MMy late grandmother instilled a love for food in me, because when I was a child in Bulgaria I used to “help” in the kitchen. She used to chase me around the house with pepper dolmens for my obligatory afternoon snack (dare you skip it, your development as a healthy person was in danger). On my visits home, my mother now greets me with her green bean stew, which sits proudly in the pantheon of culinary gods such as meatballs with tomato sauce, moussaka and, of course, dolmas and sarmas.
Plakiya with green beans and roasted garlic (pictured above)
My mom swears that this extremely simple and delicious dish preserves all the flavor in every vegetable. plakia is a cooking style in which vegetables are sliced, layered, roasted and served at room temperature; it also includes a good amount of garlic. Take out the cloves as you go, or squeeze them over the finished dish. I always add yogurt.
preparation 15 minutes
Cook 45 mins
500 grams of green beans
1½ heads of garlic
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
4-5 medium tomatoes
1 handful of parsley
Preheat oven to 240°C (220°C fan oven)/475°F/Gas 9. Roughly chop the beans and half the garlic clove, place in a bowl with half the oil, a teaspoon of salt, and the black pepper, and stir to coat. Cut the tomatoes along the equator into 1 cm thick slices.
Arrange a layer of tomatoes in a 22cm ovenproof dish, sprinkle with a little salt, top with a layer of the bean mixture and repeat the process, finishing with a layer of tomatoes.
Slice off the top of the whole garlic head to reveal the cloves and push into the center of the tomato and bean stack so it’s level with the top, then drizzle over the remaining oil. Cover the bowl with a lid or foil, broil for 20 minutes, then uncover and broil for another 25 minutes. Remove, cool to room temperature and serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.
Fresh pepper dolma
This salad-like dolma is a sophisticated take on my grandmother’s dish that combines seasonal herbs with whatever’s on hand — nuts, cucumbers, preserves — all folded into tangy feta and butter, and stuffed in peppers. I typically use a blend of herbs like dill, parsley, oregano, and thyme; Nuts or seeds (it works well with pumpkin seeds, for example) for the bite; and a pickle like preserved lemon or capers for a tart cut; Also, consume the cucumber spice that is at the bottom of the jar. The selection of multicolored peppers here makes for a criminally attractive dish. And experiment with different types of white cheese – buffalo, sheep or goat cheese.
preparation 10 mins
2-3 medium long peppers (Peppers are not really suitable here due to their large diameter)
25 g walnut halvesfinely chopped
1 handful of parsley and dill leavesfinely chopped
The zest of ½ a preserved lemon
50 grams of butterat room temperature
Pickled red onionsto serve
fennel frondsto serve
olive oilto serve
Cut the tops off the peppers, then scoop out the pulp and seeds and discard; knock out stubborn ones. Mix the walnuts, herbs, preserved lemon zest, feta, and butter in a small bowl, then use a small spoon to spoon the mixture into each pepper.
Cut the stuffed peppers into ½ cm thick slices (if it’s a warm day, chill in the fridge for a few minutes, this helps a lot with slicing). Arrange the pepper rings on a plate, spread the pickled onion, fennel and, if you like, some semolina from the pickle jars on top, finish with plenty of olive oil and serve.