Asking for the Bite

Dear Reader, 

A quick personality test: Do you eat meat? And, quite unrelatedly, are you by any chance an admirer of controversial and outspoken 19th-century French poet Charles Baudelaire? If yes – then you are my kind. 🙂

This is my coffee table book, bedside book and glass of wine book. And yes, I totally appreciate the cover. :)
For me, this is a coffee table book, a bedside book and a glass of wine book. And yes, I totally appreciate the cover. 🙂

For a variety of reasons, this year I went on a three-month completely vegan diet, which also to a large extent excluded sugar and dough. When this ordeal was over, I was wiser and stronger spiritually (I hope), but was also fully convinced that going totally vegan is not for me. Women gain muscle hard and lose it easily, so I am not giving up my lean protein anymore.

Now I am back on track with my habitual shredding regimen with renewed enthusiasm. In line with this, I have recently tried to cook home-made kebapcheta – those finger-shaped pieces of spiced minced meat, variants of which are typical of many Balkan and Middle Eastern cuisines. If you’d like, you can check out this post for a couple of pictures of kebapcheta served in Bulgarian restaurants.

Flowers of Evil back cover. The book has so much more than lesbian love and offence to public decency in it...I think this back cover is being rather tabloid in its summary. :-/ There is this Bulgarian rock band called Epizod, which composed music to some of Baudelaire's verses. They had also arranged as songs verses by 15th century French poet Francois Villon, whose translation into Bulgarian is superb - rich, very rhymed and rhythmical, funny in places and as light as a feather. When they ran out of decadent Western poets, they turned to the classical Bulgarian ones - Vazov, Botev, Yavorov et al. Epizod are among my favourite Bulgarian bands - I like their attitude. :)
Flowers of Evil back cover. The book has so much more than lesbian love and offence to public decency to it…I think this back cover is being rather tabloid in its summary. :-/ There is this Bulgarian rock band called Epizod, which composed music to some of Baudelaire’s verses. They had also arranged as songs verses by 15th-century French poet Francois Villon, whose translation into Bulgarian is superb – rich, very rhymed and rhythmical, funny in places and as light as a feather. When they ran out of decadent Western poets for their lyrics, Epizod turned to the classical Bulgarian Kulturtraeggers – Vazov, Botev, Yavorov et al. Epizod are among my favourite Bulgarian bands – I like their attitude. 🙂

Here, people usually cook store-bought kebapcheta – either on their balconies (so working-class, I know :)), or on barbecues in their yards (covering all the spectrum from traditional to hipster :)).

How about some open-air barbecue? This was in Etara near the town of Gabrovo in the Balkans.
How about some open-air barbecue? This was in Etara near the town of Gabrovo in the Balkans.
See how nice these hoof-shaped sausages look. :)
See how nice these hoof-shaped sausages look. 🙂 You can read more on the culinary temptations Etara had to offer here.

Store-bought kebapcheta are delicious and very juicy, but they are unfortunately very likely to contain mystery meat and be loaded with fat, salt, soy, and who knows what else. So I have searched for tips and recipes, both online and in books, on how to make kebapcheta at home. 

If you want to join in the experiment, you’ll need:

  • 500 g of minced meat, may be pre-packaged, but better ground from actual pieces of meat in front of you. A 40/60 mixture of beef and pork, or fully pork is recommended.
  • Salt, ground black pepper and cumin;
  • 1 table spoonful of vinegar;

To prepare:

