Proja Recipe- Traditional Balkan Cornbread in 90 Minutes

If you love cornbread and this is one of your favorite snacks, keep reading and you might discover a new, improved version of cornbread through our proja recipe. Once themed a poor man’s dish, Proja’s popularity quickly rose in the Balkans and today, it’s one of the most popular Slavic snacks (as we previously mentioned in our guide to Slavic food).

But before we head to the recipe, let’s cover some basics…

What is Proja?

proja

Proja is a traditional flatbread that consists of cornmeal, wheat flour, eggs, and sparkling water that aerates the filling. It’s usually filled with cheese, but experimental versions that feature vegetables (most commonly spinach) or even ham are not unusual. Proja can be eaten as a snack or it can serve as a tastier alternative to bread and go along with practically anything as a side dish.

The traditional proja recipe features cooking the bread in a large rectangular mold and cutting it into tiny squares. The dish is served hot with some kefir or yogurt. Proja’s texture is quite dense but as rich and as soft as a cake (except it’s not sweet). All these characteristics make proja perfect winter comfort food.

Origins

This simple cornflour bread reflects the life of poor peasants of the country formerly known as Yugoslavia in the 20th century. In the aftermath of the war, the country was experiencing a slow and painful recovery accompanied by extreme levels of poverty and a lack of basic supplies. In times like these, proja became king and one of the most important staples in the region. It was cheap, easy to make, and the ingredients needed for it were available to everyone.

Over time, it gained a lot of popularity and today, the traditional proja recipe is still popular in a lot of Slavic countries and in all former Yugoslavian countries, especially, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia. In some villages in these countries, proja is even more popular than white bread.

Varieties

proja varieties

While traveling the Balkans and Eastern Europe, you’ll discover several different varieties of proja. Proja comes in different shapes and sizes from circle muffins to triangular slices and even the ingredients and final appearance vary according to the destination but they all have one thing in common; the main ingredient is corn flour. That’s why in different parts of the former Yugoslavia, you can find proja with cottage cheese, vegetables, or even minced meat/ham.

A popular proja variety in Bulgaria is kachamak (polenta)- something that, at a glimpse, looks different but it’s actually the same. This is a mix of proja and Italian polenta and is usually served in the form of porridge with some cottage cheese. The taste is almost the same.

They even have something similar in Romania. Known as mamaliga, this cornflour recipe looks a lot like kachamak topped with cheese but its texture is closer to the traditional proja. The taste is rather similar to its two above-mentioned “cousins”.

Serving Tips

Proja is served either on its own and eaten as a snack or an appetizer or as a side dish and/or white bread substitute. It’s an ideal companion for ajvar, sarma, saucy dishes, and chorba (a local soup popular in Turkey and the Balkans). Proja is always served hot and when served on its own (most commonly for breakfast), it goes very well with the Balkan version of yogurt or kefir. Some versions of proja may even contain yogurt or crème in its preparation and this may be of interest for you if you’re a vegan but don’t worry; our proja recipe is 100% vegan.

Yield: 30 Pieces

Proja Recipe

proja recipe

If you love cornbread and this is one of your favorite snacks, keep reading and you might discover a new, improved version of cornbread through our proja recipe.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/2 All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 Cups Corn Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Corn Grits
  • 1 and 1/2 Cup Cottage Cheese
  • 2 Eggs (Beaten)
  • 1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 and 1/2 Cups Sparkling Water
  • Sessame Seeds (Optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 C (480 F)
  2. Mix all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  3. Start kneading. The dough shouldn't be very dense (more like semi-liquid) and should be lump-free.
  4. Add some butter or margarine to the rectangular baking pan.
  5. Pour the mixture in the pan.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes and then decrease the temperature to 150 C (300 F).
  7. Bake at this temperature for another 10 minutes.
  8. After the period of 30 minutes passes, it's time for a test. Poke the proja with a toothpick. If it's dry, the proja is done. If not, bake for a few minutes.
  9. Take out the proja and cut it into squares.
  10. Sprinkle some sesame seeds (optional), serve with some yogurt, and enjoy!

Nutrition Information:

Serving Size:

100 g

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 171Total Fat: 6.5gSaturated Fat: 0.8gTrans Fat: 0.1gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 49mgSodium: 19mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 10.5g

Additional Information & Helpful Tips

Try to stop yourself from opening the oven while the proja is baking.

If you like a lot of crust, use a bigger pan; it will make your proja thinner and tastier.

Use a pizza knife to cut the proja into cubes.

Things You’ll Need For This Recipe

Finally, as we mentioned earlier, this proja recipe can be experimented with according to your preferences. You can make it with different kinds of vegetables, like leeks, carrots, cabbage, and spinach but the list doesn’t end there. I’ve even seen people eating proja with bacon too, so by all means, don’t hesitate to get creative but I strongly suggest you try the traditional proja recipe at least once.

How did you like our proja recipe? Would you like to try proja? Let us know in the comments and if our recipe was helpful, don’t forget to leave us a rating!

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