Friday, 9 December 2016

Patatnik - Bulgarian potato and mint omelette

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Patatnik, Bulgarian potato omelette gets its interesting flavour from... mint!

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If the scenery of the Bulgarian Rhodope mountains surprised with their Swiss look, so, too, does the most classic dish of the region: patatnik. This potato omelette is very much like its Swiss cousin rösti, though it's even closer to one of the most beloved Spanish tapas: tortilla Española!

Each mehana, a local beer house serving traditional food, has their own recipe for this staple. Some might contain other veggies, too (especially peppers), many include Bulgarian feta cheese - their pride and joy -  in theirs. One thing that they all have in common, though, is the use of mint; a peculiar herb that is surprisingly widely used over here.

Potato was only brought to Europe in the 16th century by the Spanish concquistadors and it didn't find its way to Rhodope region until mid 19th century. In many European countries the new arrival was met with suspicion and for a long time it wasn't even deemed fit for human consumption. Rhodopeans didn't exactly welcome potato with open arms, either: the village elders condemned it as "the Devil's apple". 

Slowly this humble veggie managed to prove its resilience in the harsh conditions and won over even this stubborn nation. And then everybody lived happily ever after!

Patatnik - Bulgarian potato and mint omelette:

10 largeish potatos (total weight about 1,4 g)
2 largeish onions (or 3 small ones)
4 eggs
4 tbsp fresh mint (or 2 tbsp dried)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

for frying: butter

also: butter, bread crumbs (optional, gluten-free if needed)

Pre-heat oven to 220°c (in fan oven 200°c will do).

Peel and grate the potatos over a tea towel. Bring the corners together to form a bundle and squeeze out the excess liquid from the potatos. 

Peel and finely slice the onion. Sauté them in a pan in a knob of butter over medium heat until soft and translucent (this is optional though - if you want a short cut, you can add the onions to the potatos raw as well).

Beat the eggs lightly and season with salt and pepper.  Fold potatos and onions into the mix along wth finely chopped mint. 

Grease the pan you're using with a little butter and dust with bread crumbs or line the dish with a baking sheet. Pour in the omelette mixture and press until even and smooth. 

Top with a couple of knobs of butter and, should you want the top extra crunchy, a little bread crumbs.

Bake for 45 minutes. In case the patatnik starts to get too much colour, cover it with a piece of foil or a lid.

Cut into pieces and serve.

Serve it as is or for instance with another favourite discovery I made in Bulgaria: Elena ham! This dry-cured leg of local pork comes from the Northern part of the country and is very much like Jamón Serrano.

Any of you been to Bulgaria? Which dishes made an impression on you?





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