Feb 18, 2013

Making Muckalica in Montenegro

When people ask me how many countries I have visited I can not give a definitive answer.  When we were in Germany it was two countries.  We visited Yugoslavia in the 80s it was ‛behind the Iron Curtain’ and one country. Today Dubrovnik is part of Croatia and Belgrade is now the capital of  Serbia. I recall looking out the window while flying from Dubrovnik to Serbia and seeing a wide swatch of denuded forest filled with huge pock marks.  I was amazed to learn it was from bombs the Allies were unable to drop on the Ploesti Oil fields in Romania but they had to get rid of them in order to make it back to their home base.

Thankfully, peace has returned to the area.  Montenegro was once part of Yugoslavia and then Serbia but in 2006 it declared its independence from Serbia. Today tourism along the coast is developing rapidly with many high-rise hotels being built.  We stayed at one such hotel, the Queen of Montenegro Hotel.  We will never forget our first few moments at the hotel.  We walked out onto our balcony to see the beautiful view of the Adriatic. Click. The door to our room locked stranding us on the balcony for an hour. We tried to get the attention of people walking by many stories below.  Some just waved back and finally a staff member understood our problem and came to our rescue.

Budva’s iconic image is of Stari Grad, the old fortress city on the edge of the Adriatic that is like a mini-Dubrovnik. We loved wandering the narrow streets of the old city and were enchanted when we heard beautiful singing of what we assumed were traditional songs.  We followed the music to a side street where a group of ladies in traditional costumes had just finished eating and were practicing for an event they were going to sing for later that day.  It was a magical interlude.

We were in Budva during October and there were very few tourists. It was not the busy season so Chef Jovo Medin was willing to show us how to make muckalica, a local favorite. We have found that chefs are proud of their work and, when not busy, happy to offer a complimentary demonstration. So there was no cost involved on our part. The food of Montenegro has been influenced over the centuries by the Italians, Turks, and many other nationalities. Muckalica is a traditional recipe that shows the Serbian influence in Montenegro.  It is a great recipe that makes use of leftover meat.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
3 medium onions, diced
1 medium tomato, cubed
1 medium green pepper, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 crushed red pepper
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
1 1/2 pounds cooked meat cubed (veal, pork, or beef)
1 teaspoon chopped parsley

Heat oil in skillet. Add water, onions, tomatoes, green pepper, salt, paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, red pepper, and dry mustard. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Add cubed meat. Simmer for 15 minutes more, sprinkle with parsley, and serve with bread, rice, noodles or potatoes. NB: if uncooked meat is used then cook the meat in the skillet first, set aside, cook the vegetables, then add meat as indicated above.