Monday, 11 August 2014



Today I decided to show a recipe for something different. The Bulgarian cuisine has plenty of recipes for pastries and bakery dishes, all of which are delicious. I am, in fact, a big fan of working with dough, so I love preparing them, I love eating them, I love sharing them with others. This particular recipe is for savory pastry called tutmanik. It is a delicious dish that can be eaten at any time of the day. This recipe has plenty of versions, I am merely sharing the one I love making at home.

Since the preparation for this dish is time-consuming and a bit complex, the recipe will be accompanied by plenty of pictures and a lot of instructions.


For the dough:

700g white flour
4 eggs
280ml vegetable or sunflower seed oil + 50ml for oiling the dough and the baking dish
14g dry yeast
150ml 2% yoghurt

For the filling:

2 large onions
1 spoon of brown sugar
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
4-5 smoked sausages
300g feta cheese

For the sauce:

2 eggs
400g yoghurt
50g butter

1. Activate your yeast by mixing it with 150ml water at room temperature, 1 spoon of sugar and 1 spoon of flour. Mix very well until everything is incorporated. You can even use a mixer. Place the bowl you used in a warm place and cover with something. You can use another larger bowl full of hot (but not scalding!) water.

2.  Sieve your flour two, even three times. You need for there to be a lot of air in your flour. Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature.

3. Find a suitable bowl or a dish you can use to knead your dough in. I don’t recommend doing it directly on the table because the dough is quite soft and sticky. The vessel you use needs to be spacious enough for you to move your hand comfortably in it. Place 1/3 of your flour in the bowl you’ve chosen. Add salt to taste (while taking into consideration just how salty the cheese you’ve chosen is). Mix the salt well with the flour. Add all your liquid ingredients – the eggs, the yoghurt, the oil and the yeast.

4. Begin mixing – you can either use a mixer or your hand for this part, personally I prefer using my hands all the way. At this point the dough is practically liquid, do not be concerned, that’s normal.
5. Add another third of the flour and start incorporating it into the mixture. You’ll notice the dough thickening. Keep kneading.

6. Begin adding the final third of the flour. You don’t actually have to add all of it. Depending on how liquid your yoghurt is and how large your eggs are, you might not need the entire portion. Keep kneading. The end result should be very soft and quite sticky but fully coherent dough.

You can occasionally sprinkle (sprinkle, don’t pour – you don’t want all that oil to be incorporated into your already quite oily dough) a little oil on it so it doesn’t stick to your hands as much. Knead until it has become silky smooth and elastic.

7. After you’re done kneading, form the dough in a ball and either leave it in the same dish you kneaded it in or in another suitable (and well-oiled) dish you’ll use to prove it. Oil the top and cover it lightly with a plastic wrap. Cover the wrap with a towel. Place the dish in a warm place for the dough to rise. Personally, I just use my sink – I plug it, then fill it with hot (not scalding!) water and place the dish in the water. Wait until the dough has doubled, even tripled in size. You might have to add more hot water when the one you already have begins to cool down.

8. While your dough is rising, cut your onion into slices and sautee them in a pan, adding the brown sugar, the lemon juice and the pinch of salt. Caramelize it well and wait until all the liquid has boiled away.
Cut your sausages into pieces. Get your baking dish and oil it, then sprinkle flour on the surface.Crumble your cheese.

9. Once the dough has risen enough, remove the plastic wrap and get your cheese.
Divide your cheese in several portions. Sprinkle the first portion on top of the dough, then press down, then carefully knead it until it’s incorporated.
Do the same with the rest of the cheese until it’s fully incorporated into the dough.

10. Organize your work space – place the onion, the sausages, the dough and your baking dish within an arm’s reach. Oil the palms of your hands. You can use gloves for this part, but you need to oil them as well.

11. Take a handful of the dough and form a patty on the palm of your hand. Place a bit of the onion on the patty, then add a piece of the sausage on top. Wrap dough around the filling and form a ball with your hands. Place the ball in the baking dish.
Keep doing this until you run out of dough and filling. Do not be concerned if the balls begin to lose their shape in the baking dish because the dough is so soft, we’ll prove the dough a second time anyway.

12. Once again cover the dough with a plastic wrap and a towel and repeat the proving process. Give it time to rise and fill your baking dish.

