Last year, we took a lovely sunset cruise on the Danube River and we wanted to share it with you. The boat leaves daily from the docks at Ruse for a one hour cruise and trundles up the river and under the bridge. If you're feeling peckish on your return, there's a really nice riverside restaurant for dinner. This is the link to the cruise company for more information and bookings.
As spring comes in, and we head for the garden, we can't miss the collection of rapidly curing bacon, hams and salamis as we pass through the back kitchen. They've been hanging there for the past three months, a tribute to Chris' winter work. Here he explains how he does it.
The process is all about the cold weather and fine sea salt. We dry cure the pork bellies by laying them on a bed of salt and then pour more of it all over the meat like snow. As time passes, the salt draws out the juices and hardens the meat and fat turning it into streaky bacon.
A few years ago, one of our guests from Wales gave us the recipe for air-dried ham and at first it seemed impossibly exotic. But it is surprisingly easy to make this prosciutto style ham. The whole ham is placed in a large box or tub and completely covered in salt for two weeks. When you pull it out the salt has crusted and hardened like ice. The red meat has turned purple and the fat feels hard to the touch. Then you hang the ham in a cold place. I always like it to be close by so I can watch it slowly curing and drying over the months. The first thin slices are ready to sample in early summer and the taste is strong, sweet and smoky.
Then there is the salami. They always say ‘use the pork to make what you like to eat.’ And my favourite is the French saucisson sec with its cubes of fat and its deep red colour. I picked up a very simple recipe in France and it is a wonderful process. I mix the minced shoulder with tiny pieces of cured fat. Then I add salt, lots of garlic, pepper and red wine and leave the mixture overnight so that the smell of wine and garlic fills the cold room. If you hang the salamis in the same place this smell never really goes away. Two months later you can start eating your sausages.
Tasting all of this charcuterie is fine reward but it is almost more enjoyable to watch the slow process or the curing throughout the cold months of winter and into Spring.
We had an interesting day yesterday. Firstly a group of 15-16 year olds came to visit with their teacher. They are from one of the local schools in Popovo and are studying Village Tourism. Yuliana from the Village cultural centre organised the trip. Not sure what they thought of our set-up but they did enjoy sampling the homemade produce, especially the wine! For us, it was fun to meet local young people.
Shortly afterwards, Galia from Nova TV arrived with her crew and we had a fun time talking to her with our neighbours from the village. Needless to say, the wine and cheese sampling continued!!
The Bulgarian singing holiday was a wonderful experience. Stela, our singing teacher and Mitko, our accordian player, did an amazing job. The students sang their hearts out for 3 days and amazed themselves by learning 5 songs.
Yuliana and the village choir were delighted to host them for a final concert in the village bar. They cooked up a storm of village food washed down with plenty of rakia, the local drink. It was heart warming to see the women of the choir listen to their own songs sung to them in foreign accents. They loved it and joined in to support at every opportunity! Watch a clip here.
Looking forward to our next one in 2018. Click here for more info.
In early May, an email arrived asking if we had any horseradish. ‘A few plants’. ‘Wonderful, book us in. We’re on a quest to find the ingredients for the perfect Bloody Mary!’.
So it was that in June we had a crazy week with Matt and Ruben tracking down some horseradish in the village.
Our neighbours, Anna, Simeonka and Colio and our shepherd Yomeer were all stars of the show. Colio even had a makeshift cocktail bar pop up in his garden. He took it all in his stride after a few shots of complimentary vodka!
And then off Matt, Ruben and their crew went to source tomatoes in Italy and spices in Morroco!
Delighted to receive the videos:
A highlight for us was seeing Anna and Yomeer’s faces watching the final films in our living room on the laptop!
Our wonderful artistic year deserves a blog all to itself.
It started in April with a great fun day in the garden with our little friends Immogen, Hegarty, Maya and Erin splashing and being creative with paint. They painted everything from paper to the grass to us! And continued with splashing paint with Lily.
Then we were delighted to have artist in residence Danny Mooney join us. Danny spent a week painting the landscape and local characters. And he left us with some beautiful pieces now hung in the guesthouse.
Come June, we were joined by Hannah, a young artist from Bristol. She came and painted us a new mural, her first one ever, which turned out amazingly. She even included Baba Nedelka, whom many of you will know from collecting the goats.
She has now gone on to make a career of it, which is great news. So if you’re in Bristol and need a mural, you know who to contact!
Then our friend Ashtar, a mud sculptor and artist from Israel, came and painted us a beautiful little surround for a niche in the garden and also gave us an art lesson under the walnut tree!
Finally, we were very happy to welcome Danny back in October to work on his ink collection on Chinese paper. Very beautiful.
I think art was just in the air after spending January with my beautiful art therapy teacher Meera Hashimoto!