Some like it hot, Part 4

On the way to Stefan and Poly's villa.
Poly and Stefan are Bulgarian friends of ours. They have a small villa along "the Drunks' Road", the old cobbled road that used to be the main highway between Sofia and Belgrade. It was my old friend Peter Adams that gave the name to this neglected country road. Perhaps he gave it this title because we were usually inebriated after visiting Stefan or maybe because this is just about the only road where you could drive "under the influence" and not be a danger to anyone, except perhaps to yourself. 
At the market in Dimitrovgrad.

I think that we must have known them for about thirteen or fourteen years, as we got to know them soon after we bought the villa in Kalotina. (Stefan used to be a diplomat and I have known him to carry on multiple and simultaneous conversations in English, French and Russian.) Last Friday, we went with them over the border into Serbia, to Dimitrovgrad, as it was the market day.

Dimitrovgrad actually quite a nice town, rather better and not as grotty as Dragoman. The streets are rather twee and neat, with lots of old-fashioned street lights and cobblestones. The market was certainly quite lively and we had problems parking our cars because we had arrived a bit late, thanks to the usual Bulgarian delays, red-tape and general inefficiency at the border crossing.Let us hope that Serbia's entry into the European Union will be sooner rather than later! After the market we had pleskovitsa and it was pretty good, but of course not quite as good as the pleskovitsa at the Pri Ivan restaurant in Belogradchik. 

Flat-headed cabbages are best for sauerkraut.
Vegetables are pretty important at this time of year. Every Bulgarian (and Serbian) lady is thinking ahead to the winter. What are we going to eat, when no fresh veg is available? Chushki are Bulgarian pickles and that is one culinary possibility, but Irena was also very interested in buying large cabbages, in order to prepare sauerkraut. However, Sefan had other ideas, namely red peppers, and Irena also bought a few kilos.

It is hard to believe that in the UK, at a shop like Waitrose, just one large red pepper might cost you £1 because in Bulgaria they can be so cheap. (Perhaps customers at Waitrose are only interested in the higher things of life, like Waitrose prices.) 

So what do Bulgarians do with Nature’s shiny red bounty? Well, I am going to tell you.

Stefan and Irena are getting the fire going.
First, you need a big sheet of metal. Do not worry if it is old and rusty. You put your sheet of metal onto some bricks and then you light a fire underneath. Next, you push the green stem (the bit at the end with the stalk) inside the red pepper and then, if you are lucky, you can pull the whole thing right out with all (or most) of the seeds. 

A blogger with the raw material.
Having removed the cores, but probably not all of the seeds, of your red peppers, you put them onto the very hot sheet of metal. Then all kinds of sizzling and roasting and delicious smells start to happen. It’s great. Then you collect your cooked red peppers, with all of the black bits because you did not turn them over in time, and you wait a long time for them to cool. Then you can put them into the freezer. 

In December or maybe January, you take them out, add an egg or two and some fried onions, and voila! You have mishmash, that most yummy, versatile and sustaining of all Bulgarian winter recipes. We had some for lunch today. Very good it was too.

Okay, here it is, A photograph of some real Bulgarian mishmash, made with red peppers, eggs, spring onions and one or two other things. I had some for breakfast yesterday. Excellent!


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