Saturday, 12 October 2013

The Cabbage epic, part 1: The story of the salad from cabbage and carrots

Autumn comes slowly, bringing new colors, moods, and wishes. It brings new flavors and tastes in our kitchens, too. One of the foods of the autumn is cabbage, and today I am inspired to tell you more about its usage in the Bulgarian cuisine.

Cabbage is among the eternal Bulgarian foods. It had an important place in Bulgarians' lives in the Middle Ages. And this is a real story from the late-13th century. An epic story, representing the unbreakable relationship of the Bulgarian man and the cabbage!

John Koukouzel (photo: Wikipedia)
In his youth, the great Medieval composer John Koukouzel (Bulgarian by origin) studied in Constantinople. Once his classmates asked him what was his today's dish, and he answered that he ate broad beans with cabbage. 

The young John spoke poorly Greek, so he combined two words: κουκιά (Greek "koukia" for broad beans) and зеле (Bulgarian "zele" for cabbage). This is how he received his nickname, which gradually became a surname

I will share with you a recipe that is perfect for this season: a salad from cabbage and carrots. My father taught me years ago, and now I often make it. This is one of these things - from father to son - which we transfer through generations in our family. Believe me, if Koukouzel could taste it, he would write a ballad about this salad!

Ingredients for 2 big servings: 

The basic ingredients
  • a half from a small cabbage 
  • two big carrots 
  • salt to taste 
  • lemon / vinegar (by preference) 
  • olive oil, sunflower oil, canola oil (by preference) 
  • several olives 
  • very small slice of leek - 2-3cm. (optional) 
  • a slice of celery (optional)
The recipe may vary, depending of the location and the available products, but the basic things are cabbage, carrots, salt, oil, and vinegar. Everything else can be added to make the taste and richer. 

The process: 
Cutting the cabbage
First step: cut the cabbage. Grate the carrots and the celery. Cut finely the leeks. 
Crushing the cabbage. So it will languisheth a bit,
but that's okay -  it easier will absorb the spices!
Second step: crush the cabbage! This procedure has a crucial meaning for the creation of a great salad! After that the cabbage will absorb easily the spices and will become more testy. Add the carrots, then put salt to taste and juice from one lemon (or two spoons from our homemade wine vinegar). Then stir and add the (sunflower/olive) oil. Stir again.

I am an adventurer and sometimes I'm tempted to experiment with additional tastes. From the ready material I'll make two different salads: for my father and for me. The difference is in the details.

My father's portion
My father prefers the classic salad with cabbage and carrots. No celery, no leeks, no lemon juice! Only cabbage, carrots, salt, wine vinegar, and sunflower oil. Well, I decided to decorate his salad with olives, which he accepted with pleasure.

My portion
Unlike my father, I was not limited to cabbage and carrots. I used a lemon juice, instead of vinegar, and an Extra-virgin olive oil, instead of sunflower oil. I added the grated celery and the finely chopped leeks. (Note: acrid taste of the salad can be achieved not only with leeks, but also by sprinkling with a little black pepper powder.) Additionally I put a piece of cheese. This salad was more experimental, and I have to say - it is good! John Kukouzel would be glad to taste it!

VeRy   ImPoRtAnT   nOtE: In the local tradition of Haskovo region, this salad perfectly matches a cup of rakiya and a long conversation! Nazdrave!

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