Christmas Interim Report

25.12.2012 – 15.30h

 

Time flies and Christmas passes quickly.

 So far I was rather busy, silly me :) All the last three days I prepared and precooked food, always washing dishes in between – and taking an occasional break for a cup of tea (as I don’t smoke any more).

Yesterday I peeled and cleaned chestnuts (1-1/2 h). Cleaning and chopping a head of red cabbage (2kg), some sour apples etc. and marinating them in vinegar and salt, Making the liver dumpling mixture by soaking sliced white bread rolls in milk, sauteeing finely chopped onion, adding parsley at the end, mincing lemon peel, grinding calf liver – mixing everything with my tall bare hands, adding salt, pepper, marjoram, nutmeg, egg and a few secret ingredients.

Cleaning my apartment in between – to feel like experiencing a holiday :) Listening to Bavarian mountain Christmas carols and music…busy, busy.

 And around 6 pm I went to “my” old house to take care of the cats and dogs that live with Maria now. And because of Christmas I had prepared something more special for them.For the dogs I had a huge pot of delicious beef soup, concentrated and full of taste, with Italian “Fusili” noodles and beef cutlets and lots of meaty bones.

The cats got freshly minced calf liver (as I had bought too much for my dumpling soup). They would not have cared so much about side dishes :)

Everyone present was very happy :) Apart from me! And I fear for the worst. But Christmas makes me hope for the best. Of the four dogs (one of the previously five dogs was shot by some neighbours when I was in Asia) only one, Baerchen, the black one, was present. Knopfi, Boiko and Belushka were missing. And none of them joined Baerchen and me when we did our usual walk around the area (which they do normally, when they are not at home because they need their freedom-break). I am not going to discuss this right now. Tonight when I go back there we will see more.

Also, of all the cats only Sissy, Rizhko and Spotty were there! But that does not worry me. They are all beautiful and smart cats and neutered (apart from Rizhko). And there are some people in our area (women, mainly) that fall prey to their charm and feed them and even let them into their houses.

 So, Christmas started for me yesterday at 7.25 pm. When I came back to Pirin Lodge and Christmas Supper was ready (apart from the liver dumplings, which only needed to be put in the soup and simmer there for 15 minutes).

 With my stupid cold and my literal pain in the butt (from falling on my tailbone three days ago) I had decided that a warm bath would be the right thing for me to get me in the Christmas and relaxing mood. Therefore, after coming back I immediately went to our Pirin Lodge whirlpool (40 degrees C) turned on the bubbling programs and soaked in the hoit water for 20 minutes. Afterwards I ”decorated” myself with some nice scents (in this case “Santos”,” the Saint”, from Cartier – fits me perfectly, don’t you think) and put on some silk and cashmere stuff – to feel in a festive mood.

 Earlier I had invited an English friend who lives here in Bansko on his own (he is 5 or 6 days older than me) and who agreed to share my Bavarian liver soup :)

He brought a nice winter salad (apples, cellery, cream dressing) and a bottle of red wine. We had supper, philosophical discussions about Bulgaria and I tormented him with Bavarian mountain Christmas music. He went home at 11.30 pm and I watched some television before going to bed as well. Sadly, for the first time, I did not manage to talk to my sister. Her phone in Germany was busy all the time. But I did talk to my daughter Nina, the best woman on this planet!

This morning the sun was shining in Bansko and temperatures had gone up. Fortunately and unfortunately. Because it means that our snow is melting away. The snow that makes everything look so clean and beautiful. But it was a wonderful atmosphere looking out of my sitting room window. Like the peak of our “Todorka” (the skiing mountain) as seen from my balcony this morning.

After an idle breakfast with coffee, nearly 1 l of freshly squeezed orange juice, two soft boiled farm eggs, thinly sliced Bansko ham, buttered Italian ciabatta I felt GRAND, like going back to bed and sleep another round :) ))))  Hehe. But I had a rest on the couch and the recent newspapers instead.

 I also had some setbacks, though. My beef soup has turned slightly sour (just within two days). So, I have boiled the rest of my liver dumplings two hours ago and will be freezeing them individually. The “sour” soup will go to the animals. They do not mind.

I also have decided not to have my stuffed duck today. Tomorrow!  It will keep till then and give me a chance to relax more today. I still have to boil the marinated red cabbage and the chestnuts for the stuffing. And, of course, prepare the potatoes for the raw Bavarian potato dumplings.

Tomorrow is another day :)

 Now I am sitting on the sofa, drinking tea with Scottish whisky (I ran out of good rum), watching fairy tales on German TV (the usual Christmas thing – but I do love children’s fairy tales :) ).

Life is beautiful :) It all depends on what you make out of it :) You are the one in charge of your own life. No one else.

 Au revoir e a bientot,

 

What about Christmas?

I have concluded all my tasks for today quite a while ago like I spent all my money on food shopping and buying newspapers and so on.

