Mocha madness & an American girl’s attempt at making ‘sarma’

Happy November fellow nommers!

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I thought I would write a quick recipe post and share some of my favorite spot to get a piping hot mocha here in Belgrade. Next week I’ll be flying back to the States for a family gathering and something I haven’t celebrated state side in almost three years: Thanksgiving!

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First up, I know I’ve mentioned the magic of Serbian sarma before. Succulent hand made sour cabbage rolls stuffed with tender beef and rice. Perfect for this time of the year and an absolute staple here in Serbia. I’ve always wanted to try and make it but have never had the time, but seeing as we had a whole batch of sour cabbage from Milan’s grandfather in the freezer, it was about time I tried out one of my favorite dishes.

Disclaimer: This is my first attempt at making sarma which I will admit was delicious but by no means perfect when compared to Serbian households who have been perfecting their technique much much longer than I. But hey, it’s a start!

Sarma Recipe a.k.a Stuffed Cabbage Rolls 

Ingredients:

Sarma rolls 

  • 30-40 sour cabbage leaves *
  • Two handfuls of thick cut bacon (it’s more or less for flavor)
  • 600 grams of ground meat (I used a mix of beef and pork)
  • 1 cup of rice (I used a type of brown rice but normal or pearl rice would do)
  • 1 large onion – diced
  • 1 cup of oil (any kind will do)
  • 1 carrot – shredded
  • 7 cloves of garlic – minced
  • 2 eggs (the fresher the better)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sweet paprika (not the spicy kind)
  • salt and pepper

Sarma sauce 

  • 1/2 cup of oil
  • 1 cup plain tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of sweet paprika
  • 4 cups of water
  • salt and pepper

*the cabbage had  already been soured in a barrel for god knows how many days before they reached my hands and I stuck them in the freezer…so if you don’t have sour cabbage on here, here is a quick video recipe in English on how to make quick soured cabbage. Theoretically you could use simply boiled cabbage but it won’t have the same flavors.

1. First cook the bacon on a medium temperature until the fat has rendered and has turned a light translucent color. Next add your oil and allow it to simmer slightly before adding your onions and sweet paprika, cooking the onions until golden and transparent.  I added shredded carrot at this point because I add carrots to everything.

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2. Since my chunks of bacon were quite big and I didn’t want them to be in the mix of my filling (just the flavor), I removed them and put them to the side to use later. At this point you can put your ground beef into the mixture, keeping it on the stove for only a minute or so. You don’t want to actually cook the meat because it will be cooked slowly in it’s cabbage casing later on. Give it a stir and take it off the stove.

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3. Moving on to the soured cabbage leaves. This step you can do either beforehand or when you’ve assembled the first half of your filling. It’s important to make sure there isn’t any excess liquids on the leaves. Also it’s good to thin out the vein of each leaf with a small knife. In my opinion this was the most time consuming part of the whole process but you’ll be happy that you did because the rolls will be  nice and flexible.

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4. Add your minced garlic to the pot as well as your uncooked rice. Next break two eggs over the filling and mix until combined. It will look familiar at this point, like meatloaf (but with rice inside).

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5. Now comes the fun part, making the rolls! Grab a long tray or pan that you can lay the finished rolls on before you put them back in your pot. Take one leaf, vein facing towards you, and put a spoonful of the filling in the lower middle. Next fold the right and left side over the middle, then curl the bottom over and forward (away from you) until you’ve reached the end of the leaf and it’s taken a roll like shape. If it’s not perfect try again, the leaves are very forgiving.

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6. Once you’ve got all of your rolls, line the bottom of the the deep oven safe pot you used with any excess cabbage and a bit of oil (I even threw in a few pieces of bacon). Then you’re going to place your rolls face up at the base of the pot, going around until all your rolls fit snugly together. Add a few bay leaves in between the rolls, and the remainder of the bacon if you wish and set aside.

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7. The next thing is important because it will ensure that your sarma will remain moist throughout the slow cooking, the sauce. In a sauce pan, add olive oil, and flour, mixing until combined, wait a few moments before adding sweet paprika, and a little bit of salt. Add the tomato juice and stir together, then finally add the water. After this is done, pour the sauce straight over your rolls in the pot. They should be covered completely. In my opinion the saucier the better.

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8. Cover the pot and stick it on the bottom rack of the preheated 220 C. oven and cook the rolls for two and a half to three hours. I didn’t have an oven safe pot cover so I used foil. You can check if more liquid needs to be added but it should be enough.