13. When it’s done rising remove the plastic wrap and place your baking dish in a pre-heated 50-60C oven. Let it rise some more for 15-20 minutes, then increase the temperature to 200C.
Bake the tutmanik until the top turns golden brown. Check whether it’s ready by sticking a wooden skewer in it – if it comes out dry and clean then it’s ready.

14. At this point we can do two different things – you can either smear a bit of butter on top of it and cover with a aluminum foil for about 10-15 mins or we can add the sauce and bake it some more. In case you wish to do the latter, follow the next step.

15. Mix the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl. Pour them on top of the tutmanik and return it in the hot oven for another 10 minutes. Once you remove it from the oven you can add the butter as well.

You can serve the tutmanik with yoghurt or salad, it’s delicious either way! Bon Appétit!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Potato and Eggplant Moussaka

Although I’ve already posted one moussaka recipe, it occurred to me that since it’s a regional dish it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to add a new recipe for a different version of it. Either way, this is absolutely delicious and filling comfort food that can be eaten at any time of the year, depending on the products that are in season at the moment. And since eggplants are in season right now (and also because I am big fan), I have decided to post a recipe that actively uses them.

So, here’s my recipe for potato and eggplant moussaka.

Ingredients (for 8 portions):

1,5kg potatoes
1kg eggplants
500g minced (lean) meat
1kg fresh or canned tomatoes
1 sweet green pepper
2 onions
3-4 cloves of garlic
150ml sunflower seed or vegetable oil
1 spoon sweet or smoked paprika
½ spoon savory
½  spoon fenugreek (I will post a larger article on fenugreek later on)
Fresh basil leaves
Black pepper

For the crust:

2 large eggs
400g unflavored Greek yoghurt
3 tablespoons of flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

1.Remove the stem of the eggplants. Cut them into 1cm slices. Salt them generously and set them aside until the bitter juice has been drawn out. For a more detailedexplanation of this process you can go here. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1cm slices. Cut the onion in half, then cut the halves into thin slices. Remove the seeds of the pepper and cut it into thin slices. Peel and cut the garlic into small pieces.

2.After cleaning the eggplant slices from the juice, place them in a well-oiled baking dish the way it’s shown on the photo. No more than 1/3 of each slice should be overlapped by others. Sprinkle oil on them and bake them in a pre-heated 200C oven until they’re half-done. Remove them carefully from the baking dish so as not to tear them. Repeat the whole process with the rest of the eggplant slices, in case you have any left, then do the same with the potatoes.

3. While the eggplants and the potatoes are baking in the oven, prepare the sauce. Sautee the onion in 2-3 spoons of oil, then add the pepper, the garlic and the minced meat. Sautee until the meat falls apart. Season with salt and pepper (have in mind the eggplants will be well-salted!). Clear a small space on the bottom of the pot or pan you’re using add the paprika, then let it fry for a few seconds (no more than that, burned paprika tastes bitter), then mix it with the other ingredients and add the fenugreek and the savory. In the end add the tomatoes and about 75-100ml of water and let it boil on the stove, until all the potatoes and eggplants are done baking.

4.Using the same baking dish, pour a thin layer of the sauce, then place a layer of potatoes. Pour another layer of the sauce over the potatoes, then add a layer of eggplants. More sauce, then another layer of potatoes. Bake the dish in a 200C pre-heated oven until the tomatoes on top are caramelized.

5.Mix the eggs, yoghurt and flour. Add the baking soda. Mix well with a spoon. Pour the mixture on the dish and bake until it turns golden. Decorate with the basil leaves.

Wait for the dish to cool a bit before slicing with a very sharp knife and serving. Bon Appétit! 
This recipe was prepared in collaboration with Vkusen Svyat (Tasty World) .

Friday, 25 July 2014

Imam Bayildi - Traditional Eggplant and Tomato Stew

This recipe is a childhood favourite of mine. It’s a traditional Bulgarian dish called Imam Bayildi. It is a vegetable eggplant-based stew. As the name suggests, its origin is Turkish – the truth is that all Balkan cuisines are heavily influenced by the old Ottoman cuisine, due to the region having been part of the Ottoman empire for centuries on end.

There’s a curious story – or a legend, if you will – behind this dish. Well, there are many versions of the story, but this is my favourite one:

Once upon a time an imam (the man leading prayer in the mosque) visited an old and poor Bulgarian woman at her house. The woman, anxious that such an important man was visiting her and worried that she had little for him to dine on, went to her garden and looked around – all she had were eggplants and tomatoes and herbs, so this was what she used to make her stew. Still, the imam loved the dish so much that he stuffed himself full with it and swooned (bayildi) in the end. So the closest translation of the name is “The Imam swooned” (because it was so delicious.)

