Iftari: With Bosnia On My Mind

Yesterday marked the 18 year anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre that took place during the Bosnian war. Hundreds and thousands of Bosnian men, women and children were in killed in a targeted campaign by the Serbs who had previously been their neighbours, friends and perhaps even family.

What stands out in the massacre is the way that the Serbs targeted the muslim population, they separated men and women. They separated military age men from old men and boys. They raped and sexually tortured women and young girls as a weapon of war. All the while the world watched. The UN observers were observed just watching as atrocities took place. Perhaps this testimony of Zumra Šehomerovic: says it all:

“The Serbs began at a certain point to take girls and young women out of the group of refugees. They were raped. The rapes often took place under the eyes of others and sometimes even under the eyes of the children of the mother. A Dutch soldier stood by and he simply looked around with a walkman on his head. He did not react at all to what was happening. It did not happen just before my eyes, for I saw that personally, but also before the eyes of us all. The Dutch soldiers walked around everywhere. It is impossible that they did not see it.

There was a woman with a small baby a few months old. A Chetnik told the mother that the child must stop crying. When the child did not stop crying, he snatched the child away and cut its throat. Then he laughed. There was a Dutch soldier there who was watching. He did not react at all.”

It was a genocide.

What stood out in memory of the news was the way the news needed to make the Bosnians sound more European with phrases like “they eat a little pork”, “they like to have a drink” but what seemed apparent to me was that they were muslims.
May Allah (SWT) grant those who were killed jannah, may he grant those who were abused and tortured the strength to move forward with their lives and give them happiness and may he ease the pain of those left behind. Ameen.

Last night saw us eat a very simple main course which was very easy and effortless to make. This is inspired by the Bosnian side dish, or dip, called Ajvar. Popular throughout the region Ajvar is normally made in autumn when these vegetables are in abundance. Traditionally made from red peppers and aubergines which are roasted on an open fire. The cooking on an open fire helps to add a smokey taste to the final dish. Once cooked the peppers are skinned they are ground to a mush. Salt, pepper and oil are added to help preserve and concentrate the end product. Having neither Ajvar to hand I decided to do what I could.

Ajvar style Pasta

Red peppers – 2 parts
Courgettes – 1 part
Red onions – 1 part
Tomatoes – 2 parts
1 bulb of garlic
Olive oil to drizzle
Salt, Pepper, Chilli flakes
Feta cheese

Wash and chop all the vegetables into bite size pieces (peel the onions) and place them in a high sided baking tray. Peel and lightly crush the garlic and place into the baking tray. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a pinch of chilli flakes. Drizzle with olive oil until the vegetables are lightly coated. Place in 250 degree oven for about 20 – 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked and are very slightly smokey. Pour a quarter of the vegetables and some of the juices in to a food processor and blitz until you have a smooth paste. Add a little water into the processor if needed to help the processor. Remove from the processor and place into a pan large enough to hold both the vegetables and the pasta. Add the remaining vegetables and juices to the pan and processed vegetables. If the sauce seems a bit tight add a little water and heat up to bring the sauce together.
Cook the pasta according to the instructions. Drain and add to the vegetables. Crumble feta cheese into the pasta and serve.

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