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9.  When they are done cooking, take the sarma out of the oven and allow them to cool slightly.

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10. Serve in a bowl or shallow dish (with a nice chunk of bread to clean up leftover juices with), slice open and enjoy all winter long!

Prijatno!

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Moving on, I wanted to highlight a few places where you can get two of my favorite things, coffee and chocolate, magically mixed into one amazing cold weather drink: Mocha!

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My go to throughout the fall and winter season is GreeneT Caffe. I frequent the one in Dorćol (aka GreeneT Square) because their staff is nice and I can sit on the upper level and do work without being bothered. I’ve tried a large variety of warm drinks at GreeneT but the one I keep coming back to is their ‘Orange Mocha’. It all started when I tried their orange hot chocolate for the first time a few years back and fell head over heels in love. Then one day I saw they had a mocha option with the same flavors they offered in their hot chocolate, so of course I tried it, and the rest is…history.

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The bitterness of the coffee balances out the sweetness of the orange jelly flavors and the creaminess of the rich chocolate. Topped with cold whipped cream, I could drink these all day and all night. I also don’t feel as guilty asking for a large mug since I know there is at least half a cup of coffee inside.

So if you’re looking for a mocha with that extra nomness, locate your nearest GreeneT and get cozy!

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The next location in Belgrade is over the bridge along the Zemun Quay at Hotel Jugoslavia. A decade ago this huge hotel was bustling with people from all over the world, and despite the hotel not being in full form today, there are still droves of people who visit the building for the delicious restaurants at it’s base. I highlighted Intergalactic Diner last summer when our friend Branko came to nom, and this psychedelic pancake house I’m about to share with you is located right next door at Sugar and Spice.

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This place is as tasty as it looks on the outside as it truly is on the inside. Neon lights, waitresses in roller skates and something we all love, pancakes. Whenever we visit Sugar and Spice, it’s almost always for dessert and therefore Milan and whoever we are with order a large stack of American pancakes. Myself on the other hand can satisfy my sweet tooth with one menu item, their melted dark chocolate mocha.

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Their mochas come in three different flavors, based on the type chocolate you want oozing at the bottom: milk, white or dark. Being a huge fan of dark chocolate, it’s my choice every time. Their frosted glass mugs are topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings or chips. You know the chocolate portion isn’t from a powder because you can see it lining the entire circumference of the mug and my favorite part of the entire experience is scooping the chocolate from the bottom of the mug at the end. Nomalicious.

Thus if you’re watching your waistline (even slightly) and you think your head might pop off at the sight of mountains of drool worthy pancakes, don’t panic! Sugar and Spice’s mocha will quell your cravings and leave you feeling all warm and gooey inside.

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The last cafe is one I’ve highlighted a few times but where I particularly adore going to if I’ve just had a shower and washed my hair. Why so specific you ask? Considering that more than half the population of Serbia smokes indoors and out, it can be nearly impossible to find a nonsmoking cafe or restaurant that won’t leave your freshly lathered locks smelling like an ashtray. Hey, maybe I’m just sensitive because I’m a non smoker (and no I don’t have anything against those who do) but seeing as I don’t wash my hair often anymore (winter time sadness), Red Bread is my cafe of choice.

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I’ve tried a wide variety of items on their menu and thus far loved everything. They are a touristic haven and have something for everyone, including a delectable ‘Moccacino’. I don’t think I had ever had one before, maybe just cocoa powered dusted on top of a foamy cappucino, but as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to have it.

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Served in a tall round glass, it is lined with chocolate sauce, filled with a mixture of coffee, chocolate and milk, then topped of course with whipped cream and three fitting coffee beans. Yet again Red Bread did not disappoint. Thus if you’re like me and like keeping your ‘do’ smoke-free while enjoying a delicious drink, pull up a comfy colorful chair and nom on (with spoon or straw, it’s your choice)!

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That’s all the noms for today.

Currently I am still munching on the spooky Halloween treats I prepared for the celebrations at school which is nothing to complain about. I could probably eat caramel apples all day, every day.

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As I said, I’ll be returning to Boston for the week of Thanksgiving so you can expect a tasty post of nomeries shared.

Catch you on the nom side!

Restaurant Information:

Address: Multiple locations around Belgrade, Serbia
Phone: see website link for contact information for each location
Address: Bulevar Nikole Tesle 3 Belgrade, Serbia 11070
Phone: 068 269 3665
Address: Dositejeva 22 Belgrade, Serbia 11000
Phone: 065 227 0099

 

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