So, here is the recipe itself. Have in mind that for the best result you will need a large earthen pot.


4-5 average eggplants – around 1,2kg
1,2 kg tomatoes
3 average onions
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
10-12 cloves of garlic
3-4 carrots
2-3 average potatoes
150ml olive oil
2 tea spoons paprika
Black pepper
A few leaves of basil or parsley


0. Before we talk about the recipe itself, I want to give a short explanation/instruction about the preparation of the eggplants. The eggplants in their raw state are usually full of juice that is quite bitter. Cutting them and using them directly in a dish adds that bitterness to it, so beforehand we need to get rid of it – and we do so by using salt. Cut the eggplants, place them in a bowl, then salt them very well. Mix them with your hands then set them aside for at least half an hour. I strongly recommend doing this step before you start preparing all the other vegetables. After a while you’ll notice that the salt has drawn black, bitter juice out of the pieces, which is gathering at the bottom of the bowl. When you are ready to use the eggplants gently squeeze the pieces then wash off the salt. Have in mind that the flesh of the vegetable has already become quite salty and you need to take this into consideration when seasoning the dish!

1. Remove the stems of the eggplants and cut them into large cubes, then leave them in a large bowl and salt them well to draw out their bitter juice. Place the tomatoes in boiling water for a few seconds, then peel them and cut them into pieces. Peel and cut the potatoes. Peel and cut the onion into small pieces. Peel and slice the carrots. Remove the seeds of the peppers and cut them into pieces. Peel the garlic cloves. If they’re large, cut them in half.

2. Sautee the onion, peppers and carrots in a small pot with a 100ml of the olive oil. Add the paprika and wait for about 30 seconds before adding the tomatoes. Let everything them boil a bit on low heat until they are half done. Towards the end add the potatoes so they boil only for 2-3 minutes. Place the mixture in the earthen pot. Place the rest of the tomatoes, olive oil and the well-squeezed pieces of eggplant in the metal pot and boil them on low heat until the latter soften. Stir gently with a spoon (I recommend using a wooden one) so as not to damage the pieces of eggplant.

3. Pour the rest of the tomatoes and the eggplants in the earthen pot. If you find the mixture to be too thick, add around 150ml of water. Add the garlic, season with salt and pepper (have in mind that the eggplants themselves have already been very well-salted!) mix well with a spoon, place the lid on and put the pot in a cold oven. Turn it up to 190C and let it bake for about 40mins.

4. Cut the basil or parsley in small pieces and sprinkle it on the dish before serving. You can also add a piece of feta cheese. The Imam Bayildi can be served either hot or cool.

The truth is, you can prepare the whole dish on the stove without using an oven or an earthen pot by simply letting all the vegetables boil together until they are done. However, using a stove and an earthen pot considerably improves the taste and texture of the ingredients – all the vegetables remain whole while gaining a lovely silken texture and aren’t mushy at all. The dish itself looks gorgeous in the pot and on special occasions can be served whole on the table.

This recipe is a collaboration between Vkusen Svyat and myself.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Potatoes and Fish

For today’s recipe I decided to try something which, I am sure, most of you are quite familiar with, though this particular version of the dish is one of the many ways in which we prepare potatoes and fish in this area of the world.


2kg potatoes
1kg  fish (carp)
5-6 cloves of garlic
40ml vegetable or sunflower seeds oil
100g butter

One large lemon
150ml water
200ml white cooking wine
Black pepper


1. Peel the potatoes, cut them into 1/2cm slices and place them into a bowl of water. Remove the scales and the fins of the fish and divide it in 1-1,5cm thick cutlets. Peel the cloves of garlic and blend them into a paste with the vegetable or sunflower seeds and a pinch of salt. Marinade the fish with the garlic and oil mixture for 2-3 hours.

2. Place the potatoes in a suitable baking dish. Heat up the butter until it has turned liquid (but don’t brown it) and pour it over the potatoes. Add the water. Season them with the savory, the black pepper and the salt. Mix everything well. Place them a pre-heated 200 degree Celsius oven and bake them until they are almost tender.

