Throughout the centuries Bulgarian cuisine has been heavily influenced by numerous cultures, especially during the Ottoman domination. Nowadays Bulgarians have a vast variety of national dishes – from appetizers to desserts – which draw tourists from Slavic and non-Slavic countries alike with their soulful deliciousness and palatable authenticity. Here are five awesome Bulgarian casseroles, which everyone needs to try at least once in their lifetime.
1. Baked cabbage
Although many Slavs have traditional recipes that involve baked cabbage, Bulgarians have developed a distinctive foundation for their national cabbage-based casseroles. Surprisingly easy and nearly fool-proof the baked cabbage is indeed a tasty meal everyone can prepare. While some people prefer using sauerkraut for the task, using fresh cabbage is better. It may take up more of your time since you need to boil it before baking it, but at the end of the day the final results really do pay off. If you’re not a fan of vegetarian meals, you can easily add pork meat or sausage of your choice. Regardless of which one you choose, both options will only boost the cabbage’s already awesome-as-it-is flavor.
Patatnik is a traditional Bulgarian dish native to the Rhodope regions, which is based primary on potatoes, hence its name. The potatoes are grated, their moisture is squeezed out and they’re baked along with grated onions, salt, pepper and dzhodzhen (a mild spearmint). Without the latter the dish would lose its wow factor. There’s a variety of ways to prepare this dish – some people make dough-like potato sheets for the top and the bottom, others just dust the casserole with butter and flour, and then there are those variations in which the patanik is left “naked” (without the dusted cover and without the sheets). Moreover, some people actually cook the patatnik in a frying pan over low heat instead of baking it in a casserole. Depending on the region, the recipe may also call for sirene (white cheese) and eggs.
This popular Bulgarian dish is traditionally prepared for Christmas-time festivities, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it all year round – if you have the nerve to cook it yourself, of course. It’s a delicious blend of cabbage (fresh or sauerkraut), pork, beef and chicken meat, rice and sausage. Depending on the recipe you can even add additional flavor boosts like sarmi, raisins, etc. Dried peppers, salt, pepper, onion and dzhodzhen play an intrinsic role in any kapama recipe. Served in special clay casseroles called gyuveche, the kapama is one of the most comforting foods in the Bulgarian cuisine.
The hearty moussaka is a popular dish in Bulgaria, Romania and other Slavic countries on the territory of former Yugoslavia. The potato-based Balkan moussaka recipes have been around for at least a couple of centuries, but each region has a different way of preparing it. Bulgarians usually kick things off by mixing cubes of sliced potatoes with minced meat. The mixture serves as the base of the dish, which is later topped with a layer of yogurt or fresh milk, raw eggs and some flour. According to Bulgarian customs, the moussaka should be among the top must-know recipes on every woman’s list.
The ever-popular gyuvech is not only extremely diverse, but also an all-time favorite for many Bulgarians. Due to its notable diversity you can prepare it with a plethora of ingredients. The most commonly used are peas, green beans, meat, onion, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers. This dish can be stewed in a soup pot, cooked in a frying pan, or traditionally baked either in plain casseroles or in the afore-mentioned gyuveches made out of clay. The meat-based gyuvech is just as tasty as the vegetarian one and the creative freedom both versions allow is also a fundamental aspect of the dish’s widespread popularity.