Kebabs are marinated with a mixed paste of oil, salt, garlic and spices, by rubbing. Raznjici is marinated with an acidic concoction, made with onion, garlic and parsley.
Wine vinegar provides acidity, which softens the meat; hence it needs less time to be cooked through. Vinegar also promotes the closure of fibers, so the rich juices remain in the meat, making them all the tastier.
The salt should be added right before roasting, so the marinade has no salt in it at all. Salt not only has a dehydrating effect, but works against the vinegar, by hardening the meat. That is why the meat is first marinated, and then it is salted.
The marinade provides plenty of aromas. Spices and flavors really depend on the cook and the recipe used.. Onion and garlic are best to be used in the marinade. Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt are the basic spices, used before barbecuing. A good pinch of sweet paprika powder can be added as well. The seasoning should never overpower the natural taste of the meat.
The easiest, quickest side is mixed salad, sprinkled with herbs, good olive oil and lemon juice. Each season has its own salad, so you can use what’s on hand.
Flatbreads are one of the best accompaniments. A wrap can be rolled with a thinner bread or the juicy meat pieces can be stuffed into a grilled pita.
Pork can be complemented with the addition of a few strips of bacon on the skewer, so the fat gives a smoky flavor. In Croatia, raznjici is consumed with parboiled rice, grilled vegetables or duved, a sautéed vegetable dish with rice.
- 5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons parsley chopped
- 3 lb pork loin cut into 2-inch cubes
- ½ tablespoon black pepper freshly ground
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 scallion sliced
- Wooden skewers
Mix all the ingredients of marinade in a large bowl.
Place the pork in the marinade, mix well and cover with plastic wrap.
Place the bowl in the refrigerator and marinate for 4 hours.
Immerse the wooden skewers in cold water and let them soak for 30 minutes.
Remove the pork from the marinade and drain carefully..
Season pork with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Skewer the cubes of pork firmly.
Preheat the BBQ grill on high heat.
Grill the skewers for 3 to 4 minutes per side until golden brown.
Only turn them over once if possible.
Serve with scallions and a green salad with vinaigrette and/or grilled vegetables.