Log house restaurant "Gros"


 Cevapcici, Tito,Grilled meat Festival and twice baked bread

I was born in Vojvodina, Northern part of ex -Yugoslavia and today's Serbia, but most of my life, before I left the country, I spent in a small Southern town of Leskovac, (in)famous ever since I can remember for the poor use of language and a terrible.. funny, but still terrible accent.... we are the Liverpudlian of Serbia! And the rest of the country, (similarities, similarities) was never short of  making sometimes witty, but often unpleasant remarks about  us Leskovodians . 
X years ago, my best friend and I, joined the University of Belgrade to read the Politics and Journalism. Although neither of us were born nor spoke as locals the fame more or less quietly followed us for more then an year, until on the second year we had and an exam in accentology. Oops!!What happened? Well, since we came at the top of the class we thought that we could claim the victory on behalf of  all Leskovodians , but obviously it didn't happen. We were left alone, but Leskovac and it's citizens still equally inspire the witty and the mean people of Serbia.
My wish  that the things will change, that the language will improve and  that the town will be recognised for something more pleasant and significant was not granted and I eventually got the message, the slang was there to stay and I stopped being troubled about it.
The thing is, that in addition to so many great people living there, there was always something else special about the town, and it was recognized for it, but I am not sure if it outshone the latter, it's more likely that the two fames were and are happily walking around  hand in hand. 
Of course I am talking about  the food. The region, being on the one of the biggest crossroads in the World was over the centuries exposed to many different cultural and ethic influences and as a result is very rich in different types of food, although the Eastern civilizations - the Ottoman Empire  left  huge trail on almost every aspect of people's life with effects to the present day.
We are all familiar with Kebab, which  in the West means more or less pieces of meat on the individual screwer, or trimmed from a huge screwer.  In Serbia and the neighbouring countries the most popular grilled and fast food dish is cevap, or in diminutive cevapcici which is in it's origin kebab. Here is the extract from Wikipedia to give you a closer idea : ( note: cevapcici from Leskovac are made from beef only)

Name and etymology[edit]

The word ćevap comes from the Persian word kebab, sometimes with the South Slavic diminutive ending -čići (BosnianCroatianćevapčići/ćevapiSlovene:čevapčiči/čevapiSerbianћевапчићи/ћевапи, ćevapčići/ćevapiMacedonianЌебапи, kjebapiBulgarianКебапчета, kebapchetaCzechčevabčiči). The word ćevapi is plural; the singular form ćevap is rarely used, as a typical serving consists of several ćevapi. They are also known as Balkan meatballs.


Ćevapčići has its origins in the Balkans during the Ottoman expansion into southeastern Europe and developed through the Middle Ages into a regional specialty similar to the kofte kebab.[5][not in citation given]

Ćevapčići are shown on the right in this example of Serbian cuisine. To the left are uštipci.
It is found in the Srpski rječnik (1818).[6] In Serbia, there is a local variety of leskovački ćevap whose recipe is based on traditional Serbian pljeskavica but formed as a somewhat larger sausage (ćevap). It is named after the city of Leskovac, which now organizes the yearly Leskovac Grill Festival as a showcase of ćevapi and other grilled meat. In Belgrade, ćevapčići first came from Leskovac in the 1860s, into the kafana "Rajić" at the Great Marketplace (today Studentski Trg), from where they have quickly spread across the city.[7] Before the 1930s, they spread to the rest of the former Kingdom of Yugoslavia, including east of Serbia and the Macedonia region.[7] In 1933, the first street vendor with food appeared in Maribor, who came from Leskovac, and served grilled meat, including ćevapčići.[8]

A book that I was recently given by a friend who knows about my passion for food, remained me how good this dish is -  so good in fact that it was on Tito's  menu and was even served during the Queen Elisabeth's visit to Belgrade.  It says a lot !

Now, I don't know whether there was something extra special in that cevapcici (except  the cattle specially raised for Tito), but I know that it commercialised over the decades and that quality of your meal, like with everything else, will depend on where you go. Leskovac have been hosting a food festival dedicated to grilled meat for years now and  if I am not mistaken the one coming on 25 August will mark 25 years since the Grill Festival started. And again as with everything else you can love it, or hate it, but it represents the town's tradition now and it has become a part of a regional tourist attraction. 

I prefer a quieter ambience and ever since it opened five years ago this Log house restaurant is my traditional food and grilled meat oasis whenever I go back to the town.

When I went back this Summer we took our Macedonian friends for lunch there. And although this place was always in-keeping with the Serbian tradition, it expended, more features were added and it felt as I stepped back in time and entered into a nicely kept rural household from the end of 19th or early 20th century. A mini ethnic, cultural and food museum in one place with so many original pieces, that the ones that were made to recreate the ambient did'n stick out, but were there to support the old ones.

I was sitting there, enjoying my appetiser  thinking about how big attraction restaurant like this would have been in one of the Western countries. With amazing traditional food and recipes that in some cases date back to the days of the Ottoman Empire and the step back in time décor, it would have been marked in culinary maps of Europe.

With that thought in my mind,I just got of the table without saying anything to my friends and went to find the owner. Ten minutes later he agreed to let me come back the following day, take some pictures and get couple of recipes from their baker. 
So, no, this is not a paid article, this is something I decided to do in a spark of the moment and today while I am writing this post, few weeks after I took the pictures ( it was a very bright day and I am not very good in taking outdoor pictures) it still feels like a right thing to do. I am putting this place into my culinary map and the map of every food enthusiast who just might one day decide to go and check out what the heck that woman was talking about!

I was disappointed though that they didn't have my all time favourite - a salad made from dry red peppers and leek- but it was probably too much to ask for in July, when was totally out of season. That's why I am going back in September ( well not for that, but I will definitely go for a meal and, fingers crossed, for their recipe of the salad, as it is not like any other I tasted.)

I mentioned that I got two recipes from the main baker, Gordana Cvetkovic ( picture below). One is for the bread, I remember loving twenty odd years ago. It's called Pogaca, the term which is in Serbia used for the  firmer, close textured, or enriched bread. 
What makes this one special is the way the dough is handled and  baked - first it's  "cooked" in a pan on hob over medium heat, and then transferred  to the oven.
Gordana's recipe was for 15 bread rounds, and I gave my best to work out ( using ratio) what proportion of the ingredients is needed for one bread loaf. Please bear on mind that different type of flour will give different results.

Having said that, I also believe that even different bread recipe is used, the great taste will come if the "twice cooked/baked" procedure is followed. As you will realise the dough should be fairly soft , as almost equal amount of dry and wet ingredients is used.

Gordana's  twice baked Pogaca

 240 g plain flour
70 ml oil
170 ml warm water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
16 g fresh yeast (10 gr fresh yeast = 1 tsp dry yeast)
1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180 C/350F/gas 5 and place the empty tray where the bread will be baked to warm it up.
Dissolve the yeast in warm water with sugar and 1 tbsp flour and wait until froths. Mix with the rest of the ingredients, and let it rest until it starts to rise only. Flour a surface generously, shape it into a ball, cover and wait until it just start raising, then press it down lightly to make a disc, and again wait until it just start raising. In a meanwhile heat the pan on a hob over medium heat, then put the dough and "cook" until the crust is formed and it starts to rise. Flip it over to the floured hot tray and bake for about 20 minutes.

I am posting the original pictures from the restaurant this time, as I think that was more appropriate. The second recipe I got is for a dessert that I will make and post about (hopefully) soon!

Thank you to all at the restaurant for being lovely hosts! 

And just so you know, the wiser I get and less stiff I become, the more Leskovodian language I use, mostly when I'm in a good mood. 

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