Between Bosnia and Serbia lies the “Black Mountain,” a country that is known for the red soil along its coast, its Mediterranean climate, and of course, its comforting cuisine, per BBC and Britannica. At first glance, the food is tough to categorize. A seemingly random hodgepodge of cheese, yogurt, fish, and pies are all staples across the land, accentuated by a glass or two of grape brandy — but that’s what makes the cuisine special. It’s not pretentious, nor is it striving to be something it’s not. Instead, the country utilizes a variety of simple and humble ingredients that are marked by the wind, sea, and mountainous regions — and that country is Montenegro.
As Montenegro Travel explains, the country is full of family farms, organic foods, and traditional cooking techniques. Perusing one of many Montenegrin food markets is like a parade for the senses, and you’ll recognize the honor and pride within ingredients that we often take for granted, such as olive oil and cheese. That’s not to say that such ingredients don’t combine into home-style dishes, though. When visiting, you’re likely to find kačamak (a rich porridge, per Balkan Kitchen), raštan (a dish of collard greens that pairs well with meat), and pašticada (a hearty beef stew including wine, pancetta, tomatoes, and more).
Such dishes provide a hug of comfort in the belly and soul. That’s especially true for the country’s braised lamb dish, which involves a sac, coals, and some milk, via Trafalgar.
Brav u Mlijeku, also known as lamb in milk, can be found in the northern parts of Montenegro. According to Trafalgar, lamb is combined with root vegetables, spices, herbs, and milk, and then braised in a sac. A sac kind of looks like a paella pan, though Turkish Style Cooking describes it as a “thin sheet metal pan.” The thinness of the pan allows for outside heat to be quickly distributed throughout the food, so dishes like lamb in milk can braise in no time at all. Coals are typically used, but as Balkan Recipes notes, you can also use a Dutch oven on the stove.
Aesthetically, lamb in milk looks like pot roast, but with a snowy white, milky broth. Carrots and potatoes typically accompany the lamb, and the milk broth is lightly flavored with salt, pepper, parsley, garlic, fennel seeds, and rosemary. If you really want to pay homage to Montenegro, soak up some of the broth with bread or cleanse your palate with a side of sopska salad, per International Cuisine. Of course, the lamb itself has a melt-in-your-mouth quality that gives other meat stews a run for their money.
But what makes Brav u Mlijeku special? Is it the lamb, milk, spices, sac, or cooking method? It’s certainly all of the above, but overall, it provides the same hug of comfort that Montenegrin cuisine is best known for.