Nautlija bread

Bread and baked goods - North Macedonia

Nautlija is specific bread which has an overall oval shape, usually with a size of 20-25 cm by 10 cm, whose name comes from the ingredient of chickpeas, which are used in their raw form. Large seed chickpeas (like the macrocarpa variety) are more suitable for the preparation of nautlija, because the seed is considerably softer. This plant belongs to the family of legumes, high in protein and with an important place in the local diet. Locally, both large and small variety chickpeas were cultivated in large areas over 20 years ago, and supplied the domestic market. But today they are grown over much smaller areas, mainly for home consumption and local markets. Many households use their own seed production, which preserves the authenticity of the seed material. These large and small chickpea seeds are grown in a geographically isolated region in Negotino and surrounding villages. The nautlija bread is prepared by combining 500 g of wheat flour with 150 g of chickpeas, salt, warm water, and yeast. Chickpeas are broken and placed in a wooden bowl with hot water to infuse overnight. This container is placed in another large bowl and covered with flour. The next day, flour, salt and yeast is added and mix with tepid water. This mixture is allowed to rest and then baked in a preheated oven. In the past the bread was regularly sold through markets from metal pans. According to the stories of older people, vendors returned several times a day carrying fresh nautlija, recognizable from a distance from its fragrance. Negotino nautlija was widely known, and the first thing to try for visitors and newcomers to the area looking for traditional food. Today, nautlija is regularly prepared for certain holidays, such as August 28 for the Christian celebration of the Assumption of Mary. These days, the bread is not found in stores or even from bakers at local markets. Nautlija is prepared just at home and is intended for the consumption of family members. Even the number of households where women know how to prepare the product is reduced, although over the past five to seven years nautlija has been popularized again, with its unique flavor and aroma winning over consumers of different ages.