Recipe: Mama Zdravka's Banitsa

We love living in Plovdiv.  Everyone we talk to loves living here, and everyone who doesn't live here, loves visiting.  You'll have to come see us to know what we mean :)  The only thing that might make it slightly better is a Starbucks.  Especially when eating banitsa, the renowned Balkan cheese pastry.

It's a great breakfast item, delicious for dessert, or just as a snack.  As promised, here is Joy's Bulgarian host mom's recipe... although, you should know it calls for rather unique ingredients.

Also, take note that the measurements are estimated for two reasons:
  1. Here in the Balkans, people just know how much to put in a dish to make it come out just right.  Meaning, Joy watched & wrote down what she saw Mama Zdravka put in.
  2. Converting from metric to US measurements is always quirky, right?
Who's up for the challenge? :)

Mama Zdravka's Banitsa:

4 eggs
15 oz. "sirene" or goat cheese (i.e. feta cheese)
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tsp. baking soda
18 oz. phyllo pastry
Vegetable Oil

Preheat oven to 375 F degrees.  In medium bowl, combine eggs, cheese (crumbled into small chunks), sugar, and baking soda.  In a small bowl, pour one cup of vegetable oil, and get out a soup spoon; keep oil out, as you may need more.

Unfold phyllo pastry & place one sheet flat in a 9 x 13 dish.  It's ok if the phyllo sheets fold over (if they are too big for the 9 x 13 dish).  Drizzle 2 spoonfuls of oil over pastry.  Then evenly drizzle the egg/cheese mixture over the pastry, not covering the pastry.  Meaning, a couple good-sized chunks in each serving.  Hope that makes sense!

Continue with the above layering until the phyllo + egg/cheese mixture is no more.  Drizzle oil over the top phyllo layer, to keep it from burning.

Bake for 20-25 min or until top of banitsa looks like the picture above!  Let it cool for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Just to throw a little "fall" aspect into this recipe, you can add pumpkin puree' or thinly-sliced apples to this.  We've had both & they're heavenly.

It's so fun to taste Bulgarian culture!  Hope you enjoy it just as much as we do!

Oh, and, Sofia has a Starbucks, so we're hopeful about possibly getting one in Plovdiv... to get one in the next two years isn't too much to ask, right? :)


Bulgarian Birthday!

Sorry we've been MIA the past few weeks!  We haven't been terribly busy... just not a lot to write home about.

Well, last night, we went to our buddy Stefan's 41st birthday party.  The only downer was that we couldn't bring Liza along :)

Can't remember if we've mentioned this before, but on your birthday in Bulgaria, you buy/give/pay for everything.  Getting gifts is not something they expect or do.  It's very interesting & pretty cool... until it's your birthday.  Ha.  Just kidding.  We're excited about celebrating our birthdays here "Bulgarian style," next year.

Anyway, here's the party...

There was American Whisky (supposedly)...

Stefan bought "American Whisky" for the occasion.
Not sure if it was American or not, but it had our flag!

There was a VERY long table...

They know how to set a table, don't they?
There were 13 of us.
There was hair-styling...

When we arrived, Joy was immediately
employed to fix Vania's hair for the evening.

Boy, was there ever cake...

 We got to watch the professional (Vania's friend)
decorate the birthday cake.

There were candles...

 They have the same tradition of candles lit,
lights out, sing "Happy Birthday," and blow out the candles.
We even sang in English!  Not sure if it was because we were there or not.

There was banitsa...

Randall made a tetris piece with his banitsa.
A very versatile desert.
 There were kids...
 One of our favorite parts of the evening was that,
all throughout the night, the kids came into the
living room with a show of some sort...
This is Martin, Stefan's son, donning a new wig :)

We had Spiderman AND Spiderman at the party.
How many people can say that? :)

 This is Marty and the cake-decorator's son, Stillian.

They're already getting ready for Halloween :)
I can't imagine what they're like with candy in their system!

We even took a break from the festivities to
watch a little Nascar in the bedroom :)

We went home about 5 1/2 hours into it... not sure how much longer it lasted!  We definitely recommend going to Bulgarian birthday parties.  Hands down.  It was quite the event.

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, everyone!