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Recipe: Shopska Salad
One of the dishes that was pretty much ubiquitous when we visited Bulgaria, and could be found pretty much every meal we had, was shopska salad. It is Bulgaria’s national salad, apparently created as part of tourism campaign in the 1950s, its colours of red, green and white match those of the Bulgarian flag.
The dish is popular throughout the Balkans – we also enjoyed it in Bosnia and Herzegovina and it made a regular appearance on menus in Croatia as well. There are all sorts of variations. Fruit and vegetables in Eastern Europe are usually more delicious than those we get at home. They make look uglier but they taste so much better. Because the salad uses very finely grated cheese you get a lovely hit of salty cheese with every forkful as opposed to, say, a Greek salad which uses cubes of cheese. It’s a really easy recipe that tastes absolutely great. This version is the one that we ate in Bulgaria.
Shopska is traditionally made using Bulgarian sirene cheese which is difficult to get in the UK. Feta cheese is more easily available and is a really good substitute. Here’s our recipe for shopska salad.
Shopska Salad Ingredients
1 cup of feta cheese (we like the barrel aged variety as it has a lovely rich, salty flavour)
1 tbs red wine vinegar (white wine or cider vinegar can also be used)
2 tbs sunflower oil (sunflower is more traditional but it is fine to use olive oil if you prefer)
Pinch of salt (go easy) and pepper (as much as you like)
Many recipes recommend removing the seeds from the tomatoes and cucumber but we hate food waste so we tend to leave them in.
Wash the cucumber and chop into cubes
Wash the tomatoes, cut out the stem and cut into small cubes.
Make the dressing: combine the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper – we recommend minimal salt as the cheese is salty; often we omit the salt altogether. Mix together and then pour over the cucumber and tomatoes. Let them marinate for a few hours if you wish.
Finely grate the cheese. If you have an ordinary grater that’s absolutely fine but if you can, use a grater with a really fine setting. Feta is quite soft, so isn’t the easiest cheese to grate but it is worth persevering to get a lovely fine mass of cheese.
Place the marinated vegetables in a bowl. Sprinkle over the grated cheese. Devour.
Variations. It is perfectly fine to add in other vegetables: finely chopped red onion, chopped celery, red or green bell peppers etc. If you want to add some herbs such as parsley or basil, that’s okay too.
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