The most typical and traditional appetizer known throughout the whole Balkan - Bulgarian Shopska Salad. This colourful eye-catching salad has its origins in Western Bulgaria. The plating has a temperament of the ancestors of this region. The white cheese symbolises a head coverage of the women, so typical for their look. Beautiful folklore and welcoming nature of inhabitants. Shopska Salad is being served with homemade strong liquer made from grapes, plums, cherries, quince or sour cherries.
I have attended many of Bulgarian festive events even of common gatherings, and trust me, there is no party without this salad. The base is fresh local vegetables, olive oil, vinegar, parsley and of course, white cheese similar to Feta Cheese. Nothing less, nothing more. In some modern versions, you can often find green salads of your liking, olives and other ingredients. My secret ingredient is baked peppers. The taste of them, especially in combination with olive oil, is simply stunning. In Bulgaria, there is a special smoker invented for the pepper roast. Trust me, it has a reason why! Follow the instructions as per in my homemade Ljutenica Recipe.
You can always add other ingredients like green salads, olives, zucchini or carrots. I provide you with a basic Shopska Salad, served everywhere throughout the Balkan region.
Total Time: 20 minutes + 40 minutes for pepper roast
1 large pepper, washed
1 large cucumber, washed, cleaned and diced
3 medium tomatoes, washed, cleaned and diced
1 medium onion, peeled, cleaned and sliced
1 handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped leaves and stalks
A splash of white vinegar/Balsamic Vinegar, olive oil
A pinch of sea salt, ground black pepper
2 handfuls of good quality Feta cheese, grated
Fresh bread and Rakia to serve with
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Poke the pepper with a fork and wrap it in a sheet of aluminium foil.
Next, place it into a small tray and let it bake for about 30 minutes. Gently take it out and have a look at it. It has to blacken and get really soft within. If not, wrap it again and place it inside for 15 more minutes.
Once it is ready, take it out of the aluminium foil and wrap it in a cling foil. Sweating it out makes the peeling much easier. After 10 minutes, remove the seeds and skin and let it cool down entirely. Of course, you can always use a fresh pepper, but this one is a real Balkan treat. At this stage you can even pickle peppers in olive oil, even with the spicy ones.
Put all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl: baked pepper, tomatoes, onion, parsley, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Give a good stir and generously grate some Feta on top.
Enjoy the Balkan spirit with your beloved. Добър апетит!
Makes 4 serves.