stuffed courgettes

We have eight courgette plants in the ground this year. This has translated into a literal onslaught of courgettes in our kitchen. Stuffed, grilled, baked, in pasta, in risotto, au gratin, breadcrumbed, it's all been done. But the best way to eat courgettes in summer is to stuff them and gently cook them in light tomato broth until tender. The way my grandma used to make them.


3-4 medium green courgettes, about 2 inches in diameter each
500 g veal mince
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves
a sprinkle of paprika
salt, pepper, olive oil
a handful of short grain rice
1 egg
tomato concentrate or passata

Peel the courgettes, cut off the end bits and cut in half. You are looking for roughly the same length in the pieces. Remove the core carefully, leaving a layer on the bottom to hold the filling in. I use a small teaspoon to gradually remove the inner flesh, leaving about 1 cm wall all around.

Fry the chopped onion until translucent. Add minced garlic and cook until it becomes fragrant. Add the mince and brown. Finish off with salt, pepper and a sprinkle of paprika. Stir and transfer into a bowl until it cools down a little.

Mix in the rice and the egg and combine.

Using a teaspoon, stuff the courgettes full with the mix. Arrange them standing up, in the suitable saucepan. Optimally, you'll fill the pan with courgettes so that there's no room for any of them to fall over.

Dilute some tomato concentrate or passata in water, until you get a nice orange coloured broth. It should taste of tomato but not be top strong (more of a soup than a sauce). Season with salt, pepper or if you wish, a stock cube or Vegeta. Pour into the saucepan carefully. You want the liquid to reach almost to the top of the courgettes.

Now you can either slowly bake them in a terracotta pot, or slow cook them in a Crock Pot or, as I usually do, just simmer gently for an hour or two, until the filling and the rice inside are cooked and the courgettes are soft.

Serve with crusty bread or mashed potatoes. This dish keeps in the fridge for up to a week.

Bon apetit!


protein pancakes

These are our staple Saturday morning breakfast. During the week, things I'm looking for in my breakfast are:

1. Speed of preparation.

2. Healthy food. I don't like eating anything processed, like cereals or breakfast bars.

3. Something filling yet light.

I can only manage a strong breakfast like eggs or pastry, once in a while. So it's usually porridge or just oats, fruit and yoghurt, or if I have fresh homemade bread, then an open sandwich, like butter and jam or hummus, with yoghurt or tea or coffee.

So having something this delicious yet healthy and definitely filling, is a real treat that tells my body that we are safe for the weekend, we don't have to try hard or struggle or worry. We are on a mini break and in order to have fun and do all these things we've been dreaming about during the week, we need energy.

These pancakes are really versatile. You can make them plain, add some spices or a punnet of fruit (raspberries, cranberries, blueberries). You can add small chunks of banana, or peaches or even crispy bacon. Just thought of another possibility - grated carrot with cinnamon and a few chunks of walnut and raisin, for a carrot cake version! Or add some pureed pumpkin or sweet potato, with appropriate spices, for an autumn comforter. Literally, anything you want, as long as the chunks aren't bigger than a blueberry, otherwise you'll have trouble turning them over.

As for the toppings, my standard is organic maple syrup, because it goes really well with all options. But you can use honey, ice cream, creme fraiche with some cinnamon and sugar or eat them just plain.

You could just bake the entire mixture in a baking tray, and cut portions out during the week (keep it in the fridge, covered). But my favourite is to make small pancakes, about the size of the palm of your hand, and douse them in toppings.

(serves 2)

for pancakes:
1 cup oats
1 cup low fat cottage cheese
4 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon

coconut oil for frying

for the topping:
a handful of sour Morello cherries (fresh or defrosted, pips removed)
1 banana
organic maple syrup

Put all the pancake ingredients into the food processor, and process until you get a smooth batter. If you are making a different recipe, for example adding blueberries, add them into the batter now. Leave the mixture for about 20 minutes, until the oats soak in and the batter gets thicker.

Heat a frying pan on medium high heat. Add about 1/2 tsp of coconut oil per batch. Using a soup spoon, add 2-3 spoonfuls on top of each other, to make a small circular pancake. Fry 3-4 pancakes per batch.

When the top bubbles up and the bottom is nicely golden, turn over each pancake carefully and fry the other side for a minute or so. Stack pancakes on top of each other, you'll probably end up with 5-6 per person.

Arrange cherries and slices of banana around the stack and top with maple syrup.

Bon apetite!



Gužvara is an old Serbian recipe for a feta cheese pie, and a favourite amongst busy cooks because it is very simple to prepare and the result never disappoints.

The photo is from my iPhone. Even though I'm an artistic photographer, I absolutely hate photographing food. Food doesn't inspire me at all, which seems a bit strange considering this cooking blog.  I just happen to be a really good cook (thanks to my grandma) so I've been cooking for my family for a long time and I also love to try different foods (in keeping with my mission to find delicious recipes you can make in half an hour tops).

