bosnian burger

Words and photos by Ren Behan

We’ve reached the slightly flat stage of the World Cup where some teams are playing their final game, already knowing they are going home. Bosnia-Herzegovina is one such team, taking on World Cup favourites Argentina – let’s hope they can leave Brazil on a high, just like our Foodie World Cup is going to.

When I started to think around Bosnia-Herzegovia as a “virtual” destination for this month, I was intrigued to learn more about the kinds of cuisine found there. Bosnia-Herzegovia is pretty much landlocked, except for a tiny piece of coastline along the Adriatic Sea. As with much of the cuisine of Eastern Europe, centuries of changing rulers and borders have resulted in a flavourful mix of culinary influence – Turkish, Austrian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean – as well as similarities with Romanian and Bulgarian kitchens, too.

Beef, lamb, pork and veal will very often find their way into kebabs called Ćevapi, or into soups and stews such as goulash, loaded up with onions, garlic, tomatoes and other vegetables. The food isn’t so much spicy as robust, often full of peppers and paprika. You’ll also find smaller bites you will recognise, such as stuffed grape leaves with rice (dolma) and flaky pastry filled with meat, cheese, spinach or potatoes (burek). There’s plenty of local, village-made cheese to be found, and good wines. For sweet treats, you’ll be served stewed fruits, filled doughnuts, and the absolutely delicious baklava, which are bite-sized flaky pastry layers lusciously combined with honey and nuts.

For a fitting football snack, I was keen to try my hand at Pljeskavica burgers, because every host should serve a plate of good burgers for guests watching the footy! The word “pljesak” means “to clap the hands”, which is what you do to flatten these particular patties. Some say these burgers are the Serbian national dish (known as the Serbian hamburger), while others refer to them as Bosnian burgers (particularly US chains, oddly!) or Balkan burgers.

The burgers are traditionally thrown onto charcoals to cook – an outside BBQ would be ideal – and sandwiched inside a flatbread (traditionally a thick pita called lepinja). They will need to be prepped before the guests arrive but, because the Balkan burger is thin, it cooks through quickly and will be ready in no time.

Bosnian Burger

You can serve the burgers with pickled vegetables, known as Turšija, or fresh onions, tomatoes and bell peppers, also typical of the region. If you have the time, you could quickly make some of these easy flatbreads to go with them.

Pljeskavica – Balkan / Bosnian burger recipe

bosnian burger

Ingredients:

  • 250g minced beef
  • 250g minced pork (optional – otherwise use 500g beef)
  • 250g minced veal
  • 1 onion, very finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Flatbread to serve
  • A little oil if you are cooking on a griddle pan

Method

In a large bowl, combine the beef, pork and veal (you could use lamb, instead) and add the onions, garlic, paprika and salt and pepper. Mix everything together really well with your hands. Cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours.

When you are ready to make the burgers, keep a bowl of water to your side to dip your hands into – moist hands will prevent the meat from becoming too sticky. Take a large, palm-sized portion of meat and form a flat burger, about the size of a small side plate and around 0.5cm in thickness. You could also place the meat between two sheets of clingfilm to form and flatten the burgers out – I found this to be the easiest way.

Repeat until all the meat is used up then place the burgers onto a tray, cover with clingfilm and leave them in the fridge for a further hour or so.

To cook, heat the barbecue or a large, oiled griddle pan. The burgers will cook in around five minutes – flip occasionally so that both sides are equally cooked.

Serve with warmed flat breads, cut in half horizontally, along with pickles, onions and peppers.

For more countries from Jamie’s Foodie World Cup, click here.


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  • петя спасова

    wow thanks for this post,ren,really love balkan cuisine especially mine…thanks for sharing.

  • enisa

    Bosnian kitchen doesnt need a pork.. Bosnian people dont eat it. You can never find pork in burgers that you buy in Sarajevo. Never.

