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Bosanksi Lonac – Bosnia & Herzegovina National Dish – Day 38/Dish 21

February 14, 2010

Today we leave Rudy and his homeland of Bolivia behind in order to sail east to The Balkan Peninsula and Bosnia-Herzegovina.  To reach this landing in the Adriatic we navigated north from Peru where we rejoined our ship, to the Panama Canal.  Similar to the Suez Canal that connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Indian Ocean, the Panama Canal is a 77 Kilometer (48 mile) shipping channel that connects the Pacific with the Atlantic Ocean.  These shortcuts have literally reduced transit times by weeks and months, thus increasing the efficiency of maritime trade.  We are very familiar with the trek between South America and southern Europe, but it is only through very careful navigation that we are able to find the tiny 26 kilometer beach front in this former Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia territory.

For 400 hundred years starting in the 1300’s, The Turkish Empire claimed and ruled over modern day Bosnia and Croatia.  During this period, most of the population converted to Islam.  400 years later in the mid-nineteenth century, Bosnians joined Serbs and Croatians in fighting the Turks.  During the fighting, Austria-Hungary invaded and took over the territory while the Turks were weakened.  This bold move gave Bosnia to the Austro Hungarian Power, but proved an irritant to a Bosnia that was fighting for independence.

On the 28th of June 1914, 19 year old Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Black Hand movement, killed the Archduke of Austria Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie with 2 shots from a pistol.  These two small bullets launched the chain reaction that resulted in the 1st World War breaking out across Europe.  Ultimately it led to the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but the price was 16 million dead and 20 million more wounded.

Throughout the last 100 years, Bosnia and Herzegovina have struggled with ethnic unrest.  The Kingdom of Serbia was formed in 1918 and it united the territories of Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Croatia.  Then Bosnia was annexed into the nation.  King Alexander the 1st attempted to unite the territories by renaming the country Yugoslavia but was struck down by Croatian assassins in 1934.  After this, Yugoslavia fell to the Nazis in WW2.  Croatian troops aided the genocidal atrocities committed by the Nazis.  After this, two warring groups arose in the fray.  The Serbian Nationalists or Chetniks, and the Partisans who wished to unite all of Yugoslavia.   This resulted in internal fighting which weakened the two in their fight to expel the Germans.  Eventually the Allies helped Tito, the leader of the Partisans and a communist, fight off the German invaders.  Tito rose to power in the new Yugoslav Republic by outlawing opposition political parties, and suppressing dissent with a brutal efficiency.  His reign lasted until the 1980’s and upon his death the entire region spiraled downward into madness.

During the 1980’s as republics crumbled around Europe, so did the republics of Yugoslavia.  After Slobodan Milosevic won the rotating presidency of the Republic in 1989, he quelled the growing desire for freedom and autonomy with his “Greater Serbia” vision, essentially a repeat of Hitler’s Third Reich.

Through the 1990’s we were all witnesses the violence of Serbian and Croat Ethnic Cleansing Campaigns through the lens of the television.  The United Nations Peace Keeping forces in the region were forced to watch horrible atrocities committed by both sides, while hindered to intervene by a strict Rule of Engagement.      

Finally, the signature of the Dayton Accords was the act that ended the war, with the Peace Keepers stepping in to divide the nation into separate territories.  Slobodan Milosevic finished his days in a Hague prison cell while awaiting trial on war crimes charges.   His message of Serbian Nationalism has had far reaching effects on the psyches of the people of Bosnia.  Today Bosnia is a divided nation, with the northern half controlled by Bosniac Muslims and the southern part ruled by Croats.  To this day tensions are high between the various groups and violence has begun to reappear.

The national dish of Bosnia-Herzegovina is called Bosanki Lonac or Bosnian Pot.  Characteristic of local foods in this area, the dish is rich, savory and hearty but still relatively healthy.  Use of whole ingredients is an important part of creating healthy delicious food.  There were recipes that included other meats such as pork, but I chose beef which would make the dish Halal or acceptable for Muslims.

I have adapted my own recipe for this dish from a series of recipes I found that I did not feel clarified the dish and preparation well enough.  I give this dish a 1-2 for difficulty.  It takes time, but is a very simple one pot meal.  This is the type of dish Gordon Ramsay would love.  It is simple, elegant and full of flavor with limited ingredients and easy preparation.

On a side note, if you are a grocer or retailer with a meat counter or a butcher shop, this blurb is directed at you.  I judge a great butcher by the quality of his stew beef.  Not his Ribeye or Tenderloin, but his cheapest scrap cuts.  Most people in this world cannot afford to eat the Prime Cuts for every meal.  And as our journey has shown, many of the worlds’ national dishes are stews or simple braised meat cuts, frequently the cheapest, from which people have managed to pull every last ounce of delicious flavor to build the recipes that became beloved.  If you are a butcher and you put out old meat as stew beef, you are doing your customers a disservice.  Since the majority of a naturally fed cow is lean less than prime beef, there are ample opportunities for profit, along with high quality stew beef.  If you are a customer, don’t forget to help your butcher maintain quality by speaking up.  When reminded, a butcher may look more closely at inventory and rotation in order to limit waste and improve freshness.      

CLICK HERE FOR A PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION

Rating:

Appearance: 4 out of 5

Aroma: 4 out of 5

Flavor: 5 out of 5

Total: 13 out of 15

Ingredients:

1 kilo (2lbs roughly) of high quality well marbled stew beef trimmed of tendon and fascia

1 Cabbage cut into 4 wedges leaving the core intact.

3-4 Potatoes peeled and cut into 8 pieces each

3-4 Carrots peeled and chopped into bite size pieces

2 Medium Sweet Yellow Onions Rough Chopped

1 or 2 Green Peppers Rough Chopped

3-4 Tomatoes sliced into wedges

3 cloves of Garlic sliced into coins

1 cup of a sweet White Wine like Muscodine

¾ cup of Water

1 tbsp White Vinegar

Sea or Kosher Salt

Fresh Crushed Pepper

¾ cup of Beef Stock

2 tbsp Vegetable or Olive Oil

Preparation:

In a large pot, heat the Oil to medium high but do not allow it to smoke. 

Season the Stew Beef with Salt and Pepper.   Add the Beef to the pan and brown on all sides. When the meat has browned, remove about half of it to a plate and reserve.  Deglaze the pot by pouring a bit of the wine into the pot and stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon to dislodge the browned “bits” on the bottom while it hisses and steams.

Add the Onions and Peppers to the pot and stir to coat with oil.  Allow the peppers and onions to cook for 10 minutes till they soften but do not brown.

Add the remaining veggies to the pot arranging them so that they form layers. 

Add the beef that you reserved over the top of the veggies.

Add the Water, White Vinegar, Wine and Beef Stock to the pot.

Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer.  Cover and let it cook for about 2 ½ hours.  Do not stir.  It is done cooking when the meat feels tender when you press a fork into it.

Serve hot over white rice or with crusty European style Breads.

Serves 4

 Info Source:  http://www.everyculture.com/Bo-Co/Bosnia-and-Herzegovina.html

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