The National Bulgarian Cuisine

The food most widely used in Bulgaria includes vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, onion, potatoes, carrots, eggplants, cucumbers, leeks), beans, lentils, yoghourt, white brined cheese, yellow cheese, meat (pork, veal and chicken), as well as bread, which is essential in the Bulgarians' eating habits. Rice is also frequently used. Fish is a less common food. The Bulgarian "eater" is fond of well-spiced and seasoned meals (flavoured with native Bulgarian aromatic plants - savory, parsley, dill, mint, paprika, hogweed, sweet basil, etc., as well as with imported spices - pepper, laurel-leaves, caraway seeds, cumin, allspice, clove, etc.).

Bulgarian dishes and drinks have their devotees even among the most refined gastronomes and tasters. Bulgarian yoghourt is an industry, and the Great Roasted Red Pepper - an attraction. Anyone who has tasted a Bulgarian apple already knows why Eve was tempted by this fruit.

Here are some recipes from all parts of the country. You are supposed to fulfill them strictly. Everything else is easy enough and pleasant, because Bulgarian cooking is the creation of people agrarian that had no time to linger round the fire and that knew the value of products. Each dish is related with a certain myth, belief or ritual.

HOW TO PREPARE YOGHOURT AND WHITE CHEESE

As known, the Bulgarian yoghourt is unique and familiar to customers all over the world. Moreover, the Bulgarian people produce also delicious white cheese, curds and other products of fresh milk. This time we are going to give you several recipes for preparing such products.

Although milk is a drink, it contains 12.5 per cent of solid substance and more than 100 components. In one litre of cow milk there are 35 g of proteins, 46 g of sugar, as well as almost all kinds of microelements and vitamins. Besides being wholesome, fresh milk is very easily assimilated by human organism. Various milk products are made of milk - yoghourt, white cheese, cheese, cream, curds, butter, etc. - and they are widely used in the national Bulgarian cooking practice.

YOGHOURT

The Bulgarian sour milk is an original national product. Outside Bulgaria it is known by the name of "yoghourt". It is supposed that the Bulgarian sour milk was connected with sheep-breeding, which can be traced back to Thracian times. Shepherds made a great variety of products using the large output of milk. It is believed that the greatest masters of yoghourt came from the Razgrad district. Yoghourt is obtained from full-cream milk after lacto-acidic fermentation at a temperature of 40-45o C. Depending on the type of milk used, the sour milk may be sheep, cow, buffalo, or mixed yoghourt. The greatest amount of fat is found in buffalo yoghourt - 7.5 per cent, followed by sheep yoghourt - 6.5 per cent and cow yoghourt - 3.6 per cent. Here follows a description of how you yourself can produce Bulgarian sour milk, fulfilling the recipe of the Razgrad masters:

Ingredients:

Directions:

Boil the milk and let it cool to 38-40o C (it should be a little warmer than your hand).

Pour 1/4 teacup full of it on the portion of sour milk required to start fermentation and mix well. Then add this mixture to the fresh milk. Stir well, cover the pot with a lid, wrap it with a woolen blanket and leave it in a warm premise. The temperature of 38-40o C should be maintained for three hours, while the sour milk fermentation develops.

The yoghourt thus obtained is kept in the refrigerator.

WHITE CHEESE

The white brined cheese is a concentrated milk food with varying taste and flavour, depending on its production technology. It has been home produced since ancient times. It is served as an appetizer, or as an ingredient of many dishes of the Bulgarian cuisine. Here follows a recipe for the preparation of brined sheep cheese, which is a basic diet of the Bulgarian people. It can be consumed separately or in combination with other products.

Ingredients:

Directions:

Filter the milk.

Warm it up to a temperature of 70o C for 10 minutes, not allowing it to boil and then cool it to 33-34o C. Add the rennet diluted by boiled and cooled water in a proportion of 1:10, stir the milk well and keep it at the same temperature for one hour and it will turn into cheese.

The cheese thus produced should be drained in a cheese-cloth /gauze/ for 2 hours in order to remove the whey.

The cheese obtained and drained should be placed in a strainer and pressed by weights for at least 6 hours.

Then you can cut it into lumps and put them in salty brine. It is made of 1 litre of water and 200 g of salt. The cheese should be steeped in the brine for not less than 24 hours, in order to become lightly salty in taste. Finally, arrange the cheese lumps in the utensils in which they will be preserved and pour preservation brine /120 g of salt per 1 litre of water/ on it.

