Aaaaaah Ajvar!

Say it! You’ll sound like a pirate.

When I lived in Amsterdam, I had a friend from Macedonia. Once a year his mother would send him jars of homemade Ajvar made by her good self and other family members.

Apparently, it’s a tradition that the whole family get together when the peppers are harvested and make Ajvar, which is put in jars and used throughout the year. It’s basically a roasted red-pepper dip/sandwich spread/great on a pizza/you name it, kind of a stuff.

Take about 10 red bell peppers (Paprikas to the kijkers thuis) and a large aubergine (egg plant). Take a couple of serrano peppers too if you are so inclined.

Stick them all very loosely in an oven dish, and drizzle some olive oil on them. Put them in a hot oven – about 250 deg c (475 F) and roast them until the skin blackens and almost chars. The aubergine will likely be done before the peppers – about 20 minutes, the peppers will take about 1/2 an hour. Check them frequently and turn about 1/2 way through.

Remove from the oven and put them in a paper bag for about 10 minutes. The steam will make the skins very easy to remove. Save any juices which may have been released while roasting, in a bowl.

Remove and discard both the skins and the seeds from the peppers, place the rest in a bowl.  Do the same with the serranos but either keep or discard the seeds depending how hot/not you’d like it.

Remove the skin from the aubergine and add to the bowl. Add any juices the veggies may have made while roasting. Mash up the pepper and the aubergine. You can make it as chunky or as smooth as you want. I use a hand-blender – just a couple of short burst to make a thick spread.

In a heavy frying pan, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and fry a medium sized onion that you previously wizzed in a blender until it was very finely chopped – a bit mashed even. What? Read that sentence again. Oh, yeah, I see what you’re saying.

After about 3 minutes, when the onions are soft, add about 3 or four finely chopped cloves of garlic. Fry for a couple more minutes then turn off the heat.

Add the pepper mix to the onions, mix well. Add juice of 1/2 a lemon and slowly stir in about 1/2 a cup of olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Add a small amount of finely chopped fresh parsley when serving.

Serve on bread, toast, with pita bread, as a dip, spread over pizza dough and bake in oven with cheese, smear it all over your face and let the dog lick it off, do whatever you want – it is very healthy, easy and cheap to make.

And it is incredibly delicious. Even more so if you let it sit in your fridge for a night or two. We are planning on making some more soon – two batches actually, one with roasted garlic – we plan on roasting 2 heads of garlic in the oven alongside the peppers, and one with a little more oomph, with more serranos or a single habanero.

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