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Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Cuisine of Bulgaria

Bulgaria represents the cuisine of Southeastern Europe. It has been influenced by Turkish, Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine and to a lesser extent by the cuisines of Armenia, Italy, Hungary and the Mediterranean. The cuisine of Bulgaria is particularly diverse.Bulgarian cuisine uses plenty of vegetables which are eaten raw, roasted or stewed with meat in terra-cotta pots. They use a lot of garlic, onions, oil and spices. Influenced by their neighbors Turkey and Greece Bulgarians also make dishes such as sarmi (stuffed vine leaves), moussaka and baklava. Meals usually start with a salad and rakia (Bulgarian spirit/schnapps usually made from grapes).

Traditional Bulgarian dishes:

A typical appetizer is Tursu which refers to pickled vegetables in the cuisine of many Balkan and Middle East countries. "Torshi" originally comes from the Persian word "Torsh", which means "sour". It is a traditional appetizer, meze for rakı, ouzo, tsipouro and rakia.

There are different types of tursu; in Bulgarian cuisine the most popular are "Tsarska turshiya" (King's pickles) and "Selska turshiya" (country pickles).

Soups such as Tarator a cold soup especially in the summertime. It is made of yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, walnuts, dill, vegetable oil, and water. Shekembe Corba a kind of tripe soup. Shkembe chorba is bound with milk and usually served with garlic, vinegar, and chili peppers as seasoning. Different versions of the soup are quite common in the eating places all over the Balkans. Bob Chorba is a national Bulgarian dish. The name translates to "bean soup". It is a soup made from dry beans, onions, tomatoes, chubritza or djodjen (spearmint) and carrots. Local variations may also exclude the carrots or include paprika, potatoes or even some kind of meat.

Among salads there is Shopska salad made from tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, raw or roasted peppers (preferably roasted), and sirene (white brine cheese). The vegetables are usually diced and salted, followed by a light dressing of sunflower oil or olive oil, which are occasionally complemented by vinegar. Shopska salad derives its name from the regional group called Shopi living around the Bulgarian capital Sofia. The Shopi are credited with developing the original recipe. Kyopulo made of roasted eggplants, peppers, loads of garlic and parsley. Lyutika is a traditional vegetable mixture — salad or chunky relish, popular in the northern part of Bulgaria. It is consumed in the summer. Basic lyutika is made from (roasted) peppers, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and vegetable oil usually by crushing them to little chunks with a pestle in a mortar. Often chopped parsley is added. Lyutika is served cold. The name comes from the pungent taste (lyut — hot, pungent).

There are varieties of lyutika with yoghurt, sirene (white cheese), hardboiled eggs, or chunks of cooked chicken breasts. Lyutenitsa is a national relish of Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia and Serbia.The ingredients include: tomatoes ,bell peppers, onion, garlic, black pepper, vegetable oil, sugar, salt .

Some main dishes are Moussaka which is a traditional eggplant (aubergine)-based dish in the Balkans and the Middle East, but most closely associated with Greece and Turkey. The Macedonian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Bosnian, Montenegrin and Romanian versions are also made with potatoes. the standard (3-layer) Greek recipe, the bottom layer consists of eggplant slices sautéed in olive oil; the middle layer is ground lamb precooked with onion, garlic, chopped tomatoes, herbs (bay leaf, oregano, thyme), and spices (cinnamon, allspice and black pepper); and the top layer is a cheese-flavored béchamel sauce, or egg custard (probably introduced by Tselementes in the 1920s). The three layers are laid in a lightly buttered or oiled pan and baked until the top béchamel layer turns golden brown. No more baking is required as the bottom two layers are already almost cooked beforehand. The butter in the béchamel can be omitted, used sparingly, or substituted by cream. In the rest of the Balkans, the top layer is often custard. Grated cheese or bread crumbs are often sprinkled on top.

Gyuvetch which is a casserole made of beef, onions, red peppers, carrots, okra, eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes and hot peppers. Sarma which is minced meat (usually beef, pork, veal, or a combination thereof, but also lamb, goat, sausage and various bird meat such as duck and goose), rice, onions, and various spices, including salt, pepper and various local herbs are mixed together and then rolled into large plant leaves, which may be cabbage (fresh or pickled), chard, patience, vine leaf (fresh or pickled) or broadleaf plantain leaves. The combination is then boiled for several hours. While specific recipes vary across the region, it is uniformly recognized that the best cooking method is slow boiling in large clay pots. Dorb Sarma a baked dish made of chopped lamb or calves liver, green onions and rice spread with a custard called kalifka made of eggs and yogurt. Kebabche minced meat with seasonings formed into rolls and grilled. Banitsa thin sheets of dough spread alternately with a mixture of eggs and white brine cheese (sometimes leeks and spinach) and butter. Kapama a stew prepared in an earthenware dish containing meat, game, chicken and pickled cabbage. And finally there’s Mish-Mash an omelet made with tomatoes, peppers, onion and goats cheese.