The cheese will be ready for consumption after 60 days and during this time the temperature in the room should be about 10o C. Later you can store it in a refrigerator.

SHOPSKA SALAD (Mixed Vegetable Salad in the Shopp Style)

One of Shopps' great inventions is the Shopska Salad. In its ultimate form, it is pure white. As is also the Shopp costume. Shopska is like Shopps - pleasant and pungent. We may say that it is an ancient invention and one of fundamental importance for civilization, although it is not mentioned in any encyclopaedia. Certainly, it is as important as the invention of the wheel and the use of fire. Shopska is beautiful, tasty, juicy, piquant, and flavoured. It is like Nature - indescribable. Nothing but this Salad must have led to the disclosure of dry distillation, after becoming crystal clear that such a fine relish needs a good and strong drink. So, Shopska is the authentic relish for brandy. In turn, the grand Brandy drink (made of grapes, plums, damsons, apples, apricots, peaches, etc.) is the traditional Bulgarian aperitif.

Shopska is also an excellent dish for abstainers. It may be served as a single meal, as the first dish, together with the main dish, after meal, or just as a snack. You can offer it to your guests in a way of welcoming. You can serve it to say goodbye.

To make Shopska Salad you need white cheese. Shopska would not be itself without cheese, and you will not be able to realize what we are talking about.

Ingredients /4-5 portions/:

Directions:

Cut the onion in small pieces. Remove the stem and the seeds of the green peppers (raw or roasted and peeled). Cut them into stripes and then into smaller pieces. Chop the hot pepper. Cut the cucumber in four lengthways and slice the pieces. (You may leave it unpeeled if ecologically safe.) Mix everything, and add salt. Form a pile of the mixed products in a salad dish or in portion salad plates. Sprinkle it with the vegetable oil. Grate the cheese over the salad to form of a "snow cap". Garnish with the olives and the parsley, to please your own taste. You may also sprinkle with vinegar.

From grandma's notebook (-; Notebook doesn't mean laptop ;o)

The variety of the Bulgarian diet in the hot summer days is as large as in winter time. Preferred are, however, cold soups, vegetable meals and fruit desserts. Salads are also a popular Bulgarian meal. Once again here are some original Bulgarian dishes.

TARATOR (COLD SUMMERTIME SOUP)

Ingredients:

Directions:

Cut up the garlic and the walnut kernels finely. Peel and then grate the cucumbers. Beat up the yoghourt and add the other ingredients to it. Season it with salt and vegetable oil. Mix well and add cold water to this. Mince the dill and sprinkle it over the soup before serving.

STUFFED MUSHROOMS

Ingredients:

Directions:

Clean and wash the mushrooms. Cut off the stubs, chop them into small pieces and stew in the butter together with the minced onion. Add the crumbled bread and the smashed garlic. Flavour with salt and pepper to suit your taste. Stuff the mushrooms with this mixture. Arrange them in a buttered baking dish, pour in half a glass of water and bake in a hot oven. Serve garnished with mashed potatoes or boiled peas.

VEILED EGGS

To cook veiled eggs break them from a little distance into the boiling water, first adding to it vinegar and salt - 25-30 g of salt and 50-60 g of vinegar per litre of water.

Fill the pot with water (half-full). Add salt and vinegar. Boil the water and then break the eggs one at a time. Boil for 4 minutes, long enough to let them solidify. Take them out with a spoon and immerse them straight away, only for a moment, in cold water in order to keep them soft and stop the process of solidification. The yolks of the cooked veiled eggs should be soft and wrapped (shrouded) by the whites. Add garnishing. As usual, two eggs are prepared for one serving.

Ingredients:

Put the veiled eggs on a base of yoghourt and pour over them well-melted hot butter seasoned with a little bit of red pepper. Serve while warm.

KAVARMA KEBAP

INGREDIENTS:

Directions:

Chop the meat and fry it in the lard. Take it out of the fat and put it in a dish.

Stew the fine-cut leeks in the same fat. Add salt, the tomato paste, the pepper and the red pepper. Pour in 1/2 cupful of water, add the wine and put the meat back.

Stew on low fire until left in its own juice. Serve sprinkled with chopped onions, parsley and a small hot pepper. Boiled rice or fried potatoes are suitable garnishes.

It will maybe nice to inform you that the differences between the quality of the products may cause a different taste when compared to the unique Bulgarian meals, but do not give up because I am sure that you will touch the spirit of the Bulgarian cuisine. Enjoy your meal!


Li Gaonan