When you see the list of ingredients needed, you'll think Pastrmajlija is nothing special or new. And you may be right, but only to a certain degree! Ingredients are very common, indeed, but it's the way of preparation that makes this dish so delectable and exceptional.
Essentially, it's a wheat flatbread topped with meat, usually pork. Because of this topped-flatbread-style, pastrmajlija is very commonly called "Macedonian pizza", especially by foreigners who find the original name hard to pronounce. :) It is always baked in a wood-fired black oven which gives it the specific and irresistible flavor and aroma. Of course, it can be baked in "regular" modern oven, but the flavor will be significantly different (but still very good, though!). It has a specific oval shape and comes in several sizes, starting from "small" (a very generous single serving), than "big" (which is quite enough for 2-3 people) and ending with "welded" (in Sveti Nikole dialect shvaycovana, which can feed pretty much 6). The last one is available in some restaurants only, and it's a real attraction because of its size. I witnessed once a funny situation in a restaurant when some guests sitting on a table for two ordered a welded pastrmajlija, and the waiter said: "I am afraid you will have to move to a bigger table..."
Pastrmajlija (pronounced pas-tır-MAY-lee-ya) is typically a winter dish. In fact, there is an interesting rule of thumb saying that you can eat pastrmajlija as far as there is an "R" in the name of the month. Luckily, this rule applies with the names in English as well! :)
This dish is widely popular both in Macedonian homes and restaurants that serve typical Macedonian food. It is, however, far more widespread in the Eastern part of the country. Almost every town in this part has its own version of the recipe, claiming it's the best and the original. As a matter of fact, there is a real "war" between those towns when it comes to this delicacy, with the neighbouring Sveti Nikole, Shtip and Veles fighting over the first place. Shtip even has its annual Pastrmajlija Festival held in September, which is widely covered by the media. But if you ask me which one is the best, I will say right away - those from Sveti Nikole! And why? Because they're rich, flavorful, succulent, complete and coming from my hometown. Others just have better marketing. Period! :)
I decided to share the recipe with you today because today is one of my hometown's holidays - St. Theodore's Day. An international festival of traditional folk music and a big fair are only a part of the celebration of this holiday, and one more reason to visit Sveti Nikole and taste delicious pastrmajlija!
This is what you'll need to make 1 small (single-serving) pastrmajlija:
for the dough:
for the topping:
- If using fresh yeast, dissolve it into 100 ml of lukewarm water and let it activate.
- If using dry yeast, simply combine all the ingredient listed and make a medium soft dough by adding some 100-150 ml of lukewarm water.
3. Now, the shape. Form the dough into a long cylinder as shown in the photo below left (I made 2 pastrmajlijas, so I have 2 cylinders). Then, place it into the baking pan you're going to use and gently press the cylinder, pushing the dough from the center to the outer edges in order to get an oval-shaped crust with lifted edges, as on the photo below right. The bottom of the crust should be approx. 3-4 mm thick.
6. Take them out from the oven and turn the oven off. Sprinkle crushed brined cheese over the meat. Then, pour lightly beaten egg on the top and put it back into the oven for a minute or two, until egg is done.
7. Take pastrmajlija out and brush the edges with some lard. This will make them soft and shiny.
Pickled cucumbers and pickled hot baby peppers are the most common condiment with pastrmajlija, but you can choose some other to your taste.