food

A Myriad of Delicious Reasons to go to Serbian Slava (Saint Day Celebration)

My husband, who is a native Serb, our 10 year old son and I have moved from England to Belgrade for 8 months. These are excerpts from my weekly diary.

Patron Saint Day Offerings

Slavski Kolač (Slava Bread), ours is the tall one at the back! The 'Žito' has a candle in it.

Slavski Kolač (Slava Bread), ours is the tall one at the back! The 'Žito' has a candle in it.

In preparation for our ‘Slava’ (saint day celebration), we all went to the ‘Crkva’ (church) to have our ‘Slavski Kolač’ (Slava bread) and ’Žito’ (wheat dessert) blessed by the priest. Several families were present with their bread etc.. and Dragan noted that our bread was the tallest! The priest cut a cross in the bottom of the bread with a knife and poured some red wine into the cross. The bread is then kissed by the family and turned three times.

Aleks & Daniela Making the ‘Slavski Kolač’ (Slava bread)

Click on the images below to see the finished bread.

It turns out I am a ‘Snajka’… read on….

It should be said here that Dragan, Aleks and Daniela made the ’Slavski Kolač’, complete with braided dough, a little bird and an Orthodox Christian stamp. I wasn’t helping much as I was in the middle of a ‘Snajka’ crisis! I am a ‘Snajka’ (pronounced sniker), because I am the daughter-in-law and it is accepted that the ‘Snajka’ will be the perfect hostess. For some, ‘Snajka’ appears to be a sweet and pleasant term, for others it is less comfortable. I still haven’t got to the bottom of this! Anyway my crisis was pre Slava as an ‘Engleskinja’ (English woman). Luckily my husband loves cooking Serbian food from scratch and all the cooking was left up to him.

More Serbian Fayre cooked by Dragan

Dragan made ‘prebranac’ (Serbian baked beans), ‘pita’ (pie) with cabbage and mushrooms and we ordered some (dimljeni šaran) smoked carp. I insisted that we have lemon with the fish, but Dragan wasn’t convinced people would want it. So, having sent Dragan out to get some, I carefully sliced some lemon and arranged it daintily on the fish. Not one person took the lemon and it was neatly pushed to the side of the serving dish. Not to be thwarted, I rearranged the fish and placed the lemon engagingly on top of the fish. Didn’t work. I had to admit defeat, lemon was not required!! I think I was trying to exert my power as ‘snajka’! Ha ha!

Dragan making mushroom pie

Dragan making mushroom pie

Chocolate covered plums filled with walnuts!

Chocolate covered plums filled with walnuts!

'Prebranac' (pronounced prebrarnats), Serbian baked beans being laid in layers

'Prebranac' (pronounced prebrarnats), Serbian baked beans being laid in layers

Slava isn’t Slava without Home-Distilled Rakija! (plum brandy)

The family joined us on the Tuesday, bringing a whole host of goodies, including artisan cheese from a relative’s farm and home-distilled 'rakija' (plum brandy). By the way, distilling brandy at home is still legal in Serbia [2]. Wednesday was lovely too, with friends who all seemed to really enjoy the food.

This is the first time Dragan and I have hosted Slava in Serbia, although we do it regularly in Exeter. Our English friends love prebranac!

We bought the Slava candle from Vrdnik Monastery

We bought the Slava candle from Vrdnik Monastery

Folk Dancing is Mainstream in Serbia & I can see why…

A friend is a coach of a ‘Folklore’ (National Folk Dance) group called ‘Despot Stefan’ [1] and this week we were invited to a concert at a local cultural centre. The dancers were from about the age of 8 to 20 and the groups wore different costumes depending on where the dance was from, e.g. Eastern Serbia, Southern Serbia, etc… It was a real pleasure to watch, with high jinks and complicated footwork. 'Folklore'comes well recommended. (The link is from a previous concert in 2015)

Me & Vesna Goldsworthy — a Professor at the University of Exeter & a Serbian Writer who Publishes in Serbian & English

All was back to normal on Thursday and after my Serbian lesson, I met a friend, who had found a non-smoking restaurant for us to have a meal. (She guessed that the place was full of foreigners like me trying to avoid cigarette smoke!). Next stop, the Cultural Centre of Belgrade [3], for a book launch of ‘Gospodin Ka’ (Monsieur Ka) by the author Vesna Goldsworthy. She is a Serbian writer and poet [4], who has recently been appointed Professor at the University of Exeter. I really enjoyed her book ‘Gorski’, but will have to wait until ‘Monsieur Ka’ is published in English, unless I learn Serbian really quickly over the next few months!

