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.

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