There are oodles of mass produced options available in select delis, as lutenka, or lutenica as it is also referred to is popular across the Balkans, but nothing beats this homemade version.
Traditionally made with only red banana chillies, I had a heap of green ones lying around that I decided to put to good use and it tasted just as good. If you don’t have banana chillies, you can always use capsicums.
Makes 1.5 litres
2kg red/green banana chillies (also known as Hungarian or bullhorn chillies)
1-2 hot chillies (optional)
1.5kg ripe tomatoes
1/4 cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for storing
3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/8 cup (30ml) red wine vinegar
1/3 cup (70g) caster sugar
Sea salt to taste
Handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1) Wash, dry and grill chillies. Allow to stand covered for 20-30 minutes. When cool enough to handle peel, remove stems and seeds and thinly slice flesh, set aside. For detailed instructions see Grilled Chillies (Pecheni Piperki) recipe.
2) To blanch tomatoes bring a large pot of water to the boil. Wash tomatoes and cut an ‘X’ into the base no bigger than 2cm and no deeper than 3mm. Gently drop half the tomatoes using a slotted spoon into the boiling water. Cover with lid for 1-2 minutes. Carefully remove remove from boiling water and place on a tray to cool. Repeat with remaining tomatoes. When cool enough to handle remove skin and stems and place peeled tomatoes into large bowl. Using a potato masher squash the tomato pulp and then pass through a coarse sieve until only the seeds remain (this will take you 5-10 minutes).
Note: Passing through a sieve is optional, removing the seeds will give you a smoother and richer taste.
3) In a large pot heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and gently fry until lightly golden and fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add tomatoes and increase heat to high then reduce to a simmer for 15-20 minutes, stiring every so often. Add chillies, vinegar, sugar and salt to taste and increase heat to high. Stir and reduce heat to medium, simmer 25-30 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Taste the sauce and add more salt and/or sugar if required. Remove from heat and allow to stand for 30 minutes.
4) Meanwhile steralise 6 jars (250ml capacity). Wash the jars and lids in warm soapy water, then put them in a pan of simmering water for 10 minutes. Remove the jars (not lids) and place them upside-down in an oven preheated to 140°C and allow to dry for 10 minutes.
5) Add chopped parsley to lutenka and stir through. Spoon into clean, dry and warm jars, cover the surface with 1cm of olive oil (this will help to seal and preserve the lutenka). Clean around the rim of the jar, remove lids from water and dry with a towel then use to seal. Store lutenka for up to 6 months in a cool, dark spot.