Vesna Goldsworthy is a great representative of Serbian culture in British society (like Novak Djoković in sport). Although I am not a native Serb, I like creating artworks that show the unique architecture and landscape of Serbia.

St Sava Orthodox Church in Belgrade, Linocut by Ali Savic [5]

St Sava Orthodox Church in Belgrade, Linocut by Ali Savic [5]

Diary of a British woman in Belgrade Day 42 & 44

Detail of Cityscape IV, Belgrade, monoprint by Ali Savic [1]

Detail of Cityscape IV, Belgrade, monoprint by Ali Savic [1]

My husband, who is a native Serb, our 10 year old son and I are spending 8 months in Belgrade, having moved from England. This is day 42 and 44. Not much happened on Day 43!

DAY 42

We made the most of the melting snow and had a snowball fight in the park. Snow is a real novelty for us living in the SW of England.

Snowball Fight Park.jpg

My Serbian lesson was fairly straightforward and on the way back I stopped at the lovely little ‘kore’ (filo pastry) shop. It is only really a little hatch – you can’t enter the shop, but the shop assistant was making fresh pasta, so I took a few photos. They also make fresh noodles to be cooked in soup, as well as cakes and other goodies. I bought some fresh pasta and it was cut into strips to the size of my choice. Later on I cooked the pasta with fresh tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. Absolutely delish.

Soup is very often served as a starter in Serbia and there are two main types of ‘soup’ [1]. ‘Supa’ is a usually a clear soup with a few vegetables and possibly meat and often fine noodles. ‘Čorba’ is usually thicker and has more veg, fish or meat. It is unusual in Serbia to use a blender to thicken the soup, ‘čorba’ is usually thickened with 'zaprška' (like a roux). Serbian people love soup and feel it is very healthy.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serbian_cuisine#Soups 

DAY 44

On my way to my next Serbian language lesson, I stopped off at a ‘Kineska Prodavnica’ (Chinese Shop) that sells hats, clothes and just about everything else. Since my sister had suggested I get a ‘Julie Christie’ hat (Dr Zhivago style) to combat the cold, I thought I would try a few Chinese versions on. Hilarious, not quite Julie Christie, more like Davy Crocket!

We learnt the genitive case today in the Serbian lesson, along with telling the time and we struggled through some quick fire questions. The work is piling on now.

After the lesson I walked to the big bookshop in ‘Trg Republike’ (Republic Square) near the statue of Prince Michael and bought Aleks a couple of Agatha Christie books (in English). Good man, Aleks likes her writing and she comes from our neck of the woods in Devon, England.

A friend had recommended a super gallery that is right in the centre called ‘Galerija Grafički Kolektiv’ (Print Collective Gallery) [1]. I popped in to have a look. Interesting digital print exhibition.

Galerija Grafički Kolektiv (Print Collective Gallery)

Galerija Grafički Kolektiv (Print Collective Gallery)

Next stop the Christmas Market with very pretty little chalets; mostly selling, ‘pljeskavice’ (Serbian burgers) [2], Serbian traditional woollen items and sweets. I have to say Serbian hand-knitted woollen socks are extremely toastie. They are known as 'nazuvice čarape'. [3]

Christmas Market Belgrade

Christmas Market Belgrade

A bunch of football fans were in good voice in a café near the market and some young men were drinking beer from cans on the street (I guessed that they weren’t Serbs, it’s not usually their style). It turns out there was a football match between ‘Crvena Zvezda’ (Red Star, Belgrade) and Cologne. There were about 15 riot police waiting near the cafe for any possible clashes, but all was calm. I caught the bus home, it’s cheap and convenient.

A little tangent. I first came to Serbia in 2006, with my Serbian husband, Dragan and our son Aleks, who was 7 months old at the time. All our Serbian relatives fussed and cuddled Aleks. I was puzzled though, they all kept saying ‘gde su čarape’. Eventually I asked Dragan, “what on earth are charapey??” (čarape). He roared with laughter, “they’re socks, everybody is asking why Aleks isn’t wearing any socks”. It was 25 degrees!

[1] https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/AliSavicPRINTS?ref=seller-platform-mcnav 

[2] http://www.grafickikolektiv.org/html/en/

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pljeskavica

[4] http://www.wool-art.com/en/accessories/wool-socks/3/-