Another Bulgarian Meal to Remember

Another day, another routine and another adventure just waiting to happen in Bulgaria. Never a day goes by without an event that amazes, shocks or makes you so thankful about life here. Today was just another one of those occasions.

A daily routine has now been established from Monday to Friday but the word routine has a sense of paleness about it. Perhaps we should throw that word into a different make up reflecting a new angle. A daily routine of experiences and adventures are discovered each day in Bulgaria and today is no exception.

The mental and physical clock had struck 12:00 with the signal of food and lunch beckoning. Baba as always was there but unlike most Bulgarians she is always very punctual, especially at meal times, which is her domain. There may be a reason behind this as she has to take her tablets after meals at regular intervals and 12:00 is one of those times.

It is always a guessing game every day by trying to discover what she is going to present at lunchtime. The clues are the evening before where she sometimes spend hours sitting outside in the garden or in the backroom with the garden view, preparing natural ingredients for the next days meals. Whether it is peeling potatoes, mincing meat, sorting the beans, stripping the garlic, chopping the onions or countless other cooks chores; the first clue is here. Ingredients are always prepared the evening before.

The second part of the detective work is the smell in the kitchen mid morning. The cooking would have been started early on and the aromas that waft around the house, just like that trail in the Bisto Gravy advert during the 1970’s. It isn’t very hard to put both clues together and not be far off the mark.

Today I knew there were some peas involved as the previous evening we had Baba’s daughter-in-law in the garden with her helping shelling the peas, picked that very evening. Galia and I had collected them and brought them home from the factory grounds where Galia works. They grow a magnitude of fruit and vegetables there, which when harvested and in turn supplied to the workers there and their families. What’s more having been there on a daily basis to drop off and collect Galia I knew that all the food produced on that ‘factory farm’ is chemical free.

So, organic peas were on the menu for sure but what else? There was a distinct smell of something stewing that next morning, something meaty and wholesome for certain. Baba had never disappointed in the food stakes here ever.

A call was made, ‘Martin, Mundger!’ The food was ready as I trod the ceramic floor into the kitchen and sat down at the ever ready laid table. It was always a table to two as pairs of cutlery, napkins and complete bulbs of raw garlic also from the factory farm placed enthusiastically with comment about how good it is for you, on the table. A glass of freshly made Ayran was poured into the glasses. Knowing where the food had come from and with the knowledge that not one chemical is contained within is a major leap in the enjoyment of food and drink in Bulgaria.

This particular Ayran was made from sheep milk brought back from Skalitsa village and turned into homemade yoghurt in Yambol. Then mixed with water and salt producing the most wonderful Aryan you could ever imagine and complimented the garlic sitting beside it.

The bread, again bought daily made in Yambol and bought daily. It has to be bought daily as it goes off quickly in the warm Bulgarian weather as it is absent of preservatives. Two days maximum for local bread here. On the the second day Baba uses the old bread next morning to dip into her daily dose of linden tea (another story.)

So we have Ayran, garlic and bread, so far so good. The main dish was about to be served and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. When it did arrive it was certainly different to anything I had seen before. Yes, there were peas but the amount of peas was the surprise. A whole large soup dish of peas as a bed for chicken, the peas were used just like rice and yet again the local herbs and chicken stock it was cooked in was spectacular in so many senses Smell, sight and taste all combined into something that can only be described as very memorable today at lunchtime.

The chicken used was also from Skalitsa, one of my own, I knew its history therefore this completes a meal that remained completely free of any additive, preservative or whatever they put in and we don’t know. The combinations of tastes just hit the mark, but it wasn’t complicated food it was very basis simple ingredients added together into a feast of fed senses.

Baba had inspired yet again! The learning curve took a steep gradient today in how simple food can be so successful.