As I said some time ago, it's time to rediscover and to share something about my Istrian roots. Yes, for those who missed that, I have Istrian origins: together with the strong Piedmontese component, I have two more roots, the Apulian one (from Santeramo in Colle, in Bari province, to be precise) and the Istrian one, from Galižana, a village near Pula.
Unfortunately I don't know these two smaller roots firsthand, because their "bearers" (my paternal grandfather for Apulia and my maternal grandmother for Istria) died before I was born. But, while for the Apulian root everything is linked to my dad's and my uncles' vague culinary memories, the Istrian one is a bit more informed, because my mom and my aunt have more tangible memories, i.e traditions and recipes.
Many of the memories about my grandmother and Istrian relatives, which for most part died in the last few years, are related to cooking experiences. I have heard legendary stories about the annual killing of a pig, about how good my grandmother Eufemia was in rolling out fresh pasta and how delicious her sarme (rice and meat wrapped in grape or cabbage leaves – you can find similar dishes in Romania and in the Balkans) were; also, some of her recipes got to me, like stuffed paprika and Vicenza-style salt cod ground in a mortar (you'll wonder what Istria has to do with Vicenza … well, many recipes from Veneto and Friuli easily passed the border – another example is apple strudel). And then, finally, the epic tale about pounds and pounds of ground meat (probably the murdered pig, too) turned into ćevapčići by aunt Solidea.
Well, perhaps we don't honor these roots every day, but there's no barbecue worthy of its name that doesn't include large amounts of ćevapčići! If you've ever been to Istria or Croatia, you'll know that grilled meat or fish are easily found in any konoba or restaurant. Well, as for meat, ćevapčići (oblong meatballs), ražnjići (kebabs) and pljeskavica (hamburgers) boss the show.
The dish that I propose to you today, the on that my aunt Solidea made countless times, it's very easy to make and it's perfect for a barbecue with friends.
Ingredients (4 huge servings, about 55 ćevapčići)
* 300 g minced beef meat
* 300 g minced pork meat
* ground black pepper
To serve with
* chopped onion (for me Tropea onion) – I also added the only green pepper from my garden
* Ajvar (sauce made with bell peppers, hot peppers, eggplant and garlic. I still had a jar left from my last trip to Istria, but the next time I'll have to make it myself)
In a bowl, mix the two types of meat, until you have an homogeneous mixture, then season with salt and pepper and mix again.
Take small balls of mixture (bigger than a walnut), press them and then give them an oblong shape. If you cook them on the griddle, you can leave them quite thin; if you grill them, instead, you'll have to make bigger and flatter meatballs, so that they don't fall into the grill in the middle of cooking. Often you can find them shaped like sticks.
Cook them on the griddle or on the grill, until the meat is well cooked and the surface is brown.
Eat them with chopped onion or dipping them in ajvar.