Moulin de Plovdiv

Plovdiv is a lovely town. I had a great visit there and look forward to returning soon, especially after visiting Moulin de Plovdiv! They have a boulangerie/patisserie or bakery right in the center of town. The folks at Gaillot Chocolate told us about their French friend that was a baker, so I knew immediately that is where I would be having breakfast.

The first think that caught my eye were the Galettes, a buttery cookie that has just the right amount of sweetness… got some of those!

The assortment of delights was unreal. I couldn’t resist the croissants, so got a few of those, a pain chocolate, and a Breton galette with apricots…

And of course the bread… didn’t really need a loaf, but should have brought some home.

Everything was amazing. Angel, Gabriel and I sat in our hotel room covered in crumbs savoring every bite. Finding a good croissant is hard, but they aced all that we tried. Wonder if I can persuade them to open a shop in Kyustendil.

UPDATE – March 8th 2014: While in AGRA again this year, I followed the advice of my own post from last March to Moulin de Plovdiv, only to find out that they moved, almost immediately after the post was published.  I have updated the photos to include those of the new shop, but I have to add that I was deeply disappointed with the quality. I was there bright and early on a Friday morning and ordered a few croissants, but they were not fresh, not in the least, it was as if they were leftovers from the night before. I ordered three different varieties, original/butter, ham and kashkaval. All of them were deeply unsatisfying. I expect that a bakery, a French bakery, should have fresh croissants! I hope this was a fluke. Please share your thoughts.

Ul. Leonardo Da Vinci, 21
4000 Plovdiv, Bulgaria 
Hours Mon – Sat: 8:00 am – 7:00 pm 
Phone +359 87 886 7720

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Atelier

For a Wednesday afternoon at a quarter to one, Atelier was packed, even a notable name like culinary personality Uti stopped by. It was and good thing my friend made a reservation because there was not a free spot. During one of my visits to previous visits to Sofia, I stumbled upon Atelier, which happens to be in one of my favorite neighborhoods, Dr’s Garden. It had been on my list to visit for some time.

In French “atelier” means workshop or studio and Atelier’s walls are adorn with photographs highlighting Bulgaria’s most famous artists… including Kyustendil’s Vladimir Dimitrov – the Master.

Unfortunately, with most new places that I visit in Bulgaria, I am always filled with skepticism. When the interior is well designed and clean, trying to give off a certain vibe, I wonder did they put the same attention and emphasis on the food? Does the carpet match the drapes? Atelier did not disappoint. I was quite satisfied with our starters. Of the four on the menu we shared three of them


The Spicy Shrimp with fresh Zucchini with Rosemary and Parmesan Crisps, was tasty. The crisps were actually crispy and not greasy, which can be tricky. The shrimp were well cooked and not rubbery, but it lacked the heat that name indicated and an apparent absence of rosemary.

We also shared freshly baked soda breads, one was served with an eggplant mousse and tomato confit. The other came with marinated feta cheese, sun dried tomatoes and olives. I was really happy with the the flavor and execution of the food.

My main was ultimately the most satisfying. I ordered the Pork Shanks served with gently steamed oysters in cognac with dried plums and olives. The meat was perfectly cooked, tender yet succulent. The sauce paired well with the oysters, plums and olives. My friends ordered the pork ribs and beef tenderloin. They were both content.   
The intellectual French bistro vibe was well established. The menu includes more of an international fare and a big upset for me was the absence of Bulgaria wine. If you are going to highlight Bulgarian artists, why not include the talented winemakers in one’s own country, rather than importing old world and new world wine? I hope this place continues to mature and considers creating a more seasonal menu, zucchini’s don’t grow fresh in January, neither do eggplants or tomatoes… I will be eager to return in the warmer months. Another reason to spend more time in the area. 
Atelier
16 Prof. Assen Zlatarov St./ул. Проф. Асен Златаров 16
Sofia, Bulgaria
Hours: 11:00-23:00 
Phone: +359 (0)88 620 27 17


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GastronoMe – The French Market Next Door

GastronoMe opened in the autumn of 2011. Somehow the news of a French grocery store came to me quite quickly, but traveling back and forth to the States and my limited visits to Sofia this winter and spring, I only got to check out this delightful little shop this week. The shop owner Maria, also a Bulgarian food blogger of the site LaMartinia, shares her love of good food by offering Sofians French products imported directly from France.