So I wanted to share some of the Balkan favourites with the world, as well as some recipes from all over the world that I tried and liked. But basically, for me, cooking is so torturous that when I had my 40th birthday recently, and no female relative nearby to make me a proper Austrian-style birthday cake, I agonised over it, made folders with my childhood favourites (Boem kocke, Charlotte Royale) and ended up buying Black Forest Cake from Waitrose in the end. It was a total fail, and I was really disappointed in myself. But the truth is, as much as I love cakes I dread making them, it feels like time I'll never get back and if I eat more than one piece, I'll feel guilty (and those cakes are BIG), so in the end I managed to talk myself out of it.

So I don't bother with the proper photos on this blog, and upload recipes with just snapshots taken with an iPhone. These days I spend all my spare time writing novels, I rarely take photos in general and least of all food photos. In that spirit, I decided to let it go and freed some brain space to share recipes without the dread of the photo session. Even though the photographer in me cringes, I need to be confident enough as a person to resist feeling bad if I don't pursue perfection in every aspect.

Anyway, gužvara. Here it is.

I tried looking for videos on youtube to show you how to make it, but I couldn't find anything that looked just right, so I hope you can make do with these instructions. If not, I'll be making this again, and next time I can snap up photos of the process, to illustrate what I mean.


2 packets filo pastry (Sainsbury's own brand is good)
5 eggs
2 small containers (400g) Half fat Creme Fraiche (or sour cream)
300-400ml sparkling mineral water
300g feta cheese
good glug of olive oil (about 100-200ml)
a bit of salt (1/2 tsp approx)


Using a lasagna type baking tray, oil the bottom with olive oil. Preheat the oven to 200 C.

Beat 4 eggs with a fork. Crumble feta (all of it) into the eggs, then add one and a half containers of creme fraiche and olive oil and mix well with a fork. Season to taste. Add two-thirds of the sparkling mineral water. You are looking for a reasonably thin consistency and lumps of feta in it.

Unwrap your filo (one at a time) Separate two sheets, and without much overlap, dip them flat into the mixture. Fold over and dip the other side, scooping a bit of feta with it, gently scrunching the sheets into a loose 'rose' or a 'ball' that loosely fits into the palm of your hand.  Don't press them hard, the idea is to soak it just right, so that the loose 'rose' isn't pouring with liquid but it's moist and there's enough filling to soften it.

Scrunching up is 'gužvanje' in Serbian, hence 'gužvara' or 'pita gužvara'.

Place the 'rose' of gužvara into a corner of lasagna pan and repeat the process, arranging the subsequent ones in rows, again don't press it too tightly, only about 3-4 'roses' per row, and 4-6 rows, depending on the size of your pan (mine had 4 x 6 'roses' because it's a big lasagna pan).

About two-thirds of the way through, you'll run out of most of the liquid, but you'll still have feta left on the bottom. Now beat another egg into the mixture, and add the remaining creme fraiche and mineral water. Continue with the process until you use up all the ingredients. If you have a little bit of mixture left over, pour it over the gužvara. Check the individual 'roses' that they don't have lots of dry bits inside. If you do, swirl it around and get it properly soaked. You need all the pastry to be moist and soft, but not to be swimming in liquid. As you do it a few times, you'll get a feeling for how much liquid your pastry needs, the recipe is entirely flexible and if you increase of decrease or change proportions of most ingredients (within reason) you should end up with a delicious pie.

The scrunched up pastry in the pan will start absorbing the filling. Leave gužvara to rest for about 30 minutes to one hour, until the pastry is soft and bubbled up.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 45-60 minutes, depending on the oven. I baked mine in a fan assisted one, 190 C for almost an hour (lower down in the oven), until it's all risen up and golden.

Let it rest for about 20 minutes, cut into squares and serve immediately. Gužvara is also delicious cold or next day, with cold meats, just salad, sausages or anything really (especially Ajvar!). Yum!


roasted pepper gibanica


2 packets filo pastry (about 500 g)
4 eggs
200 ml yoghurt (Greek 2% is goo)
200 ml creme fraiche
10 g baking powder
100 ml oil
6-8 roasted peppers (skin and seeds removed and sliced)
500g feta cheese


Roast the peppers whole on the grill, until there are black patches all over and skin is wrinkled. You are watching for skin and flesh separation, so keep turning, one batch can take up to 15 minutes. 

Once peppers are done, place in a saucepan, cover with a lid and set aside. Roast the remaining peppers until all are done. Once peppers are cool enough to handle, peel the skin, remove the seeds and the stalks and arrange in a glass dish. Once all the peppers are peeled, put a tiny dash of olive oil and mix with your hands. Slice all the peppers into strips.

