Macedonia: The Cookbook: Recipes & Stories from the Balkans, written by Katerina Nitsou, features the incredible cuisine of North Macedonia with recipes, personal stories, and traditions. A few highlights include Koftinka (Bite-Size Meatballs), Salata So Tsveklo (Beet Salad), Pileshki Musaka (Chicken Pie), Pechen Zelenchuk (Roasted Vegetables), and Shtrudla So Krushi (Pear Strudel). I will also be sharing her recipe for Pastrmajlija (Meat Pie) following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Interlink Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Katerina Nitsou grew up in a large Macedonian-Canadian community in Toronto and is currently based in Melbourne, Australia with her family. She developed a love for cooking while spending her childhood helping her family in the kitchen and trained at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.
While living in California, she worked in the Los Angeles Times Test Kitchen and as a food stylist, caterer, and private chef. This is her first cookbook.
Macedonia: The Cookbook
Macedonia: The Cookbook begins with an introduction into Katerina’s family and the culture that has shaped and influenced Macedonian cooking. Katerina states “Macedonian cuisine is a rich mosaic of influences from the Mediterranean and Middle East, and the neighboring countries n the Balkan Peninsula. It is known for its opulent family meals, and the regional dishes play important symbolic roles in local traditions and family celebrations.”
For those unfamiliar with the region, the inside covers even have a current map of the Republic of North Macedonia and neighboring countries. I especially love the notes on the traditions surrounding the food with historical influences, superstitions, religious celebrations, and music.
Chapters are divided according to course: Mezze (Small Plates), Salata (Salads), Supa (Soups), Meso (Meats), Zhivina (Poultry), Riba (Fish), Zelenchuk (Vegetable and Side Dishes), Leb (Breads), Slatko (Sweets), and Zimnica (Preserves).
The inviting photography is provided by Oliver Fitzgerald. Every single recipe is accompanied by a photo of the finished dish. Measurements are listed in US Customary and Metric. The titles are written in Macedonian and English. Each recipe has a headnote with background information, personal stories, serving size, menu ideas, and tips.
Pastrmajlija (Meat Pie)
When first flipping through the book, I was immediately drawn to the recipe for Pastrmajlija (Пастрмајлија, Meat Pie). Katerina states, “Pastrmajlija is Macedonia’s much-loved version of pizza and it can be found in restaurants, markets, and cafes throughout the region. In parts of Macedonia there are festivals devoted solely to this dish. It is a popular late-night meal after a night of dancing.”
A basic, yeast-based dough is rolled into a large rectangle or oval, then the edges are folded over to form a border to hold in the filling. Pieces of paprika-marinated pork are scattered across the top before baking in the oven until lightly puffed. During the last few minutes of baking, beaten eggs are poured across the surface to create quite the comforting meal.
The name pastrma refers to salted and dried meat. This recipe is filled with marinated pieces of pork tenderloin. Allow the pork to marinate in the butter and paprika mixture for at least an hour before baking to help develop the flavors.
I also made Piperki So Ovchjo Serenje (Roasted Pepper and Feta Cheese Dip), Gershla So Pileshko Meso (Chicken and Orzo), Przheni Kompiri (Fried Potatoes), and Pita Na Skara (Grilled Flatbread).
I made the Piperki So Ovchjo Serenje (Roasted Pepper and Feta Cheese Dip) to pair with the Pita Na Skara (Grilled Flatbread). It is also perfect to serve alongside grilled meat. Red bell peppers are charred and peeled, then blended with feta cheese, olive oil, lemon, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to create a creamy and flavor-packed dip.
The Gershla So Pileshko Meso (Chicken and Orzo) was often made for weeknight meals by Katerina’s mother. I can definitely see why it was a favorite! This one-pot meal is packed with tender orzo and chicken along with warming spices with only a few simple steps.
The Przheni Kompiri (Fried Potatoes) are another easy, yet delicious recipe. Thin slices of potatoes are fried in oil, then sprinkled with salt and paprika. I followed Katerina’s recommendation and sprinkled a little crumbled feta cheese over the top. So so good!
There are so many breads I want to try from Macedonia, but I decided to start with the Pita Na Skara (Grilled Flatbread). This yeast-based dough is rolled into rounds, then grilled until golden on each side. They are perfect with a variety of dips, especially the Piperki So Ovchjo Serenje (Roasted Pepper and Feta Cheese Dip).
Macedonia: The Cookbook is a wonderful pick for those interested in Macedonian and Balkan cuisine. There is an incredible variety of recipes from appetizers all the way to sweets and preserves. The difficulty level also ranges from quick and easy dishes with only a handful of ingredients to more intricate breads and desserts.
Most of the ingredients can be found in the average American grocery store. A few items that may require further searching include banana peppers, grape leaves, whole wheat berries, mahleb, filo dough, and kadaif.
Pastrmajlija (Macedonian Meat Pie) Recipe
Excerpt from Macedonia: The Cookbook
Pastrmajlija (Macedonian Meat Pie)
- 1 1/2 cups (350 milliliters) warm water
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (7 grams) active dry yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
- 4 cups (500 grams) all-purpose flour sifted, plus extra for dusting
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus extra for greasing
- 1 pound (450 grams) pork tenderloin cut into 1/2 inch (1 centimeter) chunks
- 5 tablespoons (70 grams) butter melted
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 3 eggs whisked
To prepare the dough:
- Place the warm water in a small bowl. Add the yeast and sugar. Cover the bowl with a plate and let stand until the yeast begins to foam, about 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Make a well in the center. Pour the yeast mixture and the oil into the well.
- Using a spatula, gently fold the flour into the liquid until incorporated and a dough begins to form.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Lightly dust the surface of the dough with flour if it feels sticky.
- Lightly grease a large bowl with a thin layer of olive oil and place the dough inside. Brush the top of the dough with a thin layer of olive oil. Cover the bowl with a large plate and set aside in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, toss together the pork, melted butter, olive oil, salt, and paprika. Refrigerate for 1 hour to marinate.
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F (180˚C). Grease a 21- by 15-inch (53 by 38 centimeter) baking sheet with olive oil.
- Place the dough on a clean work surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle 1/4-inch (6 mm) thick, and about 2 inches (5 centimeter) larger than your baking sheet. Carefully transfer the dough to the baking sheet.
- Fold the edges of the dough over to create a border around the perimeter of the baking sheet.
- Spread the meat over the dough in a single layer.
- Brush the edges of the dough with the whisked eggs and set the remaining eggs aside.
- Bake the pie for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and pour the remaining eggs over the meat.
- Return to the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 10 minutes, until the eggs are cooked and the dough is golden brown.