And my cooking plans are finalized. I am probably 100% crazy. We are talking about me to cook just and only for myself (1 person!). But the quantities probably would feed a very big family…I am always buying far too much.

Here is my plan for the next three days:

1. Today – be lazy after having been shopping and taking things out of the freezer, and also picking up my meat grinder for grinding the ingredients for my liver dumplings

2. Tomorrow

  • a) go to our Sunday market early to buy some fresh milk from the Muslim peasants of the villages near Bansko  (the only ones that still have cows) and some apples (my ex-woman wants to keep those that grew on our trees in the garden for herself)
  • b)       Start roasting a duck carcass that I took out of the freezer today, with carrot, celery, leek, onion, pepper, salt and so on and then boil it for half of the day in a big pot to produce “duck stock” that I will use for the sauce of my stuffed duck on Tuesday…
  • c)       have a little breakfast back home (with a lot of freshly squeezed orange juice)
  • d)       make the beef stock for my Bavarian liver dumpling soup on Monday evening. Crazy me! I bought about 2.3kg of beef bones and 1.5kg of beef to produce the soup( and 1.5 kg of liver!). What I can guarantee is that the soup will have a phantastic aroma (for European tastes). The taste will be like the “essence” of beef. Some of the meat I will cut into the soup, the bones and some other meat will go to the dogs that I have to look after)
  • e)       slice white bread rolls so that they can dry and I can use them for my liver dumpling mixture on Monday
  • f)         drive up to the mountains to find a small but nice Christmas tree in a remote area without people, that I can cut and steal very quickly to take back home :))
  • g)       drive to my old house and “borrow” some Christmas decoration (my “ex” will have gone to the capital by then to spend Christmas with her parents)
  • h)       boil and peel chestnuts to use as part of the duck stuffing for Tuesday (I hate peeling chestnuts!).
  • i)         get drunk on hot milk with whiskey and get healthy

3.  Monday

  • a)       early breakfast with my personal blend of South American coffees (as usual: two parts Costa Rica, two parts Columbia, one part Nicaragua, all Arabica of course), a slice of wheat/rye- bread with German ham and one with Bulgarian honey, and 1/2l of freshly squeezed orange juice. If in the mood maybe even scrambled eggs with truffle oil, bacon and such ghastly stuff.
  • b)       putting up the Christmas tree on my balcony (no room in the sitting room) and decorating it.
  • c)       listening to Bavarian Christmas carols while making my liver dumplings (contents: calf liver, onion, parsley, marjoram, salt, pepper, nutmeg, lemon peel, bread crumbs, garlic, bone marrow…)
  • d)       …then, when I am drunk enough, to light the (real) candles on the Christmas tree, play Bavarian mountain Christmas carols at high volume, sing along (to make sure everyone in the neighbourhood will flee the area and me to have my piece). Then to call my daughter and her mother and my sister to wish all of them eternal life. Pretend to open all my Christmas presents (somehow they have not arrived yet  – and, in fact, I neither need nor want any) – eat my world-best liver dumpling soup – and then relax on the comfortable sofa with all its cushions, thinking of all the people in my life that have been close to me and that have died in the meantime (and there are quite a few of them) – carrying on with the drinking.

 
That’s the plan. It may not work (as it usually is the case with plans, especially in Bulgaria).
But it will keep me busy for the next few days.

And I wish all of you a Merry Christmas. A Christmas that is in the tradition of your childhood. A Christmas that takes you back in time to when you were a child – or, if you are older, to when you were a young parent and tried to instil the Christmas spirit on your children.

Christmas is all about people and their relations amongst each others. Kind of like a window that shows you what life could (and should) be all about. Unachievable for most of us. But a worthy goal.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

“Za mnogo godini” as we say in Bulgaria

Weekend coming…

So, yesterday we had one of the important Orthodox holidays: Santa Claus day. I call it the “national fish day”. Bulgarians as whole consume more fish on the 6th of December than during the rest of the year. “Inland” it’s mainly carp and “stuffed carp with walnuts” is the traditional version.

I was too busy to celebrate, cooking and looking after the animals as Maria has gone to Sofia. The first chicken soup for my  cats and dogs in more than 3 months.

5kg of chicken carcasses……turn into 17kg of strong, tasty chicken soup

…with about 3l set aside for the chef’s own use…

While the soup was simmering away I worked hard on our Pirin Lodge staff plan for the holidays – with only a few glances from my desk to the outside world…

Tomorrow will be students’ holiday and Bansko has already started to fill up with students from Sofia and wherever – all eager to get pissed over the weekend. Definitely not the time for me to go out. I’ll have a quiet weekend shared between Pirin Lodge and our old house, between the wellness centre and the animals…with a fireplace here and one there…could be worse…:)

 

 

 

 

Winter is greeting

Barely back in Bansko and the eagerly awaited snow started falling seriously today…

This is the view from my balcony yesterday morning. Way before it started snowing today…

 

And this is my Pirin Lodge parking late in the night after returning from the newly opened “Axeman’s”.

