This is a relish that can be found in just about any Croatian fridge or pantry. It may not be exclusively Croatian, thanks to neighbouring nations and territories using it, but what’s important is we share a beautiful condiment that goes perfectly with grilled meats, bread and vegetables.
It was a reader of this site that prompted me to make this. You see, I’ve been buying ajvar (say eye-var) for many years, the jarred stuff that’s available at deli’s, specialty stores and many supermarkets. I never even thought to make it until I was asked if I had my own recipe. Well, Natalie, now I do. Thanks to looking at many recipes online I figured it would be a cinch to formulate my own ingredients and method.
For a start, ajvar must contain red peppers. The sweet variety or the hot ones. I like a bit of spice in mine so I’ve used red bullhorn peppers, large red chillies and the good old sweet red capsicum. I’ve thrown in some eggplant as well. Garlic is usually added in its raw form, but I’m not a great fan of the sharp and pungent taste it leaves in the mouth. I sautéed the garlic here, before adding the roasted peppers. Vinegar or lemon juice helps flavour and preserve the relish while it’s in the fridge, but it won’t keep for more than a week. You could freeze some, as I did, or serve it up anywhere you like. It’s even great with a breakfast fry-up!
makes 2 cups / 500 ml
Barbecue or grill the peppers, capsicum, eggplant and chillies until the skin is blackened on all sides. Remove from heat. Allow the eggplant to cool on a small plate. Place the peppers, capsicum and chillies into a bowl and cover with a towel until cool.
Rub the blackened skin from the peppers, capsicum and chillies, de-seed and place the flesh into the bowl of a food processor. Discard the skin, but if there’s a little left on the vegetables, just leave it on as it adds flavour. Just don’t wash them under the tap, as this washes the flavour away. Cut the eggplant in half and scrape the flesh into the processor as well. Pulse the processor until the vegetables are finely chopped, but don’t puree them.
Place the oil into a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and gently sauté without colouring it. Add the vegetables, vinegar and sugar and cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Check for seasoning and add a little salt, to taste. Turn off heat.
Sterilise a couple of medium jars in the oven for five minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Scoop the ajvar into them, screw on the lids and refrigerate.