Tikvanik - Bulgarian Pumkin Banitsa

Food, that’s all I seem to be blogging about at the moment, but you can’t expect anything else in the season where food is coming from all directions. Right now it prime time for pumpkins and walnuts, I won’t mention all the other goodies that are still pumped out in the Bulgarian kitchens and summer houses, I’ll need a good couple of days to cover it.

This weekend was a strange one, it was the first weekend we hadn’t had any guests in Skalitsa this year. Can you believe that? We were so used to catering for others that by the end of the weekend we were absolutely stuffed with home cooked food made from home produced ingredients.

Tikvanik - Bulgarian Pumkin BanitsaThe highlight of the weekend’s courses was the tikva (pumpkin) banitsa that Galia delicately made. Actually they are called tikvanik. It is such a simple dish but aren’t the favourite dishes just that? It was made this weekend by accident as stupid me being at the farmhouse on my own for a couple of days previous, forgot to make the sirene as I was too preoccupied with digging the land over in preparation for winter. This is really uncanny as tikvanik actually also means ‘fool’.

So it came to be that we had given to use three pumpkins that had been given to us the weekend before. We had the filo pastry the sunflower oil, sugar, walnuts and cinnamon. This was all we needed for the sweet banitsas that were about to be conjured up by this angel of a cook of mine.

No Skalitsa banitsas this weekend as I took a reluctant back step from the kitchen area. Galia doesn’t like me watching her cook, as she gets nervous. “It’s only curiosity!” I tell her, ‘Not a judgement.” It doesn’t make any difference me telling her though as I walk with my tail between my legs back in the living room and carry on blogging, but my mind is on what is happening in the kitchen.

To be quite honest I know exactly how these tikvanik are made, as well as having seen Galia and other friends here making them each year during the pumpkin season, I’ve even made them successfully myself on a number of occasions. Despite this, it is the love of being involved in the process as well as watching that is a passion. Before in England it was me who did all the cooking, I’ve never had a woman who could cook before and I was obviously still trying to come to terms with that.

It was a near disaster today though, as we both got distracted outside with neighbour talk. We forgot the banitsas were in the oven and it was a couple of Linford Christies up the flight of stair and into the kitchen when we twigged. We had just saved them in time as we put cloth over the well-cooked tikvanik to cool down and keep the moisture in.

We knew this was going to happen right from the moment of the conception of the idea of making these melt-in-the-mouth tikvanik. In fact is was more a case of melt-the-mouth as 10 minutes later we both had burnt tongues!

I suppose you are expecting the recipe to follow now. Well it isn’t! For tikvanik to taste as good as they do, you need to make and eat them in Bulgaria. And if you are in Bulgaria you wouldn’t need the recipe anyway as any Bulgarian worth their salt knows how to make them anyway.