The design is very provincial, it almost has that L’Occitaine vibe. A quaint and intimate shop that alleviates the need to trek to Carrefour for your French gastronomic needs.

They carry a variety of mustards, pates, rillets, mayonnaises, waters and other non-perishable items.
A nice selection of wines, condiments, sauces and chestnut purees and other products.
 

They also carry natural French skincare and cosmetics.
The shop is a great resource for those living in the center or wanderers like me. I truly enjoy strolling through Sofia, especially during the warmer months when the flora are in bloom.  During my jaunts, finding a shop like this hits the spot. As I walked away and rounded the corner, I regretted that I didn’t buy a bottle of Volvic water, which is one of my favorites.
Little Five Corners (Малките пет кьошета)
63 Neofit Rilski Street (ул. “Неофит Рилски” 63)
1000 Sofia, Bulgaria 
Mon – Thu: 10:30 am – 8:00 pm 
Sat: 11:00 am – 7:00 pm 
Phone 088 750 7794 
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Dock & Goat Cheese Quiche

I was a little hesitant about foraging for edibles by my lonesome because… well, how can you be truly certain you are not going to poison yourself of your family. Unless, however you were fortunate enough to spend hours with someone well acquainted with the plant species in your area… I have had no such mentor, so I must winging it. I decided to make something with what I thought was sorrel, but it turned out to be patience dock (a.k.a garden patience, herb patience or Monk’s rhubarb) and it is in the same family as sorrel, rumex, which includes dock and sorrel varieties. I went walking around my neighborhood looking for some to harvest for dinner and I was amazed how prolific it was. I found numerous spots to find harvest some young leaves, even in my own yard.

In order to find out what exactly were were eating, I needed to find out what it was called in Bulgarian, but I came up with a few options from my huband and in-laws: shtafel (Щафел), lapad (Лапад) or kiseletz (киселец). Lapad according to Wikipedia is the general term for rumex, but it could also be used to describe either shtafel or kiseletz, but Kiseletz is sorrel from the latin rumex acetosa and shtafel is from the latin rumex patientia. I welcome anyone to chime in on my Bulgarian explanations of the names!

So, back when I thought patience dock was sorrel, I Googled some recipes for inspiration. I knew it could be used in similar ways to spinach, but I was looking for something different. I came across a sorrel and goat cheese quiche recipe from Two Small Farms, which sounded perfect because with quiche, once it is in the oven, you can spend the evening with your family while it bakes and rests.

In tasting the raw leaves, I found them quite bitter and a bit too tough for a mixed salad, even the younger ones. Due to the bitter flavor, I was skeptical of the final product, but I was surprised that the bitterness dissipated during the cooking process, but the flavor of the goat cheese somewhat surpressed the greens. The overall opinion of my family was 75% positive. Boryana was not a fan, although she loves my pie crust. Considering she is six, dinner is hit or miss with her anyway. Maya on the other hand gobbled it up… literally.

Dock and Goat Cheese Quiche

2 – 3 cups of patience dock, coarsely chopped
4 – 5 scallions, white and green, chopped
4 oz (100g) goat cheese, preferable something similar to Chevre
3 – 4 eggs, three if using a regular 9″ pie plate, four if using a deep-dish
1.5 – 2 cups (350 – 450ml)  milk, 350 if using a regular 9″ pie plate, 450 if using a deep-dish
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
pinch of nutmeg, freshly ground (optional)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 pie crust, use your favorite recipe, here is mine or pre-made, if you must 😦

Method: 

Pre-heat oven to 400F (205C), I would recommend pre-baking your pie crust if you want a crisper bottom, but it is not necessary.

Thinly slice the goat cheese and spread on the bottom of the pie crust, cover cheese with chopped dock and scallions.

Whisk together eggs, milk and nutmeg, season with salt and pepper. Pour mixture over greens.  Evenly sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top.

Bake on the middle rack and bake till egg mixture is puffed and cheese is golden brown. Insert a tooth pick or cake tester if it comes out clean you are good.  For a 9″ pie plate, 35 – 40 minutes, for deep dish 40 – 45.  Use your judgement.  I use Pyrex pie plates, which I find preferable to metal for even distribution of heat. Let rest 10 – 15 minutes for the quiche to set.