  • Mix the meat with about 100 ml of water and knead until absorbed. Add salt, black pepper and cumin to taste, place in an appropriately-sized baking dish in a layer not thicker than 5-6 cm, cover with clingfilm and let it rest for about 24 hours in the fridge. 
Meat with water, salt, ground black pepper and cumin. Knead energetically to mix well.
Meat with water, salt, ground black pepper and cumin. Knead energetically to mix well.
The mead is ready to be cured for 24 hours.
The meat, spread out in a baking dish, is ready to be cured for 24 hours.
  • Re-knead on the following day and let rest for about 6 hours more. Or a day. It won’t spoil, don’t worry. I actually did this later, but I think it would have been better to do it earlier – at this point you may treat the meat with a handheld blender to soften it and break some of the sinews and harder muscle parts in it. Touch lightly with your tongue to check for saltiness and spices, adjust what needs to be adjusted, and put in the fridge again. 
The meat on the following day, I applied the blender immediately before the shaping of the kebapcheta, but perhaps earlier is better.
The meat on the following day – I applied the blender immediately before the shaping of the kebapcheta, but perhaps earlier would have been better.
  • When the day of shaping and baking the kebapcheta has finally arrived, you take them out of the fridge for about 30 minutes to soften. Then you shape on your meat cutting-board and arrange on the oven rack. For shaping, you take a ball of meat as large as a large apricot, place on the cutting board and start rolling your palm over it until it is elongated into a kebapche. You may smooth the edges with your fingers to make it look neat.  
500 g of meat resulted in 12 kebapcheta.
500 g of meat yielded 12 kebapcheta.
  • Then, in a small bowl, prepare a 1/1 mixture of vinegar and water and smear the kebapcheta on all sides. I have a silicone pastry brush for that, but my daughter likes to play with it, so I could not find it. If you don’t have one, using your fingers is just as fine. 
Honey vinegar. I don't think it matters what the vinegar is, perhaps only the dark-coloured balsamic ones wouldn't be appropriate.
Honey vinegar. I don’t think it matters what the vinegar is, perhaps only the dark-coloured balsamic ones wouldn’t be appropriate.
Vinegar/water mixture contained 15 ml vinegar and 15 ml water, duly measured with a spoon.
Vinegar/water mixture contained 15 ml vinegar and 15 ml water, duly measured with a spoon.
Final touches with salt and ground black pepper.
Final touches with water/vinegar,  salt and ground black pepper.
  • To bake, preheat the upper heater of your oven to about 200 degrees C. Insert the rack with the kebapcheta in the upper half of the oven close to the heater, and place your oven’s shallow pan below to collect the dripping fat. You don’t want that all over the oven, do you? 🙂
Kebapcheta rack and pan for drippings already in the oven.
Kebapcheta rack and pan for drippings already in the oven.
  • Bake until they start smelling like ready, but pay close attention to not overbake, as I probably did, a bit. This is an oven, not a barbecue, so don’t expect the kebapcheta to have those appetising black rib marks. If they remain in the oven for too long, they’ll become dry.
Ready! The smell was divine. They have shrinked a bit and the ban below them was full of drippings. When you cook the same meat as a moussaka for example, you eat all that...
Ready! The smell was divine. They have shrunk a bit and the pan below them was full of drippings. When you cook the same meat as a moussaka for example, you eat all that…
I couldn't resist a bite. Actually, I ate three of them while they were still hot, with my fingers of course - the fork was only for the picture.
I couldn’t resist a bite. Actually, I ate three kebapcheta while they were still hot, with my fingers of course – the fork was only for the picture. 🙂 Then I had only salad for dinner.
  • Dear Reader, I wish to brag that the kebapcheta were as juicy as those store-bought ones, but they were not. They were very tasty and just right in terms of saltiness and spiciness, but definitely drier. I liked them and my children liked them too – they said they tasted like karnacheta – a type of barbecue-baked thin sausage shaped as a spiral, which is on the drier side. 
Karnacheta! They are dry, hence the rich sauce.They are great served with raw vegetables too. Source:
Karnacheta! They are dry, hence the rich sauce. Karnacheta are great served with raw vegetables, and can be baked either in the oven, or on the barbecue. Source: Click here.

The kebapcheta got eaten at one sitting, so I take consolation in that. I personally could eat them this way, but I was expecting them to be more succulent, so I’ve accepted the challenge to try and tweak the recipe to achieve a juicier result. 

You can serve the kebapcheta with a raw vegetable salad, wine or rakia and a more substantial carbohydrate complement like the traditional Bulgarian potato salad.
You can serve the kebapcheta with a raw vegetable salad, wine or rakia and, if you want, a more substantial carbohydrate complement like the traditional Bulgarian potato salad. It is very simple to make – boil potatoes, peel and dice while warm, mix with generous quantities of onion, white or green, add sunflower oil, vinegar, salt, black pepper and parsley to taste and mix. This salad will benefit from spending the night in the fridge, but is also delicious straight away.

I could for example soften the meat with the blender and shape the kebapcheta after the first 24-hour rest and place them in a marinade of oil, salt, cumin and black pepper, to replicate their own spices; and leave them like that for 24 hours more. I could also use higher heat, like 250 C, so that they are baked for a shorter time. This will leave the inside juicier for sure. 

Delicious lean protein.
Work on the six-pack starts with delicious lean protein. You know, I was just boiling buckwheat to go with some of this for my office lunch on Friday, and I burned it because I got distracted writing this post. 🙂
Ah, what would the world be without eggs? These are the Easter ones by the way. The four broken ones to the left were those eaten at midnight after the service, from the sharena sol post :).
Ah, what would the world be without eggs? These are the Easter ones by the way. The four broken ones to the left were those eaten at midnight after the church service, from the sharena sol post :).

And, if you are at a loss as to the pertinence of the Baudelaire question I asked at the beginning, I would like to clear out the fog, by treating you to excerpts of a suggestive Flowers of Evil poem, related to the flesh. 😛

I love the thought of ancient, naked days
When Phoebus gilded statues with its rays.
Then women, men in their agility,
Played without guile, without anxiety,
And, while the sky stroke lovingly their skin,
They tuned to health their excellent machine.
[…]
Man had the right, robust and flourishing,
Of pride in beauties who proclaimed him king,
Pure fruit unsullied, lovely to the sight,
Whose smooth, firm flesh went asking for the bite!

_____

I hope you’re amused, not scandalised. 🙂