One of my favorite things to do, especially when I’m in Europe, is ask my friends to share recipes from their home countries. An egg dish from Singapore. Traditional goulash from Hungary. Crispy fries from Belgium.
One of my good writing buddies just so happens to be Bulgarian and, knowing nothing about Bulgarian food yet, I asked if she’d be willing to share. What did she eat and love as a kid? What dishes represent Bulgaria to her?
The recipe she sent over was for a chilled yogurt and cucumber soup called tarator. And she’s given me permission to share it with you today.
Now, I can’t eat cucumber myself (I have a reaction to it, weirdly enough), so I haven’t tried this dish. But it’s lovingly recommended by Daniela, and she’d know better than me anyway.
I also asked her to share some thoughts on the dish and Bulgarian cuisine in general.
Without further ado, then…
What are your memories of eating tarator in Bulgaria? Any funny stories or family traditions you want to share that relate to cooking or eating the soup?
I was a finicky eater as a child. Tarator was one of the few things I liked. I could eat a whole bucket of it. Having tarator today always brings memories of hot summer days, the whole family eating lunch in the shade of the walnut tree at my grandparents’ house in the mountains. My mom and I have an ongoing disagreement about whether it’s better to cut the cucumber in cubes or to shred it.
You have a book coming out today, yes? What’s it about and how did your Bulgarian heritage play role in its creation?
Her Daughter’s Mother is a domestic suspense novel about a newly pregnant woman who, against the rules, befriends her anonymous egg donor— only to find herself a key suspect when the young woman vanishes without a trace. Both of the women in the book are Bulgarian immigrants (first and second generation). As an immigrant, you often feel the importance of your heritage quite deeply and you want to pass it on to your children. Which is why my protagonist, whose last chance of becoming pregnant is a donor egg cycle, wants a Bulgarian egg donor. So that her child would have the genes of her people.
For those visiting Bulgaria, other than tarator, what foods should they make sure to try?
In Sofia, I recommend going to a restaurant called Raketa (great ambiance playing on the old Communist era interiors and fantastic food). Another good restaurant offering Bulgarian food in Sofia is Checkpoint Charly.
Tarator (таратор) recipe
Tarator, or chilled yogurt and cucumber soup, is a traditional Bulgarian dish and my personal
favorite in the summer. Cold and refreshing, it’s very easy to make and is low in calories. Best of
all, it’s healthy. Both yogurt and garlic have been credited at one time or another for the large
numbers of centenarians in the Bulgarian population.
1 large English cucumber
2 cups plain Greek yogurt (make sure L Bulgaricus is one of the live cultures. I love the
Organic Aussie Greek Yogurt by Wallaby)
1 – 2 garlic cloves to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup cold water
1/2 tsp salt
2 – 3 tbsp chopped fresh dill
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1. In a large bowl, whisk in the yogurt and water.
2. Push the garlic clove through a press and add it to the mixture.
3. Dice the cucumber into small cubes and add it into the bowl. (Some prefer to
peel it, but I like the extra color).
4. Add in the oil, dill, and salt.
5. Cover the bowl and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or up to 2 hours.
6. Remove from refrigerator, ladle the soup into small bowls. Top with the chopped walnuts and
some extra dill as a garnish and serve.
7. Enjoy while reading Daniela’s fabulous novel (which I can personally vouch for; you won’t see the twists coming!).