Recipe adapted from Luna Circle Farm

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Chocolate Soufflé

This is the first time in many months that I have participated in a Daring Kitchen Challenge. Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge!  Dave and Linda provided many of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate souffle recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

The only other time I had prepared a soufflé was after the IWC French cooking demo. It was a cheese soufflé and didn’t turn out quite as I imagined.  I had a hard time folding in the egg mixture to the cheese mixture.  I assumed that I did something wrong, maybe the cheese wasn’t cheesy enough or the eggs were to stiff and dense, what ever the reason, I wasn’t happy with my results.  When I read about the DK Souffle challenge, I thought this was my chance to redeem myself.

Of the types of soufflés that were suggested, the chocolate soufflé was easiest option to procure ingredients, and I had extra 70% dark chocolate bars, so there was nothing I didn’t have available, except; equipment wise. I didn’t have on hand the 8oz (240ml) ramekins, which the recipe called for, so I had to make due with 3 larger vessels, there was a 4th which had miraculously disappeared.

This recipe also provided me with another opportunity to try out one of Martha Stewart’s November Good Things, a powdered sugar shaker made with a Ball jar and cheesecloth.  

Here is Gordon Ramsey’s Chocolate Soufflé recipe, which is also found on the BBC Good Food

For the Dishes

2 tbsp (30 ml) 1 oz (30 g) unsalted butter, for greasing
Cocoa powder or finely grated chocolate

For the Creme Patisserie

2 tbsp (30 ml) (18 g) (2/3 oz) all-purpose flour
2 tsp (10 gm) (.35 oz) caster (superfine) sugar (regular sugar is OK)
1/2 tsp (4 1/2 g) (.15 oz) corn starch (aka corn flour)
1 md egg yolk
1 md whole egg
4 tbsp (60 ml) milk
5 tbsp (75 ml) heavy cream (or double cream)
3 oz (90 g) good-quality dark chocolate 70% cocoa solids, broken in pieces
2 tbsp (30 ml) (15 g) (1/2 oz) unsweetened cocoa powder

For the Egg White

6 md egg whites
6 1/2 tbsp (95 ml) 3 oz (90 g) superfine/caster sugar

Directions:

1. Heat the oven to moderate 375F (190 C)
2. Take four 1 cups/ 240 ml soufflé dishes and brush then completely with softened butter.  Tip a little cocoa or grated chocolate into each dish, roll the dish around tiliting it as you do so it is evenly lined all around.
3. For the creme patisserie, mix the flour, sugar and corn starch intoa small bowl.  Put egg yolk and whole egg into a medium siced bowl, lightly beat, then beat in half of the flour mixture to give a smooth paste.  Tip in the rest of the flour mixture and cocoa powder and mix well.
4. To make ganache, pour mild and cream into a pan and bring just to a boil.  Remove from the heat.  Add the chocalte and beat until it is melted and smooth with no lumps.
5. Gradually stir hot chocolate ganacu into the paste from step 3.
6. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks with an electric whisk.  Sprinkle in the sugar as you ar mixing.  Keep whisking to give stiff, firm peask to give volume to the soufflé.

7. Stir about 2 tbsp (30 ml) of the beaten egg whites into the creme patisserie.  Carefully fold in a third of the rest, cutting through the mixture.  Fold in another third (take care not to lose the volume), then fold in the rest.
8. Spoon the mixture into the dishes.  Run a spoon across the top of each dish so the mixture is completely flat.  Take a little time to wipe any splashes off the outside of each dish, or they will burn on while cooking.
9. Bake the soufflés for 15 – 17 minutes.
10. The soufflés should have risen about two thirds of their original height and jiggle when moved, but be set on top.
The consensus in the family was not very positive towards the soufflé.  My girls thought the chocolate flavor was too bitter and not sweet enough and my husband wasn’t too jazzed about them either.  I think I had the same problem as I did with the cheese soufflé, which was I didn’t get the two mixtures to incorporate correctly.  Also, since I didn’t have the correct size ramekin, I might have over cooked them a bit.  
Have you ever made a soufflé?  What are some tips that you can offer or what are some of your hesitations about making a soufflé?

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Herbes de Provence Crusted Roast Pork: IIP

After a long pause, I am back partying with the International Incident Party (IIP) crew with Penny of Jeroxie at the helm. This month we are rocking out with one of my favorite ingredients Lavender! 


The plant that I am most proud of in my garden is my lavender. My pride comes not from the exoticness of the flora, but the fact that I grew it from seed. Lavender, like rosemary is difficult to germinate. Now before I wow you with my horticultural aptitude, I must confess it was an accident.  I totally neglected the seeds for a few months and when I went to check on them I discovered two True Lavender seedlings.