Yesterday I agreed with my friend Mitko, who runs the best and cheapest car-wash and tyre-service in Bansko (on Glazne road, the one parallel to the river, on the right side,  maybe 200m before the last bridge down), that I would bring my car today at noon to put on the snow tyres. And, of course, it really started snowing today and everybody was in a rush to get their tyres changed. Ten cars in front of me! Well, I managed in the end – but wasted nearly half a day with this simple task.

At Pirin Lodge we also cleaned our parking of snow for the first time this winter season…and today we had the final delivery of heating fuel. We also have huge supplies of dry logs for all the fire places in Pirin Lodge.  So, we are all set for winter – and I am much looking forward to the cold and snow:)))

Especially, because the fresh snow will make hunting wild boar next weekend so much easier, enabling us to track them to their day-time hide-outs…

Today I finally managed to find the new shop open: a store on Glazne street (about 70m up from the “Dinko” butcher shop). They sell home-made Greek stuff from one particular village in nearby, warm Greece. Like extra virgin olive oil at 12 Leva a litre!  I drank/tasted  some and then bought a bottle. Not extremely fruity but a straightforward, all-purpose olive oil with a classic pure and fine taste. This will be my future olive oil as long as I am in Bansko and the shop exists! Much better than anything you can buy in the supermarkets. Highly recommended.

They also have various kinds of natural and spiced olives. I cannot comment because now is not my season for olives and I did not buy any. In addition they offer the Greek version of “tapenade”, olive paste, different kinds from different olives. That I will explore in depth soon.

The other thing I really liked is that they sell mandarins from their Greek farm – at 1 Leva per kg! And they are DELICIOUS. Better than what you can buy on our market – and cheaper in addition!

This Greek shop is definitely the best addition to good life in Bansko that I have come across so far this season…Check it out.

As a “starter” for my dinner (leg of lamp and gratin for the fourth time :) ) I am having some Italian prosciutto crudo, with “shaved” parmesan (ripened 24 months) and the extra virgin olive oil bought today in Bansko. And a young (2011) and cheap (4 Leva) Mavrud from Domaine Sakar that turns out quite drinkable and pleasant if you give it some hours to breath.

Life can be so easy if you stick to the essentials…:)

Back in Bansko!

First, leaving Asia was an emotional challenge. The few days I was in Germany were depressing but I still felt rooted in Asia, which helped. A few hours before leaving for the Frankfurt airport I had the rest of my Vietnamese (?) noodle soup. To hand on to Asia as long as possible. Funny, isn’t it.

One of the most important ingredients for the noodle soup was the “sauce” that I add to every bowl of home-made soup:

Nothing spectacular, really. Freshly chopped garlic, some red hot chillies with their seeds, drowned in (Thai) fish sauce with the addition of a little rice vinegar, black pepper, a little salt and a pinch of sugar…I love this mixture also for “European” soups…

It can get a little bit spicy. And from time to time you feel like a woman in her menopause having heat-waves…

The flight to Sofia was spectacular this time. Already dark and with clear views (and the cabin windows freshly cleaned in addition!) all the lights around Frankfurt after take-off – and a full moon on top – gave a brilliant picture. Very similar when we were approaching Sofia. Of course, this one time I had my photo camera in the bag that I had checked-in :(

The plane was about 20 minutes early, so I was already outside the building when my friend Plamen and his son came to pick me up at 10.15pm. They chauffeured me directly to Plamen’s office (the headquarters of the “Foundation for the Culture of Wine”), where he had prepared and already cooked a rooster from  a village (24 hours marinated and so on).

Old fashioned Bulgarian office…

At midnight two of our mutual friends popped in as they had heard earlier on that I would be arriving. Now things started to become serious and we sat there till 5am when I, as the last man standing, retired to the couch in the real office there.

Yesterday then I had a lot of tasks on my hands and I arrived in Bansko in late afternoon. And immediately went shopping for dog and cat food (and even something for myself :) ).

Having no nerve for cooking I just had a glass of wine and some sandwiches – and took a leg of lamb out of the freezer for today.

In the morning it was foggy and generally not so inviting to go out.

But I went to our little market early – to see what is still in season and to buy some veggies, well no, just potatoes, as the plan was to slow roast a gigot d’agneau for 8 hours with a gratin dauphinois to accompany it.

To re-start the peasant life on a pleasant note.

For the same reason I had called my massage-lady already from Germany to arrange a session for today. And had instructed my boys to turn on the whirlpool on Friday, as it needs a day to heat up. And I had brought some lemon-grass-massage-oil from Thailand to really indulge in happiness…

Not so bad, really.

So, now “dinner for one” is ready. It will take me days to eat all of it – but then…there is no rush..

Till soon in Bansko!