    • Dzana DjedovicH

      I agree with you enisa :) but we live in a country where also people of other religions live.. Anyway, Jamie if you wanted to introduce food of Bosnian people, you should make ćevape, begovu čorbu, sirnicu,burek, etc. It would be lovely. :D

    • Sasa Jusic

      Enisa, do not fabricate Bosnian culture as it suits you or your religion! Bosnia has much richer cultural heritage than what you and other narrow-minded people want to present. Wondering why you didn’t say that Bosnian people do not drink wine? maybe because your ‘babo i amidza se napiju redovno, bas ‘nako kako vjera nalaze? Also, Bosnia is not only Sarajevo, you might want to check that on the map.

      Thus, Bosnians do eat pork and drink wine for centuries and you can’t change that. I suggest that instead of repressing Bosnian culture try to improve it, much harder to achieve but Bosnia would gain much more that way and you would came across as a proper patriot and not as fascist.
      Gosh, to spice up Oliver’s recipe with nationalism is in itself a form of an art. Shame on you!

      • instigator

        A stunning reply, couldn’t have said it better myself. Wonderful English by the way. Best regards from a pork-eating/wine-drinking part of B&H.

      • Quixote Don

        @Sasa: wise chosen words, I couldn’t agree more! I’m originating from Tuzla where the cultural aspects don’t equal to religion. Anyway, I’d ask Oliver to make some traditional Sarma :-) )) Cheers folks!

      • Lala

        Sasa, you are right to point out that pork is part of the diet in Bosnia as well as wine, beer, schnaps, etc. The alcoholic baverages are not only found in christian households ;) But it seems to me that you haven’t really paid attention to the original recipes of pljeskavica, cevapcici, etc. where minced/ground meat is used. It doesn’t matter what religion the Bosnians belong to, no one who calls themself a true Bosnian would ever use ground pork meat for pljeskavica, cevapcici or sarma/dolma. For pljeskavica and cevapcici we use exclusively ground beef and veal. In Bosnia pork is mostly eaten in the form of bacon, ham, grilled meat (rostilj and razanj) and just in some households that couldn’t afford beef/veal/lamb sometimes in stews. Just like lamb meat is never used in ground form or stews, but almost exclusively as grilled meat from “razanj”. The limited use of pork meat in Bosnia has nothing to do with religion, but only with the fact that most of the original recipes are made for other meats and thus taste much better if made with beef/veal instead of pork.

      • Damir Mehmedovic

        Sasa I agree with you, however there is no pork meat in real good cevapcici/pljeskavica no matter where in Bosnia..

      • Amir Groove

        well said!!

      • Amra Palic

        Naravno Sasa mnogi u Bosni misle da je Bosna Sarajevo jede se svinjetina i ako cemo bas religiozno ja sam vidjela mnoge muslimane da jedu svinjetinu to je njihova odluka

    • kn v.

      Omitt the “a” in front of pork for starters. Grammar nazi reporting for duty right here ;-)
      Are you people seriously starting the same old sh*t all over again?! Could there be a SINGLE article related to the Balkans WITHOUT you kids quarreling over pork vs no pork, Bosnia isn’t actually a country vs Bosnia exists, burek is meat only vs burek is made with caviar as well… And so on. Have you seriously found an article about a DAMN burger and turned it into this? A true Bosnian speaking here missy – in my house, pork is consumed on a weekly basis and we have an envious wine collection.
      Deal. With. It.

      • Igor

        Well said! :D
        Enisa is just on IQ 10.. Dont worry about it !!! ;)

  • Miss Demeanor

    Just a small obseervation: dolma is stuffed onion, and what you refer to as dolma would rather be sarma; whereas flaky pastry filled with meat would be called burek, all other pastries with filling (e.g. potato, cottage cheese) are simply pita.

    • Miss Demeanor

      Pita names are derived from the name of the filling, but that’s already too much info :)

    • Djanan Bakamovic

      Dolma is stuffed peppers for our region, and the thing refered here as dolma we call Japrak, but Hercegovina has allways hadto be different :D

    • Ibrahim Tajce Sofic

      Sorry Miss, but You are not right. Dolma is a word that characterise every form of stuffed vegetables – Sogan Dolma (or Sogun) is with onions, other dolmas are made with paprika, tomato, eggplant… You well explained difference between burek (pita with meat) and other “pita’s” :)

      • Miss Demeanor

        Yes, but dolma is definitely not what was described in the article, in my home we always made dolma with onions, and stuffed peppers were “futrovane :D paprike”, honestly, I didn’t know you can call it dolma as well.

