The memory of our summer holidays in Bulgaria is mostly of the warm, friendly and playful waves of the Black Sea and the overwhelming scent of roses, which became beautifully heavy especially in the balmy evenings.
I also remember lots of green sites around, stray dogs and donkey-pulled carts on the roads. And if you were brave enough you could take a picture standing next to a trained brown bear. Mind you, this all was before and very shortly after revolution, when I was just a school girl.
Besides those, it is a memory of a charming mountain chair- lift ride, or visiting old ruins by the sea with the most wonderful views where the romantic stone steps lead you down to the seashore, and of course the unforgettable gardens with large colourful flowerbeds of so many roses smelling sweet and vibrant it could almost make you go lightheaded.
Then it is the tastes and flavours, where chubritza (summer savory, herb) comes as the most powerful of them to me. We enjoyed tomato, cucumber & feta salads, spicy meatballs or kebabs, cool yoghurt & dill dips, sweet halva, Turkish delight and small doughnuts that you could buy on the beach, alongside with the small deep-fried fish, which my father liked as a random afternoon snack a lot and ate them whole with their tiny heads and fins.
I remember one particular white stall that sold feta cheese filo pastries that I loved hot or cold, and found comparable ones sold only while living in Romania. Delicious is not enough to say.
Looking for recipes that would help me to create something similar, I found an idea which I fancied a lot – adding spinach, red onion and pine nuts with mint.
To make these parcels, use a whole packet of fresh young spinach leaves (cca 250 g), place them in a colander that stands in a kitchen sink, pour boiling water over them which will make them welt fast, let drain.
Sweat finely chopped medium red onion on a knob of butter in a deep pan. Take off the heat. Add the feta cheese, I used about 400 g finely finger crumbled (that amount for 12 filo sheets). Stir well, add 2 beaten eggs, spinach, each a good handful of roughly chopped pine nuts (dry pan roasted nuts) and fresh mint leaves, stir again. Season with a bit of freshly ground black pepper. I don’t add salt as the cheese is quite salty itself.
You need to spread all the filo pastry sheets carefully. Use every three for the individual parcels, handling them very gently, while keeping the rest covered with a damp kitchen tea towel.
Melt 50 – 100 g butter and use a pastry brush to spread the butter over the filo sheets to stick them nicely together, as well as brush the coats of the parcels – I created triangular pasties, each containing 2 tbsp of the cheese mixture. I cut the the three sheets in the middle so can I make two large triangles of them. You can also make rectangular shapes if you prefer.
Roast the pasties in pre-heated oven at 180 °C / fan 160 °C / gas 4 for about 30 mins, or until the pastry turns golden and crisp. Once done, take the pasties out of the oven and brush them lightly with water.
Serve with a green salad and youghurt mint sauce. We liked them with a good punchy mix of baby and micro leaves of wild rocket, watercress, red chard, radish and nasturtium.