roasted pepper and aubergine relish

Ajvar is a Macedonian traditional dish currently enjoyed in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, mainly Serbia and Croatia. Ideal accompaniment for meats and ćevapčići!

Its name has Turkish origin due to the 500 years influence of the Turkish in the region, and means “caviar”. That´s why this dish is often referred to as “vegetarian caviar”.

The original version is made with red bell peppers, but it can be made with any variety of red pepper of your preference.

Depending on your choice of ingredients and presentation, the final ajvar could be sweet, piquant or really hot, smashed or chunky, orangey or striking red!

This relish used to be prepared in autumn, just after harvest, with the involvement of whole families and neighbours, as a way to preserve peppers and aubergines (or eggplants) to be consumed during the long months of winter (since you wouldn´t see much of fresh produce until next spring). Those were the days before the globalization and the permanent availability of all kind of produces in the supermarkets throughout the year...

It reminds me of my mum making tomatoes preserve seasoned with pepper and garlic. In fact, my Nona Olimpia, tía Hilda, sister and myself also participated in the boiling, peeling, filling of glass jars, the tricky closure of the preserves and the critical sterilization...What a joy to taste those delicious preserves in the middle of winter...

Coming back to the ajvar, read on for the full recipe


(for about 2 cups of relish)

- 6 large red bell peppers (or any other variety of red pepper)
- 2 large aubergines (eggplants)
- 1 chilli pepper, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 100ml olive oil, good quality
- Salt, black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped


Preheat the oven to 250ºC (or hotter set in your oven).

Wash the peppers and remove their seeds. For an easy way to do this, press with your thumb the core of the pepper (attached to the stalk) down inside, until completely severed from the rest of the pepper.

The seeds will remain attached to the core and by pulling the whole core-stalk out...

it will be easy to remove all of them at once...

to obtain a seedless pepper!

Wash the aubergines...

... and remove the green bits.

Cut the peppers in quarters and the aubergines in halves and roast in a hot oven...

...until the pepper's skin start blistering and blackening and the aubergines get brown (about half and hour).

Remove from the oven.

Before proceeding to peel them off, you can steam the vegetable to facilitate the removal of the skin (optional).

Peel them off and place in a bowl.

You can prepare the relish as smoothy or chunky as you prefer.

I smashed it using a hand blender.

Add the garlic, the chilli pepper, the juice of the lemon and the olive oil.

Blender again.

Season with salt, black pepper and parsley.

Serve as a side dish for meats, it is also ideal to accompany ćevapčići on pita bread with lettuce and a dollop of sour cream!!

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