Crumble the feta cheese and mix loosely with peppers.

Make a wet mixture by first beating the eggs and than adding the other wet ingredients (yoghurt, creme fraiche and oil) and baking powder. Stir until it’s well combined.

Using a rectangular lasagna dish, first sprinkle some mixture on the bottom, and then cover with a pastry sheet. 

Coat thinly each sheet of pastry with 3-4 spoonfuls of the wet mix, and depending on how many sheets you have, on every 3rd or 4th sheet, put only the pepper and feta mix. 

NOTE: Filo pastry varies widely in quality, size thickness and moisture content. Typically shop-bought filo in the UK is very wet, but if you happen to have high quality dry sheets, feel free to increase the amount of yoghurt to 300 ml and oil to 200. Likewise, if your pastry is heavy with moisture and doesn't have that many sheets, you don't have to use all the liquid.

When you are layering the filo, likelihood is, they will be larger than the dish. Just fold the edges on one side, cover with yoghurt mixture, and fold the next one on the opposite side.

Spread more thickly on the edges, so that the middle doesn’t end up too wet. 

Keep layering 2-3 pastry sheets with yogurt and egg mix, followed by one sheet with feta and peppers, until all the peppers and feta are used up. Make sure you have 2 sheets of pastry on top.

Using a sharp and pointy knife, cut the uncooked gibanica into squares (as big or as small as you like) and pour the remaining mixture all over. Allow to rest for half an hour.

Bake in 180 C oven for 45 - 60 minutes, until the gibanica is well risen and cooked all the way through. Let it cool for 15-20 minutes, cut and serve.

Gibanica is very tasty cold or room temperature, and can sit in the fridge for up to 3 days. Bon appetite!


carrot cake


2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
1 1/4 cup oil
3 cups carrots, grated
3/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
drop of vanilla essence

cheese frosting
8 oz cream cheese
4 oz butter
2 cups powdered sugar


Preheat the oven to 180 C. 

Sift the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

Place the oil and sugars into a bowl and beat for a couple of minutes. Add eggs, one by one, and vanilla, and beat until well incorporated. 

Add the dry ingredients, half a cup at the time, and mix on slow speed. Don’t overmix it.

Fold in the walnuts and carrots using a wooden spoon.

Bake in a oiled and floured bundt cake mold for 40 min - 1 hr, until done (check with a toothpick, when no batter sticks to it, it’s cooked through.

Leave in the mold for 15 minutes, then invert onto the plate.

To make cheese frosting, beat cheese and butter until smooth and fluffy. Add the sugar slowly, beating on low speed, until the frosting is smooth and silky. Decorate the cake once it cools down completely. Bon appetit!


Vegetarian Chilli

1 smaller butternut squash
2-3 large carrots (purple carrots if you have)
4 medium onions
2 garlic cloves
1 stick of celery + leaves
5-6 smaller mixed peppers (thin walled pointy ones, if using bell peppers 2 will probably do)
1 can black beans
400 ml passata
1 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp ground coriander
1/3 tsp cinnamon
sprinkle cayenne
salt and ground black pepper
1 square dark chocolate with chilli
squeeze of 1/4 lime
handful fresh coriander

serve with:
shredded cheddar 
shredded lettuce
sour cream

Finely chop the onion, garlic and celery in a food processor. Sauté in 2 tbsp olive oil until translucent. 

Add carrots and peppers, sauté for a couple of minutes.

Add the spices, squash and beans. Stir until aromatic. 

Add passata and water to cover. Season with salt and pepper.
Simmer on low heat for about 35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until the sauce is reduces and all the vegetables soft. don’t overcook the squash. It needs to be fork-tender but still in one piece.

Stir in the chocolate, melt, then add lime and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Stir in chopped coriander right before serving.

Serve with rice or tacos/tortillas and all the trimmings!


peanut butter shortbread

This year I got the best Christmas present ever - a move to the seaside! I am blissfully happy in our new house with a huge garden full of apple and cherry trees, that reminds me of my grandpa's village in South Serbia. So quaint and peaceful, you can smell the ocean which is less then a mile away.

It's amazing what you can achieve once you know what it is you need and want, and after ten years of being stuck in a place that was doing us no favours, we finally focused and the results followed incredibly quickly. I owe this knowledge to Eileen, a wonderful teacher and a mentor, whom I met in April this year.

I'm so sore all over from moving and packing and unpacking that I briefly contemplated getting a takeaway on Christmas, but decided to make an effort and put together some holiday food. Nothing much, but over the next few days I'll post a few quick and easy party recipes, starting with an incredibly tasty cookie recipe courtesy of Rachel Allen.


