Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bulgarian Cooking - Gyuvech

So, Bulgarian adoption families, am I the only one who LOVED traditional Bulgarian cooking?? When we were in Sofia, it was near impossible to find food that wasn't somewhat "Americanized." In fact, on the day we arrived our agency contact, Rosi, took us around the city to show us where to find food and she kept saying things like "The pizza place is over there" and "The McDonald's is that way" and "The KFC is one block up on the left." And we were asking "Ok, but where can we get REAL Bulgarian food?" I suppose a lot of people want to eat what they are used to when they travel, but what's the point of that? I can get a pizza at home.

When we were in our daughter's village, though, we got wonderful food. We found a little restaurant that served a style of food called "Mehana" in Bulgarian, which basically means traditional. I finally got to try some real Gyuvech, and Nick had a Kavarma that was amazing. We loved all of it. The bread, the cheese, even the Tarator, or cold cucumber and garlic soup. I would have eaten every meal there, every day, if I could have.

Gyuveche. I bought six!
Well, I decided to purchase some gorgeous gyuveche in Sofia. (Ask me if you want to find out where.) Those are little individual cooking pots used to make individual servings of stew or gyuvech. They're awesome and I love them and I probably use them weekly. I also found a decent cookbook on Amazon, buy it here, and some recipes online to guide me.

Well, anyway, I thought I'd share some of my Bulgarian cooking experiments for other families who would like to be able to cook their own Bulgarian cuisine and celebrate their dear child's culture.

Gyuvech (Stew) (makes about 6 individual or one very large)

The booze is, of course, optional!

2 pounds stew beef, or cubed meat of your choice (veal is supposed to be good)
1 - 8 oz package of mushrooms, sliced
4 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 peppers (tricolor is more fun), chopped in large pieces
1-2 Tbsp olive oil (approximately)
Paprika... a lot. I don't measure, but it's probably around 5 Tbsp
2 Tbsp chopped garlic
5-6 bay leaves

Take all the above ingredients and mix in a large bowl or roasting pan with a lid. You will know you have added enough paprika if everything is very red. You can never add too much, though, so pick up the biggest container you can find and go to town. If you have Gyuveche or something similar, spoon the mix into each individual pot until it is very full. Try to get one bay leaf in each pot. Otherwise, cook in a large roasting pan with a vented lid. Cook for about one hour in a 350-degree oven.

For a real traditional style, crack an egg on top of each individual pot after about 45 minutes of cooking (or 6 eggs over the large pot) and sprinkle with cheese. If you can get your hands on Kashkaval (Bulgarian "yellow" cheese) use that, otherwise a mild mozarella or parmesean would work. Return to the oven for the last fifteen minutes.

Enjoy! It's a great taste of Bulgaria, and pretty much everyone loves it. You can also change up the vegetables you add. Sometimes people add peas or carrots, but I would say no leeks because then you're making Kavarma. :)

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