  • Rialda Osmanovic

    This post makes me a bit sad, because it makes me think that you didnt bother to do enough research. Im not bothered because im Bosnian, since everyone can make a mistake. Im bothered because it makes me wonder how authentic i can expect the rest of you foreign recepies to be?! I have always loved what u do, but now i feel a bit cheated. Some of the previous comments point out the actual mistakes, and yes some of it IS due to the regional perceptions, but, one thing is sure, a pljeskavica is made out of beef, and just like with anything else one can make it with other meets, but that wont make it a traditional bosnian pljeskavica. Bottom line is that there is not only one mistake, but several.

    • Sasa Jusic

      The pork makes you sad? If so, just chose not to put pork in pljeskavica and your sadness is gone. Or, maybe you are worried if you make an indian dish based on Oliver’s recipe that is not going to be authenticly indian? Wow, that would be awaful, I feel your sorrow…

      Let me ask you something, have you done your research on this subject? Are you sure that Oliver’s speaks about Bosniaks’ (Bošnjačkoj) pljeskavici? Maybe, but just maybe, he speaks about plheskavica made by Bosnian people who are not Muslims, did that ever occurred to you? Or, do you think those people do not exist?
      Honestly, Oliver did make a mistake, but not in the recipe, than by saying that pljeskavica is authentic Bosnian food. Both of us know that that is not true. Therefore, stop representing Bosnia as puerly muslim country; and if you want to be patriotic than you should stand behind all ethnic groups and minorities – such as Gypsies – who live in Bosnia, otherwise you are just being homophobic.

      • Rialda Osmanovic

        Wow, u have really managed to misunderstand everything ive written. Frist of all, since i eat pork myself, it can not make me sad. Bloated perhaps, but not sad. :) I wrote that the POST made me sad. Ive used the word ligthly by the way. And yes, i am worried that Olivers Indian dish is not authentic, cause thats why i myself usually choose to follow instructions in the first place, or purchase a cookbook. I personally make a damn good rice/lamb/curry dish, but i dont call it Indian. As for the rest of ur comment, i dont even wanna bother. U simply made a judgemnt call which is waaaaay off. Im not muslim, nor bosniak, i am most definitely NOT homophobic, but i do know a pljeskavica and a cevap, and i also know that different regions use different meats, but in Bosnia the beef dominates when it comes to those two dishes. It has NOTHING to do with religion, but taste, so get off ur high horse! I could go on making presumptions about u, but that would just make me stoop to ur level. Cheers.

        • Guest

          @rialdaosmanovic:disqus
          Firstly, I apologize for making any kind of presumptions about you, i had no right to do that; i did misread your comment and had believed that it was a disguised way to say that pork is not part/or that is not welcomed in Bosnian culture. I am fed up with all types of nationalism, its followers, and most of all by their shallow approach to history, culture, and everything else including cocking. That’s the reason – although not a justification – why did I overreacted in my reply to you.

          Secondly, I am in a way glad that I misread your text and that you are not a homophobic person.

          All the best!

          • Rialda Osmanovic

            :) The funny thing is that i agree with u to some level. Actually in most of what u have written, so i guess ure all forgiven, since i myself get a tantrum attack when someone misrepresents Bosnia. You simply misread my post, and if i had written what u assumed, i would understand/agree with u.. :) But when it comes to pljeskavica i still somehow hope u get my point: U can make a lasagne out of anything these days, but the meat one is with beef, and its the original recipe. Plus if a chef puts his own little twist on a recipe, im all in, but he needs to get the facts straight, since im the consumer and will be buying his book, and therefore i expect the facts to be 100% accurate. :) Have a good one Saša. :)

  • Rusmir Hadzic

    During Ottoman Empire most Balkan food was introduce to the region from Turks, like Dolma (stuffed vegetable:paprika, onion, zucchini, sarma or cabbage roll} köfte (cufte, cevapcici, pljeskavica). In Bosnia definitely never used a pork meat as a part of those speciality. Now,even in Bosnian pot (Bosanski lonac) some people mixing a pork with yearling beef and lamb and that is not a original recipes. This style of hamburger is more Serbian style then Bosnian. Also in Bosnia they don’t use a peperoni as it is on this photo. Instead of flat bread they use a bread called somun. In Bosnia we have other religion then Muslims like Catholics, Orthodox,Jewry and some of them eating pork meat Thanks to Oliver trying to promote Bosnia and beautiful food over there but next time he need to do a little bit more research of the region. Oliver did not want anyone to insult and this was not done intentionally. Respect to Jamie Oliver.

