Unusual Fact: Bulgarians shake their heads to mean yes and nod for no.
Before we get into Bulgaria, I have some news. Last Friday I was a feature in the ‘Life as Told By You’ section in the March edition of Girlfriend Magazine. This is on sale from February 20 till March 19th. I am on page 61. I was contacted by the magazine in December last year as they had heard of me through a friend of a friend. They wanted to know if I wanted to feature in their magazine. I said yes and a few days later I had a phone interview with their Editorial Coordinator and she asked me questions about the blog and my experiences with it. It was a really good experience and you can read all about it in the magazine.
Anyway, back to Bulgaria. This week was a little bit of a disaster. But first lets look at some pretty pictures of Bulgaria.
For Bulgaria we made three dishes. The first was a Bulgarian moussaka. This is different to a Greek moussaka in that it uses potato instead of eggplant. The meat sauce was just like a bolognese sauce only it has white wine in it, which adds a nice flavour. I would suggest to slice the potatoes about half a centimetre thick otherwise they are too thick and won’t cook all the way through in the oven. The topping is made of yoghurt and egg. This gives a sour flavour to the top. I didn’t really enjoy this flavour but I believe that it is a very eastern European flavour as one of the dishes from Albania was also meat cooked in a yoghurt and egg mix. All the flavours worked well together. I especially loved how the flavour of the oregano came through. The disaster factor of this dish was the fact that the mince that we used was a little past its best., Dad said it would be ok, which is was, (none of us got sick!), but perhaps the flavour was a bit off. We did throw it out the next day.This recipe was from this website called examiner.com.
Next we made a Banitsa. Banitsa is basically feta cheese wrapped in filo pastry. It can be either rolled snail style or layered in a dish. I decided on snail style because it looked cool and easier to layer. For the filling I did a mix of two recipes. The recipe written below is my variation of the two. These are the two recipes. Here and here. I really enjoyed this banitsa. The filling was really beautiful and salty while the outside was fantastically crunchy. The combination worked perfectly together. The disaster factor for this dish was I added a little milk(say 20mL) into the feta egg mix and stirred it in. I was waiting for the filo pastry to de-frost and I though that I might have a glass of milk. I took one sip and it was disgusting, so so off. I spat it out and rinsed my mouth out about three times. I smelt the bottle (bad mistake) them washed my mouth out some more. I felt so bad putting that milk into the mix. But it was only a little and as I said earlier none of us got sick so it was ok.
Finally for dessert we had sweet vermicelli noodles. These were quite nice. I halved the recipe below and still had enough for about 10 people. If you were serving four I would suggest quartering it. I loved the vanilla in the syrup. It made the dish, added a sort of fuller flavour. I only decided at about 10 o’clock that morning that I would be making food fromBulgaria. So the dish didn’t get time to set. It was supposed to set and be like a slice but ours was more like noodles in syrup. It was still yum though.
Sweet Vermicelli Noodles
2 tablespoons of olive oil
½ pound of ground beef
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 fresh tomatoes, peeled and sliced thin (crosswise or lengthwise)
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon of oregano
4 large potatoes, peeled and sliced thin (lengthwise)
1/2 cup of good white wine
1/2 cup of water
3 large eggs
4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1 cup of plain yogurt or
1/3 cup of fresh parsley, finely chopped
Note: If you don’t like yogurt you can substitute (¼ cup) of milk instead.
What to Do:
STEP 1) Preheat the oven to 375°. Heat the 2 tbsp of olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Add the ground beef, the onion, the tomatoes, salt, black pepper, and oregano. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until the liquids from the tomatoes are almost evaporated and the mixture become dry.
STEP 2) Spray the bottom of a square baking pan with cooking spray. Arrange a few sliced potatoes on the bottom of the pan, just to cover. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper, cover with ground beef mixture and cover with the remaining potato slices. Sprinkle with more salt and black pepper. Add the white wine and the water. The liquid should almost cover the last level of potatoes. Cover the baking pan with aluminum foil. Bake for about an hour or until the liquid is evaporated.
STEP 3) In the meantime, in a small mixing bowl beat the eggs by themselves add then add the yogurt and flour and mix well. Add salt, black paper, fresh parsley or dry oregano. Pour over the already dried Moussaka. Bake uncovered for about 5 minutes more or until the top is golden brown and crispy.
STEP 4) Serve warm and Enjoy!
1/2 tsp baking soda
Pre heat oven to 180˚C
Butter the sides and bottom of an oven proof dish
Let filo pastry thaw by instructions on pack
Crumble feta into a bowl
Add in eggs, baking soda and 1tsp of the butter, stir until combined
Lay out a sheet of filo and brush with butter, add two more layers with butter in between.
Spoon a line of feta mix along one end of the pastry.
Roll into a cigar shape then into a snail.
Place in centre of dish.
Repeat until all feta mix is used, continuing to wrap the rolled pastry around the original snail
Bake in oven until top is golden
Sweet Vermicelli noodles
1 cup melted butter
1 large packet (1 pound) fine vermicelli noodles, soaked in hot water for about 5 minutes
10 ounces walnut or almond meats crushed
4 ounces seedless raisins
Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish
PLace a layer of noodles, drizzle with melted butter, then sprinkle with nuts and raisins
Repeat with remaining ingredients, ending with a noodle layer
Bake in preheated 175˚C oven for 25 minutes
Remove from oven and pour over syrup (see below)
Leave to stand for one day to allow syrup to be adsorbed
Cur into squares and arrange on a big plate
Garnish with lemons from the syrup. Serve
2 cups sugar
4 cups water
1 large lemon, sliced thinly
5 drops venilla extract
In a pan, put the sugar, water and lemons over low heat
Gently simmer until sugar is dissolved but do not stir
Turn off heat; stir in vanilla