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Vegan ’till Christmas!

Written by , Posted in Bulgarian food, Vegan, Vegetarian, Winter cooking

Lada's lentils

I’m well under pressure. In Bulgaria. Frozen. Pissed half the time…but well excited! I’m committing to vegan “time” all the way up to Christmas!
Two reasons: First of all: Its a “Fast” period over here. My family, as well as 82% of the Bulgarian population are Eastern Christian Orthodox by religion, and a “fast” over here means not indulging in any products that come from an animal. None at all! Nada! Pure vegan! For 40 days before Christmas, culminating with a vegan, 12 dish (one for each month of the year) family meal on Christmas eve. It’s a tradition which I adore and is long awaited by everyone around. A special, holly night with all your loved ones, what can be better? Plus, after 12 the meat comes out..
For an added significance, the Bulgarian Orthodox church is the eldest churches worldwide! It was founded in 870AD! …I just Googled it, I admit….not that I knew! Which is a shame really – for me anyways, I should know such facts¬†with four priests in the family… one of which is at the moment occupying my parents’ bedroom, That’l be my mom’s dad. He is 81 and a bit under the weather so we’ve brought him here to stay for the Winter. Or until he manages to find the front door and do a runner… poor soul wants back home in the village.. He is (with my mother as an added guilt trip) the second reason – a priest in the house kinda makes you think twice before sinking your teeth deep into a chicken thigh…So here we have it: my dad, the only one around the household, who doesn’t really care what time of the year it is and eats whatever he wants (if you ask my mother, that’s just short of being an Atheist…such an ugly word!) is away for a month, the priest is fasting, my mother is fasting, my other grandfather (who is 84 and a permanent resident in the house) eats whatever you put in front of him, the baby just larfs at them all and I am left cooking all the meals! And unless I sneak out at night to bite a pig on the arse, I’m pure Vegan till Christmas day!

I’ve bees scratching my head what to cook though…my thought process always leads to meat in some shape or form so this isn’t going to be easy. Plus I can’t exactly go onto mad experimenting, as the old generation is very set in their ways and wants to eat what they are familiar with. That pretty much sets the direction – traditional Bulgarian cuisine, less the meat…. Which again leaves me with almost nothing..If there was a pure carnivore country, where “vegetarian” is a “bad” word, then this is it I am in it!

So I’m chatting (complaining) away on Skype to my girlfriend, Lada, who is a great astrologer and am about to ask her what the stars say about my challenging route into Vegan (Jokingly of course, she is brilliant and knows I mean no malice when I take the piss..AstroLada to the rescue! On a more serious note, if you do need a horoscope, she’s the gal to call! She’s got me out of some real stickers before and I’m the biggest sceptic you’ll meet..Check out AstroLada.com and tell her I sent you! I promise she hasn’t paid me a penny for advertising hahah) when I notice her munching away while talking to me. Now that would usually aggravate me but curiosity took over this time…I know she is a veggie, so she’s bound to eat something that can be “useful” to me! “What’s that you are eating then?””Lentils. My usual”…Blimy, I remember her lentil dish from the short time she staid with me a few years back. There were two dishes she always made – Lentils and Tarator, that cold cucumber soup, loaded with garlic! (http://greedyfoodster.com/2013/06/23/tarator/) And both were the best I’ve eaten. She’s the master!
“Give us the recipe darling”….
“You seriously gonna make lentils?” she laughed
“Yuuuup, give, it, And believe it or not I’m actually excited…I can taste it as we speak…”
“It’s so easy: You put the lentils in a pot with a chopped onion, a chopped red pepper, a carrot, some chopped garlic( actually loads of it), a packet of lentils spice mix (go to the shop and get one), fill with water and boil for about an hour. That’s it. It’s sooo tasty!”
“I can see that – you haven’t put the spoon down for a second! I’m off to cook. Mwahh”

Lentil spice? They actually sell lentil spice in the shops here? Than means Lada must travel with a suitcase full of it back to the UK, the amount of lentils she consumes on weekly basis…;-)

Shopping done. Simple, great ingredients. Found the spice as well – it’s an equal mix of tbsp each of paprika, marjoram, dries onion flakes plus a tsp of salt and black pepper. Smells lovely and kinda homey…Lada's lentils

I’m gonna add a leek to Lada’s list, only because I like the flavour it gives. All veggies get chopped finely and go in the pot with a good splash of olive oilLada's lentils

A quick fry later, they start sweating, already letting out a lovely aromaLada's lentils

Lentils go in. A whole 500 gr packet! I’m after a biiiig pot that will feed everyone. Twice!Lada's lentils

Spice is next. If you are making your own mix and can’t find flaked onions in the supermarket, a tsp of dried onion powder will be just as goodLada's lentils

Stir for about a minute to coat everything well with the oil and spices, then add about 2 litres of boiling water, straight from the kettle. You can add cold water, but that will lengthen the whole cooking time by at least 15 minutesLada's lentils

Bring to a rapid boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low, cover loosely and cook for about an hourLada's lentils

What you end up with is a pot of tasty, wholesome goodness!¬†Lada's lentilsAll it needs is a sprinkle of fresh parsley. Best enjoyed with crusty white bread….Thank you, Lada!!!Lada's lentils

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