Buying chilli and curry powder out here in Bulgaria has been a mission to say the least: frustratingly, what claims to be chilli is actually a mixture of paprika, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and a bunch of other things – in short, not chilli. I am rather confused in fact as to why it’s called chilli: we have a whole selection of bags and jars full of red miscellany claiming to be so in our endeavours to find it. In the end we purchased some very mild chilli flakes from a wizened old gentleman at the market in Kubrat (it’s on Sunday morning should you ever be in the environs of northern Bulgaria!). The story is the same for curry: I suspect it may have something to do with curry being expensive to import, so to make it affordable for Йосиф публичен (Joe Public) it must be a quasi-ersatz affair.
Curry is not something done terribly authentically here. Some might say it is terribly done (guffaw!). But it is a matter of taste. I have had it, but it is not curry as you might imagine… like the Italian cuisine here, it is more of a culinary translation for the Bulgarian palate. At least, that’s what I’ve experienced in small town restaurants; I am sure it is different in larger towns and cities such as Ruse or Sofia. I don’t want to put you off going to restaurants here because I love Bulgarian food – see our guide to eating out for more on this topic.
Being the lazy slobbish sort we have naturally been missing takeaway curry quite a bit since moving here from South London. So I decided to do as the Bulgarians do and make a sort of curryish, which would have been vastly improved with some coriander, madras curry powder, coconut and thai fish sauce – which I tend to covertly (because au naturel it stinks) add to everything culinarywise – so I have added them to the list of ingredients. You’re basically in my curry fantasy right now. I tried to recreate the dodgy takeaway feel by adding loads of oil, a couple of tablespoons of sugar and … serving it lukewarm in greasy plastic tubs? Disregarding the basic tenants of food hygiene? Mmmm, I miss takeaway.
8-10 green peppers
2 cloves garlic
1 potato cut into small cubes
chilli flakes, to taste (needless to say I used about 10 spoonfuls)
madras curry powder
2 tablespoons sugar
half a tube of tomato paste
1 can coconut milk
thai fish sauce (although it’s vegan without it)
150g red lentils
3 handfuls squash or pumpkin cut into large chunks
Boiled rice, to serve
Oil the peppers – using your hands by pouring a little into your palm is the easiest way – and stick them under the grill till the skins are black in patches.
Meanwhile, thickly slice and fry the onions in vegetable oil until just turning translucent then add pureed garlic (you can do this quickly by squashing it under the blade of a sharp knife) and potatoes and sautee for a few munutes. Add the various spices and seasonings and a couple of tablespoons of sugar and a large pinch of salt. Fry this until aromatic and then quickly add the tomato paste, half a can of coconut, a few dashes of fish sauce and maybe a stock cube (I would go for chicken myself but you could use veg) and simmer gently until potatoes are just cooked. You may have to add a little water; I didn’t have to as I was using leftover homemade chips from the previous evening!
Add the lentils – I found some that cook in 7 minutes which is about the time the squash and tomatoes take to soften but not to disintegrate so I added them all together, with about a cupful of water or however much the lentils require to cook and to keep the curry nice and saucy without being watery.
While this is bubbling away, peel the skins of the roasted peppers and deseed and destalk. If you break them open over the pot you should be able to add the juice. Rip into wide strips and set aside.
When the lentils and vegetables are cooked, stir in chopped coriander and garnish with green peppers and a dash of coconut.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 November 2009 21:44|