Fall is truly upon us here in Skopje.  Finally the mornings are crisp, the afternoons are still sunny but not roasting, the leaves are beginning to change, and of course (the number one sign of fall in Macedonia) the peppers are roasting on every corner. (Will I ever stop waxing on about the virtues of fall?  Probably not.)    I know that many of you are actually not interested in hearing (reading?) me blab on and on about how fall is my favorite season, how I love making apple cider and ajvar, how I can’t wait for Thanksgiving and pumpkin pie, and how I wish I could just sit outside and stare at the changing leaves all day.  Many of you are actually here to see when My Macedonian Kitchen is actually going to post a traditional, Macedonian recipe. (Shopska salata just wasn’t enough for you, huh?)  Well, today is your day!  Finally, I have a very traditional and very delicious dish just for you!  Turlitava with Okra.

Turlitava is one of those visceral dishes, one that wasn’t as much a recipe as a creative way to get rid of all your vegetables. And it is a cold weather dish. There is nothing exciting about it, it is an earnest and simple dish. The addition of okra is something we were excited about, however. It’s not very popular here, and most people seem to mostly associate it with turlitava, but we are excited to discover more recipes from Macedonia that use it. Or, we might just fry it..

The thing with Macedonian recipes is that we make and eat them all the time, but we almost always forget to take pictures.  Maybe that’s because they’re so delicious that we gobble them up before we can even unzip the camera bag… Or maybe it’s because I usually wait for my mother-in-law to come over and whip up something, that way no one can argue that it isn’t actually traditional.

At our house we’ve been known to experiment with traditional recipes by adding a few more spices or a splash of wine. (gasp!)  So, for tradition’s sake, it’s always better when Violeta is in charge.  So, this weekend, Violeta helped us make a delicious Turlitava, a mixed vegetable and meat dish.  I’m not gonna lie, we definitely slipped in a little red wine and a few extra spices…but add at your own risk.  The recipe here is straight from Violeta herself!

Turlitava with Okra

Violeta’s delicious turlitava recipe, as told to Aleks…

All vegetables are large vegetables, except the eggplant. We ended up roasting one third of our very large eggplant and making baba ghanoush. But, that’s a different post.

800 grams meat (lamb, beef, chicken, pork, go for what you like. We used pork and veal, in equal amounts).

5 mild green peppers

2 onions

2 carrots

100 grams green beans

2 tomatoes

1 potato

1 eggplant

quarter of a head of cabbage

25 pieces of okra (my mother-in-law assured me that some people use up to 50). Okra is known as bamja in Macedonia. This is the only essential ingredient.

Paprika, black pepper, salt

Optional: peas, zucchini, or anything you can think of.

The process is simple.  Chop meat into bite sized cubes and boil in a medium sized pot until tender.  Shred/dice all veggies.  Mix meat and veggies in a large earthen pot.  Stir together with 1/2 cup of oil and desired spices (salt, pepper, paprika).  When meat is tender, add it to the earthen pot together with the water. When we asked how much water we put in the end, in my mother-in-laws words, “you add as much as is needed”. She added enough water to have the pot filled about 2/3 of the way up with it. Again, in her words, “not too little, not all full, but enough so that it doesn’t dry out, and it gets enough water around the vegetables to cook them up”.

Bake @ 200 about 2-3 hours. This is vague (another problem with traditional recipes), but it is really up to you.  Do you like your veggies mushy?  A little bite left in them?  The meat is already cooked, so you’re just waiting on the veg. Check on the turlitava after about 2 hours and decide for yourself!

Take the pot out 2-3 times during baking, and mix it around so that the top doesn’t get too dried out.