25 March 2007


Last year, I enthusiastically planted 34 nests with potatoes. They all came up and as the weather got drier and drier, I kept watering and watering. They didn't grow as I'd expected. And after we came back from our holiday in July, all traces of the potatoes had disappeared. Eaten by slugs and snails, so I didn't bother with them.

Yesterday, I bought some new plants and one of them I planted in the middle of one of the old potato nests and guess what - there were a couple of spuds in there. I tried another nest and there were more potatoes. I ended up digging through 14 of the nests and had 1.750 kg of small potatoes - some the size of a peanut. This was a very pleasant surprise and certainly made my day.

Lundulph is on a business trip, so I'm waiting for him to come back and we'll try out our very own potatoes. This also means that I haven't been cooking anything interesting either. I made another vegetarian gyuvetch overnight, this time no potatoes, but Jerusalem artichokes and turnips. I've never had turnips before, so I thought I'd try it out.

Another thing I got from Waitrose the other day is a dragon fruit. I spotted these weird, unreal looking fruits on the top shelf of the exotic section and the pink colour looked so artificial, that I was compelled to buy one. It didn't have any instructions on how to eat, so I just cut it in half and peeled off the skin. Inside, the dragon fruit had white flesh with black seeds scattered everywhere. As Lundulph put it, like a kiwi fruit gone mad. And white... The texture and the crunchiness was definitely that of a kiwi fruit. But it didn't taste of anything. So all looks and no substance. Still it's very different looking and would be useful for decoration, both whole and sliced.

18 March 2007

Bulgarian Moussaka

Yesterday my good friend Simon came over for dinner. And so I made moussaka, I hadn't done that for a long time, so I was looking forward to it and indeed, I got a bit over-excited and used too much potatoes.


2 large aubergines
1 - 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
2 medium sized onions
3 - 4 tbsp grapeseed oil
1.5 tbsp sweet paprika
1 - 3 dl water
500 g potatoes
2 medium sized carrots
500 g minced meat
1 x 400 g can tomatoes
salt, black pepper, parsley and savoury

  1. Wash and slice the aubergines, about 1 cm thick, then fry them lightly in a little bit of oil. Best is to just brush the pan between rounds. Then put aside.
  2. Peel and dice the onions. Peel and dice the potatoes, about 1 cm cubes. Peel and cut the carrots finely - I normally slice it first about 3 mm thick, then quarter the slices.
  3. Fry the onions in the oil. When they turn translucent, add the paprika and stir quickly for about 1 minute.
  4. Add the potatoes and stir well. Pour 1 dl water and let simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the carrots and stir in.
  6. When the vegetables begin to soften, add the minced meat and stir in well, until it has browned.
  7. If it seems a bit dry, pour in 1 - 2 dl water and let simmer for another 10 minutes.
  8. Now add the tomatoes - either crushed or blended. Also add the salt, pepper, parsley and savoury.
  9. Leave to simmer and in the mean time, line an oven-safe dish with half of the aubergines.
  10. Take the mince mix off the heat and turn over to the dish. Cover with the remaining aubergines.
  11. Bake in the oven. Start at gas mark 6 (200 degrees C) and when it starts bubbling, reduce the heat to gas mark 4 (175 degrees C) and leave to cook for 45 - 60 minutes.
  12. Now prepare the topping

3 tbsp grapeseed oil
3 tbsp plain flour
3 - 4 dl milk
3 eggs
grated cheese or feta cheese (optional)

  1. Heat up the oil and add the flour, stirring quickly.
  2. Slowly add the milk, still stirring it in.
  3. When all the milk has been incorporated, take off the heat. The consistency should be of a custard cream.
  4. Leave to cool a bit, then whisk in the eggs and the optional cheese. If needed add also salt.
  5. When the moussaka has finished baking, take it out and cover with the topping, then put back in the oven, turn up the heat to gas mark 9 (250 degrees C) until it gets golden in colour.
Over the last few years, my parents have very kindly given me a collection of small painted terracotta pots which are very good for making portion sized moussakas - very good for dinner parties and this is what it looks when you use them.