300 g flour
200 g crunchy peanut butter
200 g light muscovado sugar
150 g butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

You can put all the ingredients into a food processor if you have it, and blitz until it all comes together. Alternatively, beat the butter and sugar with electric mixer until creamy. Add vanilla and peanut butter and mix some more. Sift the flour and add it gradually, mixing only until the ingredients are combined into a ball.

This dough is a bit crumbly, so roll it out to about 5 mm thickness, between two sheets of cling film. I used snowflake cookie cutters, but use any you want, or simply bake and cut into squared later.

Place cut out cookies onto a parchment paper, pierce with a fork and bake at 180 C for 8 minutes.

As soon as out of the oven, sprinkle the cookies with some sugar. Once cool, transfer onto the wire rack and allow to harden.

Make sure dog doesn't eat them all!

(Sugar on the whiskas is a definite give away!)

Store in cookie tins, with baking sheet between the cookie layers in order to keep them fresh, and enjoy throughout the holidays. Bon appetite!


halloween magic

Some of my own Halloween-inspired art. I hope you enjoy and have an awesome night :)


'silver shadow'


'the communion'




haloumi lentils

Every week, I receive a box of organic fruit and veg from an awesome shop Abel & Cole. With the delivery, they always include a little pamphlet with some innovative, usually vegetarian and vegan, recipes you can make from your produce. Every single recipe I tried so far was nothing short of sensational, and this time I had to share.

The taste of this dish is indescribable. Sweet, salty, slightly acidic piece of heaven on a plate, it is so much more than a sum of its parts, you must try it. I think it would go brilliantly with any chicken, lamb or salmon, but we had it with a deconstructed guacamole (2 tomatoes, 2 avocados, 1 small red onion, salt, pepper, lemon juice and a dash of olive oil).

Haloumi Lentils

a few splashes olive oil
1 large onion finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
200 g green speckled or puy lentils
1 bay leaf
sea salt and black pepper
100 ml red wine (or water or stock)
300 ml stock (or water) plus more to add until lentils are fully cooked
1-2 tbsp mustard (I used 1 tbsp grainy Dijon mustard)
a good splash of balsamic
a bunch of chard (or any green leafy veg, I used spring greens)
150 g Halloumi
a handful of chopped parsley
1 lemon juice and zest

Add a splash of olive oil to lidded pot. Cook the onion, carrot and garlic till softened. Fold the lentils and bay leaf through. Season well. Let it sizzle for a moment. Pour in the wine. Allow it to bubble up for a bit. Pour in stock or water. Lower heat, cover and cook for 40 minutes or until tender.

Taste. Add some balsamic and a little mustard. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Finely chop the greens. Carve the leaves from the stem, stack the leaves, roll them up and slice thinly. Then chop the slivers a bit more.

Fold your greens through the lentils. Remove from heat and set aside.

Thinly slice halloumi, then cut into small cubes. Fry in a little olive oil until golden. Scatter over lentils. Finish with parsley, lemon juice and zest. Bon appetite!


sour cherry strudel

Sour cherries are my favourite fruit. Not necessarily for eating, but as addition to cakes, deserts, smoothies and the like. Also, sour cherry juice is a little piece of heaven, that contains so much melatonin, it'll help you fall asleep if you are having trouble in that department.

In Yugoslavia, where I am from, we used to have a cherry tree in our garden. A massive old tree whose branches would swell up with ripe fruit and droop so much, they would touch the ground. I used to pick them with my grandparents, then take all the pips out (end up with fuchsia hands for days) and freeze portions to use during winter.

Well, there are no sour cherries in the UK. It's been 10 years since I last tasted this delicious dessert, so you can imagine my joy when I found an online shop that stocks them in frozen form AND is willing to deliver! Already pitted and everything!! I was in heaven.

Two days later, this little delicacy was already on our table, and with no trouble at all, we ate it in a couple of days. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Almost :D


500 g filo pastry
1.2 kg sour cherries (pitted, washed and defrosted if frozen)
fine semolina (several large serving tablespoons)

topping (using 250 ml cup)
3 large eggs
1 cup canola oil
1 cup yoghurt
1 generous cup sugar
10 g baking powder
splash of vanilla essence

First, make the topping by mixing eggs with sugar and then adding all the other ingredients.

Using 4 sheets of thin filo pastry per strudel, spread first three sheets with a few spoonfuls of the mixture, placing one on top of another, and top the fourth sheet with cherries and a serving tablespoon full of fine semolina, sprinkled on top of the fruit. Roll into a strudel and tuck the edges in so the fruit doesn't fall out. Place in the lightly oiled baking tray and repeat the process until you have five strudels, and quite a bit of mixture left.

Pout the remaining mixture over the cake, make sure it goes to all the crevices and in between, and leave to soak for half an hour.

Bake the strudel at 180 C for 35 minutes, or until golden.

Serve plain or sprinkled with icing sugar. Bon appetit!