  • Lada Odobasic

    It is nice to see that we have some open-minded fellow Bosnian’s here who take things as I would- we eat all and drink all- just select what you want for yourself. We seem to be forgetting that we come from an actual socialist background and keeping true to that- you can eat what you want and use whatever ingredients you would like. True, more than likely your cevapi or pljeskavica will have beef and/or veal inside, just like sogan dolma or japrak, but that does not mean that we cannot include pork in our recipe. So- choose what is ideal for your household, simply as that and please do not plague what is beautiful (that we were selected to be featured- our small home).

  • Luca

    As a serbian, the only thing Oliver should have done after mentioning both the Bosnian and Serbian burger is to decide which to present (accurately).This is not a Bosnian authentic recipe, its more on the Serbian side because of the pork. Bosnian Muslims don’t eat pork. For the ones that want to include wine, or drinking in these comments, please seat yourself down and don’t turn this into a judgmental thing about Muslims. Just because a Bosnian Muslim drinks wine, or whatever, it doesn’t mean they will eat pork.. You can say pork is part of the diet in Bosnia, but be specific and understand there are Serbians, Muslims, and Croatians. Anyone that isn’t from there, wouldn’t understand and could be easily mislead, so therefore its important to be specific .

  • Greetings_dk

    Some people are simply so angry, that they’ll turn even a food recipe into a political topic. Anyway, I see the issue here, since Pljeskavica originally is made of pure beef. It is the same as the original Wiener schnitzel – made of cow meat (specifik area). Now, TODAY the case is such that some people make it from using pork meat (which is the case most often). But an original and authentic Pljeskavica is made from cow meat, just as the original and authentic Wiener schnitzel. That simple…

  • Guest

    Well, anyone whose first encounter with Bosnia has been through this article can rightfully say that its population consists only of narrow-minded bigots. Thank you, for once again, ruining a wonderful thing. Sincerely, a proud ‘ostali’.

    • Sasa Jusic

      Sincerely,

      @guest , that is the single most ignorant comment in the whole discussion.

      Campaign “ostali” had been launched to point out that something is wrong with the B&H constitution as it represents three majority groups of people and ignores the rest of the citizens in the country – “ostale”. It was also an attempt to raise awareness amongst the citizens pointing that they actually do not live in a civil society as the civil rights are inferior to the nationalistic rights. That’s why incompetent but ethnically-suitable people were, and still are in the power. That’s why you have three presidents and one of the biggest administrative bodies in the world, yet, inefficient as it can be.

      So, “ostali” are engaged in reinforcing democracy, liberties and civil rights… and than, than you come. You tell to 22 participants of the discussion that they are narrow-minded bigots, (although their points of view differentiate greatly) and you position yourself as superior to the rest because you are “proud ostali”. Are you aware that’s as narrow-minded as it gets? Dude, if you are opposition to the current BH system, I am afraid that nationalism is going to thrive there for as long as you are alive.

      Sincerely, a narrow-minded bigot.

  • Ser Enes Karahmet

    Kakva panika oko svinjetine…. Ne mozes samo tako reci da bosanci ne jedu svinjetinu, mozda neko ne jede ali ima ljudi i koji to ne smatraju otrovom… Bosna nije nastala od kako je osvojena od turaka ima ona mnogo stariju istoriju….

  • Igor

    Oliver teach us how to make the Original turkey Tahini Halva… :)

  • Касапот

    Exactly this kind of “thinking” brought us to the war in 1990, and ended Yugoslavia as it was. Ask your elders, do you have better life now? Don’t be stupid, forget the differences, and enjoy the life, cause it’s too short to waste it on hatred. Bosnia&Hercegovina, love from Macedonia!!!