What is ćevapi?
Ćevapi (or ćevapčići or čevapčiči/čevapi in Slovenian) is a traditional recipe from the Balkans. The actual dish typically consists of bread (lepinja), a condiment made from red bell peppers (ajvar) and kebabs known as cevapi.
The region of the Balkans has undergone significant geopolitical changes in recent decades. This is the reason why it is difficult to give an exact origin for the recipes from the region.
Ćevapi (pronounced “tche-va-pee”) or ćevapčići (“tche-va-pee-chee”) is a kind of kebab that is quite common in the Balkan cuisine but also more generally in all of Southern Europe. These long meatballs are generally eaten in lepinja bread, and served with ajvar, but also chopped onions or kaymak (similar to clotted cream).
There are several different cevapi recipes, starting with the meat that is used, either pork, beef, or lamb, or combinations of these meats. The recipe presented here is a more common version with lamb and beef.
We have attributed cevapi to Slovenia but we could also have attributed it to Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria or even parts of Italy… only we had traveled through all these countries already, or close to it!
Cevap comes from the Persian word kebab. It becomes cevapi in the plural form because it’s so good and you can not settle for just one!
What are the different versions?
There are several versions of cevapi throughout the Balkans. This specialty was introduced by the Ottomans during their expansion in this region in the late Middle Ages.
Baking soda in ground meat? Whača doin?
Baking soda in cevapi
Adding baking soda to the cevapi helps tenderize the meat and makes it a little more airy. The meat is much less dense and is lighter than without.
Cevapi in lepinja is excellent. The dough of the lepinja is slightly more liquid than a traditional dough and the fact that it needs to rise three times gives the bread a light and airy touch.
- 2 lb pork
- ½ lb beef (chuck)
- ½ lb lamb (shoulder)
- 5 cloves garlic
- ½ onion
- ½ bunch parsley
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon baking soda , dissolved in ¼ cup/50ml of water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- Grind all the ingredients.
Make small kebabs of ground meat, about 3 to 4 inches (8-10cm) long.
- Preheat barbecue (ideally) or a grill.
- Cook cevapi for 8 minutes on one side then turn over and cook for another 6 to 8 minutes.
Serve 5 to 8 cevapi in the lepinja with ajvar, thinly sliced onions and sour cream.