11 March 2007

Vegetarian dishes

I've gone through most of the recipes and labeled them with the new functionality of the blog. So, you may wonder why some of the meat dishes have the Vegetarian label. Well, it happens mostly on the Bulgarian dishes and the reason for this is that very often, the meat can be replaced with potatoes or rice or just not added at all. If you use the same herbs and spices for seasoning, the difference won't be noticeable. In fact, my Dad and Sister rarely notice when they have run out of meat stuffed peppers and moved onto the vegetarian ones.

Mushrooms are also a decent additive, when you remove the meat from a recipe.

10 March 2007

Vegetarian Gyuvetch

Yesterday we were at a party with lots of people and several of the guests, including me, brought some dishes. Since no one else was catering for the vegetarians, I thought the following might be nice. It is called gyuvetch, because that's the name of the dish it is cooked in, a large terracotta pot. Mine takes about 5 litres, so the amounts below really filled it up. If you remember, I cooked our Christmas bird in it, but this is it's true use. Generally there should be pieces of meat in there as well, but going through my Bulgarian cookbook, pretty much any ingredients can be used. One other exciting thing was that I tried out the slow cooking facility on my cooker, so I cooked this overnight, in total of around 12 h, which I believe makes a huge difference.


1.5 dl vegetable oil
5 medium sized onions
4 medium sized carrots
4 large Jerusalem artichokes
5 large potatoes
2 tbsp paprika
3 - 4 dl water
2 large aubergines
3 large courgettes
200 g okra
4 small peppers
1 red chili
1 x 400 g can whole button mushrooms
100 g peas
10 g fresh thyme
15 g fresh mint
15 g fresh dill
salt, black pepper
2 x 400 g cans of whole tomatoes

  1. Peel and clean the onions, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes and potatoes. Dice the onions coarsely, slice the carrots, cut up the Jerusalem artichoke and potatoes in bitesize chunks.
  2. Wash and clean the aubergines, courgettes, okra, peppers and chili. Remove the "tails" of the okra, i. e. where they held onto the plant. Cut up in bitesize chunks, apart from the chili, which I cut into as small pieces as I could.
  3. Heat up the oil on medium high heat and fry onions, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes and potatoes, stirring regularly, for about 5 - 10 minutes. The vegetables should release some liquid.
  4. Add the paprika and stir in quickly so the vegetables get covered, then add the water and leave to simmer for another 5 minutes.
  5. Place the other vegetables into the gyuvetch, add the mushrooms, peas, herbs, salt and pepper, except the tomatoes. Try to mix them up a bit.
  6. Transfer over the fried vegetables and mix in as well.
  7. Place in the oven on the slow cook setting (gas mark S, or 110 degrees C) and leave to cook overnight. Alternatively, cook at gas mark 6 (200 degrees C) until the potatoes and the other vegetables have gone soft, about 45 minutes I should think.
  8. Take out only the tomatoes from the can, not the juice, and blend. Add to the gyuvetch and stir in, then put back in the oven for another hour or so on the slow cooking or 10 minutes on the faster cooking variant.
Putting the chili in made it spicier than I anticipated, but it was very nice. Also I forgot to put in parsley, but that didn't matter too much.

8 March 2007

Bip's Fruit Sponge Cake

Going to a party this week-end and everyone is supposed to bring a dish. I'm bringing a vegetarian casserole (recipe tomorrow) and a sponge cake.

This is one that my sister Bip told me a few years ago, when she cake to visit, it's super easy and is good with any fruit you have at hand. I've done it with blackberry today, but bananas are very good and it would definitely be nice with pineapples as well. The amounts below result in a very large cake which fits perfectly in my large cake tin, but for everyday use I recommend half of everything.


4 large eggs
4 dl caster sugar
4 dl plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
500 ml blackberries
unsalted butter

  1. Line the cake tin with baking paper.
  2. Whisk the eggs and sugar into a white fluffy froth.
  3. In a separate bowl, blend the flour and baking powder well. Or use self-raising flour, I personally don't see the point of it.
  4. While continuing to whisk the egg mixture, add the flour a bit at a time into a nice smooth cake mixture.
  5. Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 (or 200 degrees C for electrical ovens). Pour the mixture into the tin. It should only fill about one third of it.
  6. Now cover the surface with berries, it's really up to you how much fruit you use. The fruit will sink in a bit as the cake bakes.
  7. Now with a cheese slicer, cut thin slices of butter and cover the cake surface.
  8. Place in the oven and bake until ready. This size takes about 1 h 30 minutes. Test with a skewer - when it comes out clean after sticking it in in the middle, the cake is done.
  9. I plan to serve it with custard.

