Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Salata bulgareasca

“Bulgarian salad”

After the excesses of Easter and, to be fair, my usual weekly cooking excesses which aren’t limited exclusively to annual festivals, I’ve decide that I’ll try to eat a few more salads and vegetable dishes (during the week, at least). So, salad it is tonight and one which you’ll find on almost every menu at any Romanian restaurant, namely ‘salata bulgareasca’. I’m not quite sure why it’s known as a Bulgarian salad. I did read somewhere that it’s because of the colours; the while of the cheese, the green of the cucumber, and the red of the tomato representing the colours of the Bulgarian flag. More likely it was simply associated at one point in the past with Bulgaria, which borders Romania to the south east.

Salads in Romania tend to be split into three types. There are those heavier salads which are generally served as starters or at buffet meals, such as salata de boeuf or salata de vinete (aubergine salad). Then there are the simple salads which are usually served alongside main course, such as salata de varza alba (white cabbage salad) or salata de rosii (tomato salad), and typically only contain one ingredient. And finally there are those salads that are generally served as a meal in their own right, such as this one, or salata greceasca (Greek salad), which seems to be becoming more common here too.

The earliest recipes I’ve found for salata bulgareasca comes from Sanda Marin’s cookery book from the 1930s and it is pretty much the same as today’s recipe except she includes potatoes, which I’ve never seen done in any restaurant here, and there is no ham. Although the ingredients vary from place to place, it seems that the white cheese (telemea), ham, and boiled eggs are pretty much expected today. The rest of the ingredients may vary a little, some containing olives, some without tomato, some with no lettuce, and so on. If you can't get real Romanian telemea, you can substitute it with feta.

Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 2 small (as a side) or 1 large (as a lunch/dinner)

Ingredients:
2-3 cucumbers (the small crunchy pickling ones are best, but regular will work too), cut into rounds
2 tomatoes, cut into thin wedges with the hard core removed
4-5 lettuce leaves, washed and shaken
1 egg, boiled, shell removed and quartered
1-2 slices of ham, cut into 2-3cm long strips about 1cm wide (leave out for veggie version)
1-2 slices of white cheese (telemea) cut into cubes
1 red onion, peeled, halved, then thinly sliced and separated
Black olives (optional)
1 tablespoon of vinegar
3 tablespoons of oil (olive or vegetable oil)
Salt to taste

Method:
1 Arrange the lettuce around the outside of the bowl.
2. In another bowl, toss the onion, cucumber and tomato with the oil, vinegar, and salt.
3. Add this to the bowl with the lettuce in it.
4. Sprinkle the ham and cheese on the top.
5. Arrange the egg pieces nicely on top
6. And that’s about it...

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