All this foodie wants for Christmas is her Macedonian grandmother’s parcels of meat and rice wrapped in beetroot-tinted leaves
It is 6 January 2011. I’ve made it back to Skopje, capital of North Macedonia, from London just in time for Orthodox Christmas, beating the heavy snowfall and fog. There are seven of us on my grandmother’s balcony on the 10th floor of the brutalist apartment building. Eight, if you count a large barrel of sour cabbages (and a few beetroot for colour and flavour) wintering out here in the cold. I have been dreaming about the dish that will be prepared with these cabbages.
We are huddled on the balcony to light a branch of yule oak for Badnik, our Christmas Eve. The wind is bracing. The view of snow-covered Skopje and the surrounding mountains at dusk is breathtaking. Sparks fly as the dry leaves kindle, bringing us a moment of welcome warmth. We can now begin our Badnik feast, one without meat, dairy or eggs, as this is the last day of the Nativity fast.