Ajvar – Balkan Roasted Pepper Relish
Ajvar (EYE-vahr) is a popular roasted pepper relish throughout the Balkans. The word, Ajvar, is Turkish for fish roe but the method of roasting peppers and eggplant, slowly cooking the skinned and chopped flesh with lemon juice, sunflower oil and salt seems to be of Serbian origin. Ajvar is a great accompaniment to barbecued meats, is delicious on garlic sourdough toast, in a burger or tossed through pasta but I recently found it is also a great way of jazzing up cooked green beans. New season beans are available now and you can also get large flat beans which are not adverse to a little stewing or just reheating with a couple of tablespoons of this relish. You could also use it in home made baked beans or with other stewed pulses. I served my beans with ajvar on a Turkish plate; fish roe or not, it’s all been part of the mix for centuries.
You can easily make ajvar when there is a glut of the long red bull’s horn peppers but late Summer is quite a few barbecues off yet, so I would invest in a jar or two bought from a Mediterranean or Turkish grocery store or your local supermarket. Woolworths stock Mama’s Home Style Avjar. Most commercial Ajvar available here is made in Macedonia but whatever brand you buy make sure the ingredients don’t go beyond the basics of roasted red peppers, eggplant, lemon juice or vinegar, salt and chilli, if you like it hot.
Avjar is the very essence of summer, packed full of sweet red peppers that have had their skins blackened over a charcoal grill or inside a covered BBQ. With the hint of smokey flavour remaining the flesh is then slowly stewed to tenderness on the stove. I’m thinking a clay pot in the oven would be perfect for gentle stewing. When summer finally arrives I will be making a batch.