Pork Kebap Bulgarian Style

Pork Kebap Bulgarian Style

This is Pork like you’ve never had it before! I cooked it with my mom and insisted on writing the recipe down, so I remember every detail of the way she and my grandmother before her used to make it.

Every time I start this dish, the aromas transcend my kitchen walls and I time travel to me being 4, sitting in grandma’s kitchen. It’s still dark on a cold January morning. I couldn’t sleep, I heard some noises in the kitchen, so I went to check it out. Grandma was already up for hours. She gave me a cup of warm milk, tucked me in a huge throw in the couch and told me to nap some more. .. I did, and dreamed a delicious dream……

So you can see why I love everything about this dish.
The beauty of it is, that it’s simple to make, and makes the house smell so cozy, you’d be able to close your eyes and imagine a mountain cottage and pure white snow falling peacefully outside, while the fire is quietly crackling…

This is a great recipe to utilize that type of pork that you may deem too fatty to grill or cook in any other way. But especially because it’s fatty, it makes perfect kebap material!
So here is my Grandma and Mom’s recipe:

Products:
1 lb of shoulder pork meat
5 onions (medium) chopped
1/2 lb canned tomatoes
1 cup red table wine
3 jalapeño peppers chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp black pepper crushed
5 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt
3 tsp turmeric
1 tsp nutmeg
4 tsp savory
1 bunch of chopped fresh parsley

Chop the onions
Cut the meat in cubes
Heat the oil in a Dutch Oven and drop the meat to brown on all sides
Add the onion slices, then the jalapeno peppers
While the onions and the meat are simmering, use a hand held mixer and roughly crush the tomatoes. You don’t need to juice them all the way. .
Add all the spices to the meat, onions and jalapenos, and mix well.
Add the tomatoes to the pan and mix all together.
Let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375F
Put the Dutch Oven in the oven and bake for 1hr.

Dutch oven is the easy and effective way. I personally like to use a clay pot with a lid that I have from Bulgaria. I transfer the mixture from the Dutch Oven into the clay pot and put in a COLD oven, rather than preheated. (However tempered your clay pot is, I would rather not chance it and have it crack in a hot oven with all that food in it. .. It may make a mess much bigger than you can imagine.)

The only difference between baking it in a Dutch oven and a beautiful clay pot, is that the presentation is more authentic, but the taste is pretty much the same.

Serving options:
Best way to serve this is while it’s still warm, on top of either warm polenta, or rice or quinoa, with sprinkled fresh parsley on top.

All of the above make good gluten free additions.

Optional Polenta recipe:

1 cup corn meal
1 cup cold water
4 cups cold fat-free milk
Mix well and put on the stove
Keep mixing pretty much the whole time while it’s cooking
Mix until it becomes a thick mixture and the boiling resembles molten lava
Then turn it off.
Take an oven proof dish
Melt one stick of butter in the microwave
Pour half of it in the oven proof dish (it’s good to have a narrow dish so that the liquid butter can form a deep layer.
Pour the cooked polenta in it on top of the butter.
Then pour the rest of the melted butter on top and bake in the 375F preheated oven for about 20-25 min. It only needs to get slightly brown on top. As soon as you take it out of the oven, cover it with an aluminum foil and a towel on top, so it stays soft and juicy.

Goes great with a robust red wine – a Chilean Cabernet or an Argentinian Malbec of your choice will complement it very well!

DOBUR APETIT!
ENJOY!

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Cooking My Heart Out: On pumpkins, fall, fashion, school and Grandma

It’s Fall, my favorite season! Just look at its brilliance, abundance and color! There is nothing like fall! It’s like the Goldilocks of all seasons.  I love it!

pumkins

Pumpkins are about as close to the top of my list of favorite things about fall, as a round heavy shapeless and hard to cut vegetable can get. Besides the fact that they are so good for you, they are also a fashion inspiration. I can pretty much find all pumpkin colors in my closet.

PumpkinColors

But my favorite thing about the pumpkins, is the desert that my grandma used to make for me.

Many years ago, I’d come home from school, and the intoxicating aroma of pumpkin and cinnamon would fill the house. My grandma’s pumpkin rice walnut pudding was my favorite treat in the fall. She made it frequently; mainly to indulge me. And also to make good use of the enormous pumpkins we had in the yard.
Today, when I was freaking out my dogs, chopping pumpkin and making the dessert I grew up with, I wasn’t aware that it was my grandma’s birthday….I always thought her birthday is on Oct 15, until my dad asked me if I made it in her honor. I guess I did…

I posted a photo of my dish with the memory snapshot above on Facebook and several of my friends asked me for the recipe.