3. Once the potatoes are almost cooked through, place the fish on top of them. Juice the lemon and pour the juice over the fish, then add the cooking wine. Place a thin slice of butter on each fish cutlet. Bake until the fish is tender (make sure not to overcook it – fish takes very little time to bake) and the potatoes have turned golden brown. Serve with a glass of white wine! Bon Appétit! 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Bulgarian Herbs and Spices - Savory

Since I intend this blog to focus on Bulgarian cuisine, it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to talk a bit about popular Bulgarian herbs and spices.

Today I decided tell you about a herb called savory. You might have heard of it – you might have not – but I can assure you that any dish flavored with it will have a lovely taste and aroma.

Savory is an annual plant with lilac tubular flowers that bloom in the northern hemisphere from July until September. It favors bright light, but is very forgiving as far as soil is concerned. In case you wish to grow your own savory I recommend buying seedlings, because the seeds are tiny and difficult to handle.

The fresh savory leaves contain large quantities of vitamin C and carotene, in case you’re wondering whether it’s good for you or not. Herbalists also use them to treat high blood pressure, headaches, vertigo, indigestion and common colds.

As a herb savory has a pleasant if strong (though not pungent) aroma and a slightly peppery taste. It is suitable for flavoring all sorts of dishes – from beans, lentils, cabbage and potatoes, to cheese, all sorts of meats, minced meat and eggs. It is immensely suitable for foods that are difficult to digest, such as beans, lentils and peas. Most Bulgarians can’t imagine beans without savory, as it suppresses any unfortunate bloating provoked by that particular ingredient. Personally, I use savory in anything and everything we cook - it is an incredibly versatile herb that can lift the flavor and aroma of any almost any dish. An ancient Roman favorite, in the Middle Ages savory was even used to flavor desserts.

Savory can be used both fresh and dried. The dried version is an ingredient in another extremely popular in Bulgarian herb and spice mixture called “colorful salt”. It usually contains salt, savory, hot and/or sweet paprika, ground black pepper, fenugreek and thyme in any and all combinations that you can think of, with only the savory as a base. Indeed, the colorful salt might not actually even contain salt at all!
As a matter of fact, colorful salt or even dried savory alone sprinkled on a slice of fresh, warm bread covered with butter is a popular light snack at any time of the day. I will give a more precise recipe for the colorful salt once I have also talked a little about fenugreek, as it is another popular but local Bulgarian herb that requires, I think, a little explanation before usage.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Bulgarian Potato Moussaka

Moussaka is a traditional Balkan and Mediterranean dish, although the different regions (and countries) have different takes on it. Here I am offering you a recipe for the traditional Bulgarian potato moussaka.


1kg potatoes
1kg fresh tomatoes or 800g canned chopped tomatoes
700g minced meat (turkey or a mix of beef and pork, beef alone is far too lean)
3 large onions
2 carrots
100ml vegetable or sunflower seed oil       

150ml water
1 tablespoon of paprika
Black pepper
Parsley or basil

For the crust
2 large eggs
400g unflavoured Greek yoghurt
3 tablespoons of flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda


1. Peel and chop the potatoes into 1cm cubes. Peel and chop the onions and the carrots to small pieces. If you
are using fresh tomatoes submerge them in boiling water for a 10-15 seconds, then peel them and cut them into small pieces. Chop the parsley or basil.

2. In a large pan sautee the chopped onions in the oil until they turn translucent. Add the carrots. Sautee them together until the carrots soften a little. Add the minced meat and fry it until it falls apart in small pieces. Season with the salt and black pepper to taste.

3. Clear a small space on the bottom of the pan and add the paprika. Let the paprika fry for less than a minute (do not overfry as it will turn bitter!). Mix it with the rest of the ingredients and quickly add the tomatoes. Put the lid on the pan and let the mixture boil for another 10-15 minutes.

4. In a separate bowl mix well the eggs, flour and the Greek yoghurt.

5. Pour the tomato and minced meat mixture in a suitable baking dish. Add the chopped potatoes. Sprinkle the basil or the parsley. Mix well. Add the water. Bake in a preheated 200 degree Celsius oven until the potatoes have cooked through and the mixture has a nice thin crust on top of it.

6. Right before you pour mixture of eggs, yoghurt and flour, add the teaspoon of baking soda to it. Mix well. Pour the mixture over the already baked potatoes. Bake until the top is golden to golden brown.
Serve with each portion several spoons of thick Greek yoghurt or sour cream.