Thursday, January 30, 2014

Time-Life Quintet of Cusines: Bulgaria and Romania

Romanian stew after adding the last vegetables
On January first, restrictions were lifted for Bulgarians and Romanians who want to work in the Netherlands, Great Britain, and other European countries. Of course, they've been here for years already, working in all kinds of industry, including IT which is where I've met them, but now they don't need special work permits. The Poles are also here and if it weren't for them, you wouldn't be seeing fresh produce from Holland, because Dutch agriculture relies on the pickers that come from Eastern Europe.

Fortunately, these cuisines are touched on in the Quintet of Cuisines, the cookbook I cam currently concentrating on. So in their honor and giving pride of place to the vegetables they help to bring to our tables, here are a couple of recipes from Bulgaria and Romania.

As usual, I've been cutting recipes in half or in thirds so that I don't get stuck with having to eat only one food all week.

Bulgarian Kiopoolu (Aubergine and Pepper Spread)

This is a great spread with bread or crackers. In this case, I regretted that I didn't make more ;>

1 medium aubergine (about 300 grams)
1 green pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon re wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste


  1. Roast the aubergine and the pepper over a flame or under a grill until the skin is blackened and charred, about 10 minutes. I stick a knife into the aubergine and just place it on a burner and turn it from time to time to get it evenly charred, and use tongs for the green pepper.
  2. Let the vegetables cool for 5 or 10 minutes and then peel off the charred skin. I rinse them under cold running water to get rid of the last charred bits that don't want to let go.
  3. Chop and mash the aubergine and green pepper finely and mix together to form a purée. Beat in the oil and vinegar until the mixture is smooth, then mix in the parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Chill until ready serve, then serve with crusty bread or crackers.


Romanian Ghivenciu (Vegetable and Veal Stew)

This is a dish in which every element is separately browned and then added in a layer to the stew. It's a bit heavy on the butter and oil to get all that browning done, and takes a bit of prep work, but it's not difficult and is very tasty, the veal tender and the vegetables distinct. It reminded me of a Turkish stew and this makes sense, given the history of Romania which was dominated by the Turks for 500 years.

I would use whatever vegetables you have on hand as long as they include some starchy, some green, and some orange or red. For example, I used sweet potato instead of carrot and pumpkin, green beans instead of French beans, frozen peas instead of fresh peas, and savoy cabbage instead of white cabbage. And if I make it again (and it's worth making again), I probably won't include cabbage. I didn't enjoy it that much in this stew.

I cut the original recipe by two thirds and the resulting stew yielded 4-6 portions, depending how hungry you are and what you serve it with.The recipe also called for very modest amounts of herbs, and I think it would have benefited from more.

500 grams veal, chopped into 3 cm pieces
2 tablespoons flour
50 grams butter
15 ml oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tablespoon tomato or pepper paste
1 cup beef broth
2 medium potatoes, cut into 3 cm cubes
1/4 small celeriac, cut into 1x5 cm sticks
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 3 cm cubes
1/2 medium aubergine, cut into 3 cm cubes
1/2 green pepper, cut into 1x5 cm lengths
100 grams green beans,  cut into 5 cm lengths
1/3 cabbage, cored and cut into 2 cm pieces
1/3 cauliflower, cut into florets
1/4 cup red wine
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup peas
1 tomato, cut into quarters and halved
60 grams green seedless grapes


  1. Preheat the oven to 190C. Have ready a large frying pan or sauté pan (or maybe a wok) and a large heavy casserole.
  2. Season the veal chunks with salt and pepper, then dust the with flour. 
  3. In the frying pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil over medium high heat, then brown the veal in batches, transferring the browned meat to the casserole.
  4. Add the onion slices and garlic and sauté for a few minutes until soft and translucent. Transfer to the casserole.
  5. Deglaze with half a cup of stock and mix in the tomato paste. Bring to a boil, then add to the casserole.
  6. Now add some more oil and sauté each vegetable just until it is browned a bit, then add as a layer to the casserole: potatoes,  green beans, sweet potato, celeriac, aubergine, cabbage, green pepper, cauliflower. Add more oil as needed.
  7. Deglaze the pan with red wine and rest of the beef stock. Add the parsley, oregano, and thyme and bring to a boil. Add this liquid to the casserole. Bring to a boil again, then cover and put in the oven for 45 minutes.
  8. Now add the peas, tomatoes, and grapes and return to the oven for about 15 minutes.


Layering the vegetables on top the meat in the casserole

Completed stew



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