When I was a student at Harvard in the early 2000s, I would roam the streets of Watertown, the first district I lived in and later the Harvard square area searching for comfort food that reminded me of Saturday mornings at the home of my parents. My mother Mila, a trained chef, used to make wonderful dishes for my brothers and sisters and me, often on the fly. My favorite was cornmeal with milk (known as ‘pura sa mljekom’) and my second favorite was ‘Proja.’ Now for the expat me living in the US, the closest ethnic area to offer a similar staple was the heart of downtown Watertown which was heavily influenced by the shops and vendors of Massachusetts Armenians, descendants of those who had fled the Genocide in 1915. Here one could find all the items that reminded me of home – dried figs, pomegranates, flatbread, the list goes on and on. One time while perusing the aisles, I thought I had stumbled across Proja only to realize it was something else.
Real Proja, made the Montenegrin way, is actually a very simple recipe to undertake and you don’t have to be a trained chef to do it. Hundreds of years ago it was considered the poor mans food (not fair!) and was eaten only when there was no meat to be had or really anything else. Recently, it has undergone a bit of a resurrection and can sometimes even be found as a starter in some of the more prestigious restaurants popping up along the coast.
I’ve decided to de-mystify the art of Proja by offering a simple and easy to follow the recipe. Take a look:
• 3 coffee cups of wheat flour (plain flour)
• 3 coffee cups of corn flour
• ½ teaspoon of salt
• Baking powder (2 teaspoons)
• 3 eggs
• 3 cups of yogurt
• 250g cheese
• 200-250 grams spinach (boiled first). NOTE: the spinach is optional!
Mix everything with a wooden spoon: add 3 eggs, 3 cups of oil and 3 cups of yogurt. Mix all the ingredients well and 250 grams of grated cheese (Kajmak will do fine). Bake at 200 degrees for ½ hour. Let cool for 15 minutes and serve fresh and with a side serving of kajmak.