As I mention above, I don't like the self-raising flour, it feels like you don't have any control over it and so I'm suspicious and don't buy it. With just plain flour it can be used to thicken soups or when needed make sponge cakes by adding baking powder, I think it's more versatile. But don't let that stop you.

5 March 2007

Kashmiri Meatballs With Tomato Sauce

I made these yesterday and made a variant on the Bulgarian tomato sauce today and we had it for dinner. The combination was not stunning, as I suspected, but was quite edible. My original plan was to make a vegetable curry, but I forgot to decide on one and hadn't bought the ingredients.

The recipe for the meatballs is based on the one by Madhur Jaffrey from her book Indian Cooking. The previous time I made these, I followed the recipe and was disappointed by the lack of flavour. And I hope it's just because of some major misunderstanding on quantities. Lost in translation or something. Also, it was too dark for me to go up to the end of the garden to pick bay leaves, so here is what I did yesterday.


1 kg beef mince
4 tbsp ginger purée
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp ground coriander
0.5 tsp ground cloves
0.25 tsp ground cinnamon
0.25 tsp ground nutmeg
0.5 tsp ground black pepper
0.5 tsp hot chili powder
2.5 tsp salt
3 tbsp plain yogurt
4 tbsp toasted sesame seed oil

  1. Combine all the ingredients except the oil and mix well.
  2. Get a bowl of water to wet your hands in and a sheet of baking paper and make the meatballs oblong like sausages. About 2 x 2 x 10 cm. Place on the baking paper.
  3. From the above, I made 26 "koftas".
  4. Heat up half of the oil in a non-stick frying pan and fill it with koftas, making sure they don't touch.
  5. Turn them regularly until done. Keep replacing with new ones as space becomes available, they tend do shrink a bit.
  6. Add more oil when needed.
  7. When removing the meatballs from the pan, place them on kitchen roll to soak up excess fat.
This is the recipe without the sauce and with all spices doubled, except the cinnamon. Yesterday, I doubled that too and it was dominating the flavour, so I've left it as in the book in the listing above.

As for the tomato sauce:


4 small onions
2 small cloves of garlic
0.5 dl vegetable oil
3 x 400 g cans of tomatoes
1 x 400 g can of mushrooms
salt, black pepper, mint, thyme and chili flakes to taste
1 tbsp plain flour

  1. Peel and dice the onions.
  2. Heat up the oil and fry the onions. Press in the garlic as well.
  3. Purée the tomatoes and add to the onions.
  4. Slice the mushrooms, if not already sliced and add to the sauce.
  5. Add all the spices and stir in well.
  6. Leave to simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes.
  7. Add the flour to thicken a bit.
Lundulph has now frozen the remaining meatballs and I'll add some tuna to the tomato sauce and we'll have it with pasta on Thursday.

4 March 2007

"Hm, root soup, I cook!"

"For a Jedi, it is time to eat as well".

Well, in the Sainsbury's lottery in February, I won a free packet of sweet potatoes. I've never cooked these and only had them once in a quiche together with regular potatoes, which was very nice, so I've been thinking of trying them out for a while.

Also the trend I started with making large amounts of soup to take for lunch are really good and I fancied potato soup for next week.


5 small onions
1 dl vegetable oil
900 g sweet potatoes
900 g potatoes
4 large carrots
1.8 l boiling water
3 tbsp chopped mint leaves
3 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp dried dill
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp Vegeta
black pepper

  1. Peel and dice the onions, sweet potatoes, potatoes and carrots.
  2. Heat up the oil and fry the onions until translucent.
  3. Add the vegetables and stir in well, so they get coated in oil.
  4. Add the boiling water, then add all the herbs.
  5. Leave to simmer for 20-25 minutes under cover until the roots are soft.
This was highly experimental and I had no confidence at all in the concoction, but actually it wasn't too bad. One thing is that the sweet potatoes were well over-done and went mushy in the mouth, whereas the potatoes and the carrots retained some crunchiness.

Also it's surprisingly filling.

A hot tip from Simon: add the sweet potato later so it keeps it's crunchiness. Next time I'll try adding it after 15 minutes of the cooking time.