Adventures in Bulgarian cooking
I like to think my tastes are pretty varied and that I’ve tried most types of food, but I have to confess that until a few days ago I’d never tried anything from Bulgaria, but all that changed last weekend when we had a Bulgarian tasting adventure…
We were sent a hamper of goodies to sample by Expedia and challenged to take part n their World On A Plate campaign by creating a meal inspired by Bulgaria. After some research into local dishes, we discovered that they are heavily influenced by middle eastern and Mediterranean cuisine.
As Jim grew up in Bahrain and we lived together in Cyprus for a couple of years, we thought we were quite well prepared for the task, but first we had to overcome a small hurdle… What on earth were the jars and packets we had been sent?
Some things had labels in English, but most didn’t and to make things slightly more tricky, Bulgarian is written in the Cyrllic alphabet so we couldn’t Google what was written on the food! Undeterred we opened everything up and used our taste buds to work out what packets contained. We found Feta instantly and pork loin which was by any other name, Cypriot Lountza, but other things were less clear.
Something that looked a bit like marscapone tasted slightly not like marscapone. Only after I’d mixed it up with chocolate, coffee and sugar to create a Bulgarian version of Tiramasu using some of the sweet biscuits we got in our hamper, did Jim decide he knew what it was. Not Mascapone… mayonnaise! No one was quite brave enough to try eating it after that!
But we had success with other things. Like the Maltese, the Bulgarians eat a lot of pastries. One of the most well known national dishes is a Banitsa, which involves filo pastry layered with Feta and egg and often eaten for breakfast. We decided to use our feta and filo in a slightly different way by combining it with red pepper and some local cured meat and making pastry parcels. They very much reminded me of the pastizz I ate in Valletta earlier this year.
We had also been sent some meat balls which looked (and tasted) very much like Cypriot Sheftalia. We fried them and cooked them with white beans, a tomato sauce and pasta. Strictly speaking the Bulgarians are very keen on spices so we should have thrown them into the mix too, but after the Tiramasu disaster we were playing it safe!
There were lots of other ready made dishes to try with our pastries and meatballs. Vine leaves stuffed with rice, loads of different cheese (all yummy, is cheese ever wrong?) and some salted sticks which tasted like pretzels. Theo’s favourite? The Bulgarian biscuits! Which proves some foods are truly international…
There are some great World On A Plate recipes being shared over on Twitter by fellow bloggers and you can see them all by searching for #expediaworldonaplate