Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Lyutenitsa - Bulgarian pepper, eggplant and tomato relish (gluten-free, vegan, kosher)


Lyutenitsa is Bulgaria's favourite treat. Not only is this pepper, eggplant and tomato relish versatile, it's also gluten-free, kosher and vegan!

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In addition to local specialties such as patatnik, Bulgaria is home to traditional dishes equally lovedall over the country, such as Bob Chorba, Bulgarian bean soup. The ultimate, hands down,all round-winner of this race would, however, have to be luytenitsa, a bulgarian spread/ relish made of roasted peppers, tomatos and eggplant.  You'll find it served as a starter, spooned over a splice of bread for a snack and accompanying meat or chicken. 





Towards the end of each summer Bulgarian homes still witness massive operations during which endless and endless jars of this are being prepared to see people through the winter.

While not technically demanding, it does take a bit of time, which is why people tend to make luytenitsa in bigger batches. I swear I kid you not when I tell you I've seen recipes that start with 15 kilos of peppers. Kid you not. True story.

In my tiny kitchen that would have turned out to be the end of not just all the storage space, also yours truly's psychological well-being, so here's a smaller recipe that yields about 6 dl of lyutenitsa. 





Lyut means spicy in Bulgarian,but that it really isn't. There are, of course, as many variations as there are cooks. Traditionally lyutenitsa contains (roasted) bell peppers, eggplant, tomato, onion and garlic, but the Macedonian version even has some carrots in it.

As the industrial manufacturing of lyutenitsa started in the 1950's, it was only allowed to contain pepper and tomato paste, onion, salt, sugar and oil. But, let's face it- that recipe is hardly the only thing that Bulgaria of the time got wrong. Eggplant for one lends the relish such sweet richness you'd be fool to forgo that. 

Luytenitsa has relatives all over the Balkans: you too might have heard of ajvar? Readers of this blog are, of course,  also familiar with some of its more distant cousins: Syrian muhammara and Spanish romesco






Lyutenitsa - Bulgarian pepper, eggplant and tomato relish:


1 large eggplant(450 gr)
4 large peppers (I used 2 red ones and 2 yellow ones), total weight 1 kg
1/2 kg tomatos
2 cloves ofgarlic, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 - 1 large red chilli, finely chopped
1/2 dl oil
3/4 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper


Prick the eggplant with a tooth pick. Place on a tray lined with tin foil and roast under the broiler for half an hour or so. Then add halved peppers and continue roasting for another 20 minutes or so, until the peppers' skins start to blacken and bubble. Remove from the oven, cover and leave to cool until cool enough to handle. 

Pull the peppers' skin off. Half the eggplant and spoon the insides into a food processor with the peppers. Blizz into a puré (doesn't have to be entirely smooth).

Blanch the tomatos by cutting a cross-like incision into the hard stem and then dropping them into a pot of boiling water for a couple of minutes. Lift out of the water using a slotted spoon and leave to cool. Pull the skin off, halve, remove the hard bit and chope finely (with seeds and all).

Measure pepper and eggplant pure, chilli, onion, garlic and chopped-up tomatos into a pot and let simmer over medium heat, until liquid has almost entirely evaporated and the mixture has thickened (40-50 minutes).

Add oil, cumin, salt and pepper. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Check the taste and season as needed (by adding either more salt, pepper and/ or sugar).

Let cool and place in jars. Lyutenitsa keeps in the fridge for 2-3 days. It can also be frozen. 

If you're making bigger batch, you could also preserve it by sterilizing the jars. This way it keeps for upto a year.

Sterilizing the lyutenitsa:


Spoon the lyutenitsa into small jars all the way to the top (oxygen is the enemy of any storing processs, remember!) and screw on the tops. Place the jars into a big pot and cover with water so it covers them by about 5 cms. 

Boil the jars (start counting from the moment water reaches boiling point) for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the jars from the water and make sure the centre of the top has snapped down on each one of the jars.




You ever heard of lyutenitsa? Of have you managed to try some of the other local delicacies such as patatnik or Bob Chorba?

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