5 September 2010

Bulgarian Vegetable Stew

I had some errands to do in London the other day and decided to meet up with Lundulph in the evening and go for a meal somewhere. This was not planned and we spontaneously decided on Belgo Centraal. We've been there several times before and it's always been a good experience. Not so this time. Although part of the restaurant seemed to be closed off and the open part was half full and we got to choose our table, it seems that we needed to be got rid off quickly. We got two full minutes to study our menus and place our order.

We decided to skip starters and ordered our mains and our beer. The only info on the various beers was the alcohol content, so we had to take a chance on them.

Five minutes later our food arrives, but no beer in sight. No way they could have cooked the food that quickly. In fact, my food was lukewarm and although I generally don't mind that at home, it's not what I'd expect in a restaurant. Lundulph's dish seemed a bit hotter, it was steaming, but he thought the portion was a bit on the small side.

Anyway, our beers arrived and they were OK. We ate our food and the plates were promptly removed as soon as we finished and we were asked if we wanted dessert. If we'd said no, we would have had our dinner in a total of 25 minutes. Not acceptable! But I wanted some ice cream, last time we went I had what I believe is the best chocolate ice cream I've ever had, wonderfully smooth. So we ordered dessert. The ice cream was good, they called it Dame Noir and was supposed to be dark chocolate ice cream with white chocolate sauce and Chantilly cream. Well, it was mostly dark chocolate ice cream, with perhaps a couple of drops of something white, which I guess is the white chocolate sauce and a blob of whipped cream, not Chantilly. The ice cream was good, but not as silky smooth as the one I remembered. So on the whole, this was a disappointment and we paid and went home.


So a little comfort food would be in place and yesterday I finally cooked a яхния (yahnia) which is Bulgarian for stew, generally in tomato/paprika sauce. There are several recipes in my Bulgarian cook book. After my last visit to the PYO, I had runner beans and courgettes in the fridge and wanted to take out some more of our lovely potatoes, so ended up combining tree of the recipes - the one for potato stew, the one for runner bean stew and the one for courgette stew. And it turned out lovely and comforting, just as I hoped it would.

I also wanted to use some of the chillies on the plant I got from Lundulph's Mum a couple of weeks ago, it's very prolific and I can't keep up with it.

2 medium onions
550 g courgettes
450 g potatoes
350 g runner beans
0.5 dl grapeseed oil
45 g butter
2 tbsp sweet paprika
0.5 dl tomato purée
6 dl boiling water
450 g potatoes
350 g runner beans
3 hot red chillies
1 tbsp corn flour
1 dl water
1.5 dl fresh chopped parsley
2 tbsp dried dill
salt to taste

  1. Start by washing, trimming or peeling the onion, potatoes, courgettes and runner beans. If the runner beans are large, try to remove as much of the two stringy veins along each side of the beans.

  2. Dice the onion fairly finely, dice the potatoes and the courgettes into about 1 cm cubes. Cut the runner beans into pieces of about the same size as the other veg.

  3. Heat up the grapeseed oil in a casserole dish on medium heat, then fry the onion for a few minutes until it's soft. Then add the courgettes and keep frying and stirring until they begin to soften as well.

  4. Lower the heat, then add the butter and stir it around to allow the courgettes to pick up the flavour. Sprinkle the paprika and stir in well, the onions will pick up the colouring and go orange brown.

  5. Stir in the tomato purée into 6 dl of boiling hot water, then pour into the saucepan and stir in the potatoes and the runner beans. Chop the chillies and add them as well. Then allow to simmer gently for 20 - 25 minutes, until the potatoes are ready (they'll take the longest). If the stew seems to go dry, add a bit more hot water.

  6. Stir in the corn flour into 1 dl of water. Then add it to the stew, season to taste and add the parsley and dill. Allow to cook for another 5 - 6 minutes to thicken it up.

The stew is supposed to be a quick one, but cleaning and dicing vegetables takes time. Still, well worth the effort I think, though I might increase the paprika next time. The original recipes state either use fresh chopped tomatoes or the tomato purée. I don't like cooking with fresh tomatoes, so went for the purée option.

And the casserole dish I used doesn't have a lid, so the stew lost moisture and I had to add some more water half way through cooking.

The chillies turned out hotter than I thought. I'd used one earlier in a large batch of pizza sauce and it was not really noticeable, so I thought they were on the mild side and bravely put in three with seeds and all and there's quite a kick to it now.

Most of the recipes in my Bulgarian cook book finish with "serve with yoghurt". My Mum disagrees with that and so I've grown up without having yoghurt on everything, though I was considering it for this stew, when I realised how spicy hot it was. I don't think it'll improve the flavour though and would probably make it look unappetizing, so better not.

I had some pork chops in the freezer, so Lundulph had one with the stew, whereas I went for all vegetarian.

This also leads me to wonder if the courgettes and aubergines must be fried before being added to a gyuvetch and maybe that's why I've been failing there.

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