Culinarily, lavender lends itself quite easily to confectionary treats, but I wanted to explore the savory side of thing with a Provençal pork roast. The idea to use floral essences with meat came from last years Food and Wine November issue. They suggested a homage to the flavors of the South of France with a Thanksgiving menu created to highlight these delights. To accompany the roast, I could have served some braised or roasted fennel and topped the roast with lovely sauce with a hint of Pernod, but fennel is hard to find outside of Sofia and the meat was juicy, plus the family was hungry.

The herbes de Provence came entirely from the herbs in my garden, with the exception of the fennel seed. When researching the different blend rations I discovered a few hints and tips for making a successful blend. The first being, that the primary flavors of the blend are thyme and summer savory.  For those of you who do not live in Bulgaria, summer savory (aka chubritza/чубрица) is the most important seasoning after salt. When you see condiments on a table, often in place of the black pepper you will see summer savory. The second point is that dried herbs work better if you are cooking for longer than 20 minutes. Fresh herbs will lose their flavor. I am not 100 percent sure that that is true, but I dried some of my fresh herbs in the oven on low heat.

Herbes de Provence:

1 1/2 tsp summer savory
1 1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp fennel seeds, toasted
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp lavender
1/4 tsp sage

Method:

Combine all of the dried spices, place in a food processor, spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Grind till you reach your desired texture. Be sure to break down the fennel seeds.

Herbes de Provence Crusted Roast Pork:

1 kg (2.2 lb) pork loin
5 – 6 tsp herbes de provence
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp salt
fresh cracked pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

Method:

Combine the herbs, mustard, salt and pepper.  Evenly coat the entire pork loin with the herb mixture.  Wrap with plastic and refrigerate at least 4 hours or over night.

Removed the pork from the fridge about 2 hours before cooking and let come to room temperature.

Pre-heat oven to 155C (300F)

Sear meat on all sides, them roast in oven for about 40 minutes till internal temperature hits 55C (130F).  Remove from oven and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes, the temperature should raise resulting in a perfect, juicy medium rare.

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Saint Jean de Luz, France – Farmers Market

Hendaya, France

My family and I spent two weeks traipsing across the European continent from Bulgaria to France’s Côte Basque region on the Atlantic Coast. I set out to procure two things from our family vacation; one, I wanted to find a true French Tarragon plant for my garden and two, buy some french pink garlic for myself and my friend Sally. As the shopping habits of the French seem to have morphed from small markets and individual shops to the American-style shopping centers or hypermarchés, so I found my search for garlic and tarragon becoming more difficult. But, thanks to a guide book that I acquired a few years back, I knew that St. Jean de Luz held a bi-weekly farmers market, which due to the age of my book is now daily.
Like a kid waiting for Christmas, I woke up around 7 am, while my husband snored in the tent, lying beside me. I started tossing, turning and yawning hoping my subtle clues would rouse him, but he just grumbled and handed me my book and glasses from his side of the inflatable mattress. I got the hint.

Getting more use out of our WWOOF-ing tent!

I was worried that the information in my book wasn’t accurate, plus there was no time frame mentioned.  Maybe it started early and would be done before lunch… I had no idea. Angel kindly informed me that this was France and he doubted it started before 10am, as the french go. He was right, but I was still anxious. I love wandering around markets and I go to any length to incorporate them in to my vacations, like in Fremantle, WA, Australia.

After struggling to find a parking spot, I used my “unagi” to guide us to the correct location and there it was… a vision of delectable bounty. If I hadn’t been with my husband I could have spent time at every table sampling meats and cheese, absorbing the intoxications smells and visions, but I was on a time crunch to make the most of this experience and not waste a good beach day!
Paella!
Beautiful Paella!

My garlic mission was accomplished. I found garlic and as an added bonus, some huge shallots, which are by far my favorite cooking ingredient, I only wish my garden had produced such beauties, but I did get enough to plant this fall and hopefully have a better harvest next Spring/Summer! I also, eventually found my tarragon plant, which was covered with rust spots. I was sure I could salvage it, but as luck would have it I left it at the campsite and only remembered that I left it when we passed Toulouse on our return to Bulgaria. My husband suggested going back, but I knew it just wasn’t meant to be…

Les Halles at St. Jean de Luz is a huge and wonderful market. If you are in the area worth checking out. For more information on the market (in French) please click here.

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