So here it goes:

The best pumpkin to eat is either the Green Hubbard (pictured below) or the butternut squash. Both work well. I sometimes even use sweet potatoes. They have pretty much the same consistency.

GreenHubbard1

This slicing job isn’t for everyone. You MUST find either someone qualified who has done this before, or have it sliced at the store… Better yet, just find pre-sliced pumpkin, or just do it with sweet potatoes.

Or if you are like me and think that you absolutely must do it yourself, you may proceed AT YOUR OWN RISK! I do NOT recommend it for several reasons.

1. I have had friends rushed to the emergency room because they almost sliced their fingers off, trying to slice a pumpkin!!!

and

2. The process is extremely noisy and may scare the living daylights out of your pets. As it’s evident in Exhibit A. (“We might be next!)

Scaredy Dogs

This is what the Hubbard pumpkin looks like inside. (I like to gather these seeds, dry them on a paper towel and throw them in the garden in spring. And then wait for pumpkins come Halloween time. )

GreenHubbard2

Once you’ve chunked your pumpkin, you can prepare the rest of your ingredients and begin:

Pumpkin/ Rice/ Walnut pudding

My Grandma’s recipe.

WHAT YOU NEED

2lb Green Hubbard Pumpkin ( or butternut squash or sweet potatoes) This is the weight you need after it’s been cut and cleaned. So look for a pumpkin that’s heavier. If you have leftovers, you can make a delicious pumpkin soup.  Recipe for that will follow soon.

1 cup of Arborio rice (the one you buy for risotto, you can also use a japanese rice called Kokuho )

1 tsp of vanila

4 cups of milk

cinnamon

1 cup ground walnuts

5-6 TBS brown sugar

2 TBS butter

HOW IT’S DONE

Once you’ve established who will be cutting the pumpkin and have it chunked, (the flesh of the pumpkin is easy to cut.) you can proceed with slicing the flesh in 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick slices. They can be in any of shape the bigger chunks came out to be. There is no rule about that.. 

Get your baking dish and put a few pieces of butter at the bottom of it.

With your hand, sprinkle the dry rice to cover the bottom of the dish. Liberally, but not more than a layer of grains

Now arrange a layer of  the pumpkin slices

Sprinkle sugar, cinnamon, ground walnuts

Now again

Rice

Pumpkin

Sugar, cinnamon, ground walnuts

Continue like this until you finish all your ingredients.

You need to top off with sugar cinnamon and walnuts and leave some of these toppings aside..

Take the milk and carefully pour on top of everything, just below the rim of the dish

Sprinkle again with Sugar, walnuts and cinnamon.

Place the baking dish on top of a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil (you want to minimize the damage to your oven. who wants to clean burnt on milk!)

Bake in preheated oven on 350 for 45 min or so… If your oven is temperamental, cover the dish with foil for 30 min at 400, then take the foil off, switch to broil on 450F to brown the top.

I am really bad with measurements. I hardly ever measure anything.. unless I bake a cake or bread. This is a very relaxed recipe. If you like rice, then put some more. I personally prefer more pumpkin.

Bottom line about the rice and the milk is that it’s 1 part rice to 4 parts liquid – this gives the rice a nice plump feel with a little crunch in the center. and it is not too dry.

so if you take 1/2 cup rice, then you need 2 cups milk

if you go for 1 cup rice – 4 cups milk

2 cups rice – 8 cups milk

etc. you get the drift.

Since I wasn’t sure where I was going with the baking, I did it a little differently.

My Impromptu Recipe (Pumpkin Rice Walnut Pudding 2)

Armed with my knife and meat tenderizer, I chopped the  green Hubbard pumpkin in chunks.

Arranged it on a cookie sheet sprinkled with brown sugar and baked it for 30 min.

Meanwhile, I boiled 1 cup rice with 4 cups milk, 3 tbs sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract (but not all the way… i.e. I didn’t let it absorb all the liquid)

Then I put little chunks of a tbs of butter on the bottom of a baking dish

Poured the whole milk-rice mixture in the dish

covered it with the “pumpkin puzzle” (once it was baked it was even easier to slice it in little squares and trapezoids)

Put all the ground walnuts on top, sprinkled with the rest of the brown sugar, added cinnamon, some more milk to fill the dish, and baked it for about 20 min (until the liquid got absorbed and the top was browned)

Now that I’ve done it both ways, I still prefer the original recipe. The one I made today is very good , but I’ve done it the original way, and I will go back to doing it like Grandma. It is a more incorporated taste and I guess I am just partial to the sentimental value of a layered look and taste.

I miss you Grandma. Happy Birthday! You would have been 98 today.

PUMPKINPUDDING