Such wines are made here as Mavrud which is a unique red wine common only to the region of Thrace in Bulgaria. It is a crystal clear wine with the typical ruby color of the sort, brisk and with beautiful sparkle. The aroma is clear and enduring. The taste combines that of grapes with a nuance of forest fruits.

Legend says that during the reign of Khan Krum of Bulgaria all vineyards were ordered destroyed. Later, a lion escaped from its cage and terrorized the city. However, a fearless young man named Mavrud (now the name of a wine grape) confronted and slew the beast. The king summoned Mavrud's mother to learn the source of such courage. She said she had secretly saved a vine, made wine, and that this was the source of Mavrud's bravery. Khan Krum ordered the vineyards replanted. Pamid an old red wine variety, which has been cultivated in Bulgaria since the times of the ancient Thracians. In the past, it was the most widely spread Bulgarian variety, but today its plantations are highly limited.

There is a liquor called Mastika which is originally a liquor made from the resin of the mastic tree. This tree grows primarily on the Greek island of Chios in the Aegean Sea. In Bulgaria, it is often combined with Menta, a mint liqueur, to make a traditional cocktail called cloud.

The Zagorka brewery was founded in 1902 and is based in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria. In the mid-1990s Zagorka became a fully-owned subsidiary of Heineken. The brewery brews various Heineken brands for distribution within Bulgaria, and four exclusive brands: Zagorka Special (Bulgarian: Загорка), and Zagorka Gold, 5% abv pale lagers named after the brewery's home city of Stara Zagora; Ariana, a 4.5% pale lager; and Stolichno, a 6.5% abv strong lager or bock. Bolyarka is a Bulgarian beer produced in the city of Veliko Tarnovo. The name is the (feminine) diminutive of the noble title bolyar(in), reminiscent of the time that Turnovo was capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1396). Kamenitza is one of the top-selling Bulgarian beer companies, based in the city of Plovdiv. Established in 1881 and as of 2006 owned by InBev, the brewery has a wide variety of lager and dark beers. Kamenitza had an 18% share of the Bulgarian beer market in 2005 according to data from ACNielsen. The company is a sponsor of the Bulgaria national football team.

• 900g beef, cut in 4-5cm (2 in.) cubes
• 2 onions, cut in half, then in 5mm (1/4 in.) slices
• 12 sweet red peppers (small), cut in 5mm (1/4 in.) thick rings
• 2 carrots, cut in half or quarter lengthwise, then in 5mm (1/4 in.) slices
• 2 packs okra
• 3 eggplants, cut in 2 cm (1 in.) round slices
• a few tomatoes cut each in 3
• 1kg (2 lbs.) potatoes, peeled, quartered and cut in 7mm (1/3 in.) thick slices
• 2 hot green peppers
• Salad oil
• 1 bunch parsley
• Salt to taste
1. Fry beef with salad oil until lightly browned, pour water to cover the meat and cook until soft. Add soy sauce to taste.
2. Sprinkle eggplants with salt and leave for a while to remove harshness. Quarter each slice after wiping off moisture.
3. Saute in a pan carrots, eggplants, potatoes and okra with salad oil. Add tomatoes with liquid. Mix in onions, adding small amount of water and cook until vegetables become barely tender. Add red pepper and turn off the heat.
4. Mix the meat with pan juice and vegetables and put in an earthenware pot (casserole). Top with hot green peppers, cover and bake in 200°C oven for about 20 minutes.
5. Sprinkle with finely chopped parsley and serve.
Mish-Mash - omelette by any other name! (Bulgarian Recipes)
Ingredients for 3-4

3 medium tomatoes,
3 red peppers,
1 onion, 2-3 tbs. of vegetable oil,
200 gr. of goats cheese,
3 eggs,
chopped parsley,
salt and pepper to season

How to cook:
Cut the ingredients into small pieces. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onions, then the peppers and the tomatoes and cook for about 3-5 minutes. Add the cheese and eggs and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve. Delicious with toast. By Rasma Raisters

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