That Time of the Year

Dear Reader,

I’ve just had a most horrid 1-hour drive home, and have had to turn on the seven o’clock news to learn what was going on. It was Black Friday, how could I have lived through the day, unaware of this glorious fact, I wonder.

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Traffic close to the Sofia University, Thursday, around 18.00 o’clock. This is normal. And tonight was most certainly abnormal.

In the same time, the bells of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral have been chiming their most festive chime since Thursday evening, to celebrate 1,100 years since the dormition of St Kliment Ohridski, who invented the letters we use to date. …Everybody is clamouring for attention.

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Thursday evening. And they’re chiming…Everything is lit up, like at Christmas. Oh, it’s good that it’s THAT time of the year…!

These two episodes made me realise it was that time of the year again. Jingle time, endless radio ad time, sales time, end-of-year rush at job time, party time, school celebration time, ridiculously tight schedule time. Also, for the record, Lent time. Thank God, and the pun is intended, that we’re already past Halloween time. (To me, Halloween and Bulgaria go together harmoniously like a fish and a bicycle, that’s an expression we have.)

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In Bulgaria, a broom with a long handle is called “a woman’s vehicle.” And to be riding the broom, again referring to women, describes them as being in a particularly sour mood. I’ve parked my broom in the corner, and am properly fed, so I’m relatively benevolent right now.

When faced with a heavily dominant trend, I, rather childishly perhaps, am very much tempted to go the opposite way, so, although I am not strictly fasting, I tend to side with Lent time, beautifully echoing the foggy bleakness and the cold outside, and providing a nice cushion against the merry excesses of the other times described.

Black Friday…Please. I overheard someone at my office today regretting that we Bulgarians were not celebrating Cyber Monday too. …Don’t even know what this is. And frankly, the sight of people queuing in front of stores and screaming, possessed by visions of abundant merchandise, is among the most ridiculous sights I’ve ever seen.

So, without further ado, let me tell you of two nice vegan dishes, really frugal and waistline-friendly, that I’ve recently cooked in homage to Lent time, and as an antidote to the feasts in times of cholera that have come upon us. 

To prepare dish n.1, the I-Used-Up-My-Fridge-Leftovers Soup, you’ll need various vegetables, cooking oil, soup noodles or фиде, and spices such as salt, savory (aka chubritsa), spearmint (or джоджен in Bulgarian), and ground black pepper. Джоджен is absurd to transliterate into English. Dzhodzhen. Try saying it. I presume that a glass or two of wine will make the pronunciation of the Bulgarian groups of consonants easier. 

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Clean spinach in sink. This seems like a lot of grass, but when cooked, is reduced to a mere handful. Put a large pot with water on the stove to boil.

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Chop leeks and carrots. I adore leeks, and the more you put in, the better. Although not pictured, I also added two large potatoes. Re leeks, in Bulgarian, we have this expression, big leeks, or голям праз (golyam praz), meaning basically “I don’t care” or “So what?”. As in: “Oh, it’s Black Friday today!!!” “Yeah. So?” At the place of “So?”, you’d use “big leeks” in Bulgarian. 🙂 Now aren’t languages fun? 

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Back to the subject at hand, add some mildly hot dried peppers, or chushkas. If you can’t lay your hands on such exoticism, any dried chili variety would do. Chop up champignons.

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When the water starts to boil, add all of the above, reduce heat and let boil for a while. Add the spices, so that they have time to develop the full bouquet of their aromas. I’m a poet tonight.

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Add 2-3 tsp of oil and taste to check seasonings. When everything is pretty much ready and tasting good, add the spinach and the noodles. Also, one tsp of (apple) vinegar, it just makes the whole thing click.

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Et voila! I don’t know if you’re into clear meatless and hot soups, but this turned out great. And not because I made it. 🙂

Let’s now turn to dish n. 2 – Bulgur with Leeks, stuffed in dry chushkas. Alongside all other times that I listed in this post’s opening, it is dried chushka time too, as dried chushkas are a staple ingredient of the Christmas Vigil table, and Christmas Vigil, celebrated on Dec. 24, is even bigger here than Christmas Eve that is the following day. So dried chushkas are serious stuff.

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The dried chushki are hard and flat. To make them supple and suitable for stuffing, soak in hot water for a while.

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Fry leeks, add bulgur and red pepper. The smell of fried onions and red pepper is among the most irresistible cooking smells I can think of.

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Reduce fire, add water and chubritsa and stir occasionally until the water has been absorbed and the bulgur has been cooked.

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Stuff the chushki, arrange excess stuffing among them, add parsley and bake for 10-15 minutes.

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The same dish, but with beans, is THE quintessential Christmas Vigil specialty.

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Bulgur and chushki as office lunch.

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A Spanish c0-worker treated me to most delicious Argentinian dough buns filled with chicken meat. I should do something similar, these were really good.

 

 

 

 

img_43121Something which wouldn’t treat myself to, as I don’t like the taste, but I was amused to find it appearing in the office kitchen after five o’clock on Friday evening.

I can’t think of a super intelligent musical composition to end this post with, as I am dead tired. So, please be treated to something which I listened to while cooking the soup and bulgur – my most favourite song by Metallica, incidentally. On the occasion of their new album, one of my favourite radio stations, Radio 1 Rock, was playing for two hours of every evening of this week only Metallica, until they’ve exhausted their repertoire.  I say, Metallica are indeed great for cooking and driving. They give me energy. And silent lucidity. Oh wait, that was Queensryche. 🙂 

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My laptop, my friend.

And with dust in throat I crave,
only knowledge will I save, 
Boryana