1. Musaka (Meat & potato gratin dish)
This dish is always associated with mom’s cooking – as almost any other on this list. When you crave something hot out of the oven with both meat and veggies, Musaka is the real thing. Sliced potatoes with ground beef meat, all of it seasoned with salt, pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, red pepper spice, and topped with a fine egg crust. Delicious oven-baked dish, like a ‘Balkan-style Lasagna’ with potatoes!
2. Sarma (cabbage rolls with meat & rice)
A typical ‘winter’ dish to warm up. This is the ultimate comfort food and absolutely everyone eats this. The rolls are made of fermented cabbage leaves and inside there is ground beef and rice – all of this is baked in the oven. There is also a vegetarian version with just rice, and a ‘summer’ version of the Sarma, made of vine leaves and served with dairy sour cream (sheep, cow or goat’s milk). A perfect starter dish, main meal or even snack in between when you’re extra hungry.
3. Ajvar (red paprika spread)
The ultimate best. In fact, every dish listed is the ultimate best here, but the Ajvar is something legendary and really special. Every person that tried Ajvar is simply stunned and speechless of how good this is. LITERALLY, EVERYONE is amazed by this red spread-dip perfection. Yes, this is a spread (and it can be a dip too), made of red paprika which is roasted and then mashed into a puree. That red puree is slowly cooked/fried with oil and salt for several hours – making Ajvar it’s a physical exercise too since there is stirring with a huge wooden spoon all day long! Served with bread and of course, white salty cheese.
4. Tavche Gravche (Pot-baked beans)
Nostalgia kicks in when Tavche Gravche is mentioned. The most traditional Macedonian dish of them all. During childhood, this was not the most favorite meal to have, but as years go by Tavche Gravche is considered a specialty every single time. The beans are seasoned with red dry pepper, big chunks of onions and oil – or ‘zaprshka’ (fried onion and pepper for amazing color and aroma). Then, this is baked in a skillet or pan and is served with bread. There is a version of this with ribs or sausages too. And of course, some people eat Tavche Gravche with cheese too.
5. Turli Tava (mixed veggies and meat in a pan)
Vegetarians or not, this dish is super-versatile, tasty, refreshing, filling and comforting. It’s as if a whole garden of organic veggies was combined in one pot. There are slices and chunks of peppers, paprika, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, okras, courgette slices, onions, garlic, carrots – and if it’s a meat version, with beef or pork meat pieces. It can be eaten with or without bread, but this dish is full blown, 100% nutritious and delicious.
Pastrmajlija is like a pie that is not really thick or thin, basically, this is a nice homemade dough that is sort of like, oval-shaped and it looks like a plate made of dough. Inside, in the center, there are small chunks and pieces of diced meat (pork meat which is often smoked and salty), topped with some pork fat (yes, we use pork fat for amazing aroma). The fat melts over the meat and dough as they bake and makes them incredibly tender and soft. Often, there is an egg too, sunny-side up. Most people eat Pastrmajlija with ‘feferonki’ or small, green, fermented hot peppers.
7. Zelnik/Pita (Stuffed pastry/pie)
Everyone drools already when they hear about this one. Those who never tried it missed out a lot! Perfect pie-dish made of phyllo dough that is semi-crispy after baking, stuffed with chopped cabbage, or meat, white cheese (feta cheese), chopped leeks or spinach, with a scrambled egg to make a nice firm mixture between the dough layers. It pairs perfectly with a glass of yogurt, a bowl of sour cream or some extra chunks of cheese.
8. Polneti piperki (stuffed bell peppers)
Similar, if not same as the Sarma dish above, this is another meal that’s so good, you can’t have just one serving. For this are used green or red bell peppers or regular paprika. The top is removed and the paprika is stuffed with rice and ground meat, and oftentimes, instead of the paprika top, there is a potato slice used as a cover to the open-stuffed paprika. Yummy and with mouthwatering aroma when taken out of the oven.