Welcome to SooFoodies short Christmas Eve culinary guide! The following lines are about the Balkan region traditions and the most festive meals on 24th of December.
Christmas Eve and Christmas itself are days dedicated to family. All members gather around the festive table, talk long and enjoy happily the warmness coming from the cracking log in the fireplace. Kids are running around, stove is on and the subtle fragrances coming out are teasing all senses and tummies. Time to serve and to start the feast.
Imagine it is Christmas Eve now and you are in Bulgaria. The Christmas tree is ready and shiny, the big table is set, decorated usually with red cloth on. Glasses are sparkling, strong homemade rakia and red wine are lined up and the plates are waiting for the meatless but rich menu, traditional for that very special moment of the year, the anticipation of Jesus Christ birth.
The centerpiece of the evening is the Holy bread. Tradition says that every house should have one in the night before Christmas. It should be round and hide a coin inside. Dinner starts with its breaking by the eldest member of the family who gives a piece to everyone at the table with blessings for health, luck and success. Whoever finds the coin will share all the well-being in the forthcoming year. On the bread itself many ritual forms representing the nature and people’s living can be shaped – wine leaf, wheat seed, farm animal, cross.
Meals should be odd in number, preferably 7, 9 or 11. And here it is the great stuff that you may try this season. No table at Christmas Eve goes without beans. Baked and served in one big bowl in the middle so that everyone can enjoy as many spoons as he or she likes. Nourishing and melting, ready to be made. Then the eyes move to the cosy claypot full of sarmas in sour cabbage. Salty and juicy rolls carrying the winter flavor of pickled wrapping. So yummy and a real must-try. Thinking about the salad side of the story? Plenty of ideas here as well: from not that traditional but extremely delicious Spiced carrot salad (vegetarian as well as the rules demand) to the colorful winter combination of Salad colours or the simple Potato salad (you know, the simpler the better).
When everything is garnished with a piece of bread, you should wait some time until you get to the dessert. Time for nice long talks with the family about the passing year and all the things that happened. Time to share dreams and hopes for the new one too.
Ready for the dessert? Let’s go through the traditional recipes and enrich your experience.
Locally produced apples, quinces, pears and pumpkins, picked in the autumn and stored in the dark and dry storage area of the house, waiting for that special moment of being the holiday stars. As pumpkins are usually quite big we add them also into filo pastry sweets as tasty filling mixed with sugar and nuts in Pumpkin pastry. Filo pastry, we said? Wow, such a deliciousness with such a great feature – to embrace tenderly each filling to the tastiest result ever. Christmas Eve also calls for Baklava and traditional boiled wheat.
And here we might surprise you – enjoy the festive table and good night. You don’t need to put away anything as tradition says that the food should stay at hand for the souls that passed away.
Several hours later and Christmas is here – another beautiful holiday ahead that needs special attention and its own story. Coming soon!