About one month before Christmas it is tradition to eat only vegetables as they are going through the Lent, then the night til the 25th of December a big festive dinner takes place in the Bulgarian´s homes. The vegetables and fruits that was taken care of in the late summer, early autumn is being used during the winter. But what food is being served in Bulgaria in the winter time in order to keep warm and nice? The winter food is in general more heavy, in order to keep you warm, but still delicious as the rest of the Bulgarian cuisine, enjoy!
Ruska Salata is a heavy salad compare to many salads you eat in the summer time. It is made from boiled potatoes and carrots cut into small cubes, green peas, pickled gherkin, and ham/sausages also cut into small pieces. All the ingredients being mixed with mayonnaise and salt. You can top the salad with parsley or eggs, and it goes very well together with a glass of Rakia.
Another popular salad to eat is the Winter Salad. It is a easy salad made of grated carrots, cabbage and celery leaves, mixed with oil from sunflower and salt.
This dish, as so many others in Bulgaria, comes with many different variations, depending on where in Bulgaria you are, or with family specialties. However, the main ingredients are chicken, carrots and onions, that boils together until everything is ready. As simple and delicious as that! You may add celery, garlic, pepper, egg, yogurt and so on if you want. Quite common is to top the soup with parsley.
Shkembe (Tripe) Soup
This is a soup for the brave ones, and for those who wants to try something else than the regular. The soup is made from tripe (calf/lamb/pork/beef belly), milk and oil. The soup is after the preparation served with fresh garlic sauce and hot chili flakes, oil and vinegar. The soup gets a rich flavor with the garlic and the chili, it is hot and keep one warm! It goes well with rakia or dark beer. The soup is also famous to cure hangover. Do you dare to try it?
Bob Chorba (Bean Soup)
This soup comes in many variations and are very nutritious. Here is one of many versions! Let the bean soak in the water over the night, boil the beans for about one hour or until they get soft. Add chopped onion and carrots in oil for about 5-10 minutes, then add peppers and paprika for about 1 min. Finish with adding sliced tomatoes and sprigs of mint, and seasons.
Gyuveche -Food from a Clay Pot in the Oven
Sirene Po Shoski
If you are not familiar with the Bulgarian cuisine you may get surprised of all the white cheese, known to many as feta- the Greek name, sirene in Bulgarian, that´s being eaten in many different ways. Sirene po shopski is a warm dish where the sirene is the base. Take a gyuveche (earthware pot) and add a big piece of sirene, and then add sliced tomatoes and pepper, and on top another piece of sirene. If you want you may also add any kind of yellow cheese as well as a hot pepper. Let it cook in the oven for about 20 min, take out the pot and add an egg, and oil together with fried spices. Put it back in the oven and let it cook for another 10-15 min, take it out and put parsley on the top. Its now ready to be enjoyed together with bread or as a delicious side food!
Kavarma is a traditional Bulgarian dish and a must try! It is made from pork meat, onions, mushrooms, peeled and chopped tomatoes, sliced carrots and a cut pepper, mixed together with cumin, oregano, sunflower oil and a cup of wine. Like all food that are being prepared in the gyuveche, it is slow cooked.
Other Warm Dishes
Once again many people may rise the eyebrow as they hear the word moussaka in a Bulgarian context, my advice, don´t get into an argue however this dish is Bulgarian or Greek, just enjoy the tasty food! Moussaka, the Bulgarian way is however made in a slightly different way than the Greek one. It is made from minced meat, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, carrots and garlic. It is after the slicing and frying put in the oven where its being baked for about 30-40 min, meanwhile prepare the cover of the moussaka by stirring a couple of eggs together with flour and Bulgarian yogurt. Take out the moussaka, add the cover and put it back in the oven until the cover has got an golden color. Serve it together with sirene and Bulgarian yogurt and top it with parsley. Delicious!
Palneni Chushki- Stuffed Pepper
Considered to be one of the national dishes in Bulgaria this is a very popular meal that comes in many different variations. It can be served as a vegetarian/vegan, as well as with meat. Usually it is being made from red pepper, filled with rise, onions, parsley and minced meat. Fry the minced meat and the onions, cook the rise until its half ready and then stuff the pepper with the filling. After that you may choose to cook it until its ready in either a pot on the stove or in the oven. For the vegetarian/vegan version skip the minced meat, sometimes the minced meat being replaced with beans. Additional ingredients can be tomatoes and garlic. Usually its being served with cold Bulgarian yogurt on top and some sirene on the side.
There are two types of sarmi, zelevi and lozovi sarmi. This is a very popular dish. It is eaten a lot during the Lent, but it also served as Christmas food. It is a dish where you put rise together with minced meat, rise, onions and herbs into either cabbage leaves, zelevi sarmi, or into leaves from grapes, lozovi sarmi, roll it into a small sausage-like shape and then put them into the bottom of an pot, adding water and cover with a lid, boiling for about half an hour. As I said, this is a popular dish during the Lent and then its just being made from rise, onions and herbs.
This is just a brief selection and there is much more winter food to explore. Dark beer, wine and rakia is popular beverage on the winter, served with the food or together with a meze. And no matter of time of the year it is, Lukanka is always a must! If you are looking forward to the summer you can read more about Bulgarian Summer Food here!