Sunday, December 27, 2015

Food, glorious food

This food heavy blog starts off badly with Paul suffering after we had pan fried bass, we knew he had an allergy to shellfish but now don't know if it has extended to all seafood, or if his portion of fish was iffy.   He was fed antihistamines and went to sleep it off, with Tracey checking on him every so often.    His recovery was rapid judging by the sifting of sand (to remove debris), followed by his limewashing the workshop walls and then installing a consumer unit all before Tracey woke up.

Sand drying on top, cheesecake baking in the oven
Dedicated workshop.outbuildings consumer unit

We'd decided to cull 40% of the rabbits before winter really arrives for a few reasons: a) we had no spare cages for next years litters; b) we wanted some rabbit meat and c) the rabbits are the most time consuming animals to clean, feed and water so less rabbits means less time in sub-zero temperatures (which still haven't arrived at time of writing).   Thanks to a friend we located natural sausage skins, going for pig intestine rather than the thicker cow because of rabbits more delicate taste.    The killing and skinning throw up an unpleasant experience when one of the rabbits started screaming (in fear) as it was taken from Rabbit Ritz to the kill zone.    Not something either of us had heard before or want to hear again, so in future the rabbits will be killed no more than 2 a time, even though they don't see the others die, or be skinned, they must sense it after a certain number.   Tracey had been playing with various ideas for rabbit sausages for a few weeks but because a friend had requested a rabbit, and came to watch the kill, she narrowed the list down to 4 varieties, although her notebooks do contain the other ideas so no doubt  more variations will appear on next years menus.

We ran out of sausage skins, so burgers became an option

Not just any sausages, properly linked sausages

Whether it was sausage 'designing' or some other random thought is unknown but Tracey decided that one evening the meal was going to be Scotch Eggs but made with eggs that had been preserved over the summer.   The rabbit sausage meat wasn't used for this recipe and possibly that was a good move as we got to enjoy the experience without having to evaluate too many new flavours.  We (Tracey) will be preserving many more eggs next year and her version of Scotch Eggs will be a regular feature of meals.

It was also the last Formula 1 race of the season so Tracey decided to experiment with some double ginger cookies, using ginger that had been previously preserved in syrup.    According to Paul that's a recipe that doesn't need any tweaking, although the (vast) number he ate did give him indigestion.

Double ginger cookies

Scotch Eggs and mac cheese for dinner

We'd been asked a few months previously if we would go, in the van, with Bati (term of respect) Illiya to collect 'some fuel' for his pechka, we knew it wasn't wood as we'd already checked he had a healthy amount to see him through.  It turned out he wanted 600 kg of coal, as this burns slower than wood and he doesn't need to keep feeding the fire overnight.   He may have got slightly more than he paid for as Tracey 'forgot' she was in the empty van when  it was on the weighbridge, and she decided to walk back to the weighbridge so she could have a smoke, arriving back after the van and coal had been weighed.   Even though we took the opportunity to pick up some galvanised steel whilst in town that didn't stop us having to join Illiya in a rakia, mind you we don't think he expected the pair of us to unload the van and put all the sacks of coal into  his coal store - there is an advantage in not being able to understand fully the neighbours.

Away from the kitchen and back in the workshop Paul was unhappy that the floor was uneven, and although Tracey had been arguing it wasn't a priority the floor has now been leveled, which even Tracey will admit makes sense when putting woodworking machinery on it.    The machinery is slowly leaving the cellar and moving into the workshop which is now equipped with both mains and solar lighting, mains power, a wood burner and a well organised tool board.   Now I bet you are all wondering what the first thing Paul made in his workshop of vast dimensions ... was it a back door to replace the heavy rug currently being used, was it a shoe rack, that Tracey has been asking for since year zero?   Yep it was a shoe rack BUT not for Tracey rather for our neighbours daughter, who in Paul's opinion also has far too many shoes.  teehee 
Shoe rack for Sisi

A well organised tool board, the bench is a work in progree

It has also been decided that as Ruby is happy flying on her own, and Jim isn't visiting this summer We are going to see Tracey's father, and some friends, in France rather than visit the UK    Our outward flight has been booked which is a bit of a gamble as we still haven't got a definite house-sitter organised.   There is a possibility of a flying visit to the UK as the Audi is past it's best and Paul's brother is going to see if he can locate one for us.    This is a much  better option than buying one here as we know it will have been properly checked and nothing 'hidden' from us, although there is quite a nice one for sale, by a Bulgarian, nearby which we may check out.   In addition to the Audi being past it's best before date the starter motor of the van decided to pack up mid December, until we manage to replace, or repair,  it the van is only being used to go places where we can leave the engine running, or park on a hill.

Recently 2 of our neighbours needed help with some trees, so we gave ourselves the day off from pottering here and went round with chainsaw and enthusiasm. We expected it to be a couple of hours but 7 hours later we'd removed a 40(ish) year old walnut  from the building it was growing around and some major limbs off 5 other trees. in exchange we received 2 metres of the 40 year old walnut, about a metre of younger walnut, a bottle of rakia and a jar of honey. We now just need to wait 2 years or so for the wood to dry (hopefully without splitting) and then Paul can turn it into things of useful beauty.   We do need to go back and cut the wood into log sized pieces for dyado, but we ran out off fuel and he's in no rush for the wood.   When we got home Tracey rustled up a quick meal and Paul decided he was going to make a banana & ginger parkin, as one does after a days tree felling.

You can see, near Pauls feet, where the tree is growing around the roof

Notice Bulgarian Health & Safety - no ropes, no safety gear and he's using a chainsaw up there

This was the walnut and the roof it was growing round

This tree just needed some limbs removing

Home to cake making, and precision cutting
One of the trunk pieces we got as payment

Planks, from the other piece of trunk had to be cut on site, because of their weight

Potential woodworking wood NOT for burning

This was the damage the roof had caused to the tree

As mentioned earlier we had decided to turn some of our rabbits into sausages and burgers, it's a pity we hadn't decided to downsize on the poultry as well.  A local is currently in Germany, visiting family, and rather than ask family or friends in the village to look after his dog he just kicked it out on the street letting it fend for itself.   As we have no crops growing at the moment the animals have been free ranging in the garden mainly, sometimes visiting the fodder field unfortunately the dog became aware of this and we lost 2 chickens and 2 ducks.  Tracey upset a number of animal lovers, when she asked for advise regarding the official procedure for dealing with strays, a lot of animals lovers seemed to think we should not 'deal' with the dog, but restrict our birds to a smaller more secure area.  A very good blog was written in response to the unpleasantness that the situation caused, you can read it at:    As a result of the bird losses for the first time since moving to Bulgaria we have had to buy eggs. 

Tracey had asked a friend who was due to slaughter one of their pigs if she could buy a couple of pieces of back fat so we (she)  could make some Salo and Paprikaspeck.  When we went to collect it wasn't just the couple of pieces of back fat we were expecting, as the pig owners still had plenty of lard from last years kill they had given (yep they wouldn't take any money for it) us all the fat from the pig.   Currently we have about 20 200g coffee jars of lard, and 4 boxes of back fat in assorted cures.    In addition there are 3 bags of 'scracthings' in the freezer (lightly salted, sweet chilli and ginger), 4 bags of fat cubed for the poultry, once the temperatures drop, and 14 fat balls for them as well.

Lard at various stages of setting

Sweet chilli on the left, lightly salted on the right

poultry's winter treats

As well as making goodies for us Tracey has also been adapting traditional English xmas recipes to incorporate local products, as gifts for baba & dyado.   So christmas eve we delivered trays containing walnut shortbread, filo mince pies, cinnamon & orange cupcakes and apricot & walnut cookie truffles ... our rakia collection has expanded as a result of this.   Bati Illiya also got a jar of lard included in his package, well he is our Bulgarian papa afterall.

Random jars of homey fermented pomegranate

Walnut Shortbread

Dark Chocolate Truffles

Milk Chocolate Truffles

We had to test one of each


Add caption

Tracey admires those who can produce food that looks like the mass produced version

Random cookies

We approach the end of 2015 reasonably satisfied with what we have achieved this year (we can always do more/better) and both suffering with winter sniffles, probably as a result of the mild weather.   Next year we will probably more actively encourage helpers from both   and as in the past the really good ones have tended to arrive just as we need an injection of enthusiasm.   It's all well and good living 'the good life' but building, growing and livestock doesn't give you a break and the volunteers with their fresh ideas and smiley faces benefit us more than a couple of days away would.

Wishing you and yours all the best for 2016. Whatever the year brings you remember to love, laugh and be happy.


  1. Sorry to hear of Paul's allergy....didn't keep him down for long though!
    Very impressed with the sausages, I think they look a lot more appetising than the ones passed over from the neighbour this week. (Yes I know I don't eat them, but I cook and smell them!) And everything else, no wonder you've been quiet. We have just been given three large jars of lard from the neighbour, we have only used half a jar of last year's so the birds will be happy next week when the cold weather arrives.
    I did follow the post about the dog and thought about getting involved, but you did a great job without my input! I hate to think what pms you got.
    I think you have both done a great job this year and on the food front I would love to hear how you preserved your eggs and how they tasted.
    Keep up the blog, I have a niece following it avidly and she is looking forward to coming over to see the country herself in spring.

    Happy New Year to you both.

    1. Thanks and hope 2016 brings you much pleasure and succcess, as well as visits from nieces.

  2. Must have a look at that other blog! Didn't know you were running another one. Interested as to how you preserved the eggs. Pickled? Isinglass?

    1. As mentioned elsewhere Dave, not my blog but that of someone who managed to write a dispassionate account, something I'm still not capable of.

  3. Great blog post Tracey - love catching up with what you are doing over here and so glad that you enjoyed my blog post about the unfortunate "incident" with the dog and it was something useful for you to share too ...... :)

    1. The interesting thing is Carol, after all the unpleasantness, the dog wasn't shot. I don't know if the kmet has organised someone to feed it, or just gave it a stern talking to, but I saw it a few days ago sitting outside it's home quite happily.

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