Wednesday, September 26, 2018


Lutenitza is a traditional Balkan veggie relish, which we all love and buy in quantities. It comes in many varieties and tastes and the traditional recipes are vary labour-consuming . However, last year I came upon a recipe for "lazy lutenitza", tried it and loved it. This year I fine-tuned it and so far I've made at least 12 kg of the final product. One of the reasons I'm so enthusiastic for making lutenitza is that the factory-made product usually contains onions or garlic or both and I've been able to track just a single brand that is free of these additives. Since early childhood I've had an uncompromising intolerance for the smell and taste of onions, garlic, leeks and the likes, an idiosyncrasy, which does not make my life easy foodwise, but it is what it is. So being able to make my own lutenitza solves the problem of smell and taste and opens a field for experimentation.

The "lazy" part of the recipe is the preparation of the ingredients. Traditionally lutenitza is made from red peppers and tomatoes and one can add eggplants, carrots, onions, garlic, parsley, spicy peppers to taste. The tomatoes should be made into tomato paste, while peppers and eggplants are grilled, peeled and cleaned of the seeds. The lazy lutenitza requires just chopping the veggies, mixing them with salt and sunflower oil and baking them in the oven. When baked, the mix is blended, using a hand blender and then preserved in jars - this is so much easier and so quick and the taste is still excellent. Dependent on the ratio of the ingredients the taste can be sweeter or more sour or spicy.

This year our preferred  lutenitza is as follows:
  • 8-9 red peppers (~ 1.2 kg)
  • 4 tomatoes (~ 0.8 kg)
  • 0.5 kg carrots
  • 1 eggplant
  • 1.5 tbsp salt
  • 150 g sunflower oil
This is the quantity of vegetables I can get into my big oven tray. I cover the tray with foil and bake them at 250C for an hour and then another half hour at 250 C with fan. After the veggies have been baked, we transfer them into a cooking pot, blend them fairly smoothly, add 1/2 tbsp Italian vinegar balsamico and 1/2 tbsp sugar and a handful of chopped parsley,  bring the mixture to boil and fill it into jars. We sterilize the jars into boiling water for 20 min.

The relish is usually consumed with bread and white cheese.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Bistritza - Cherni vruh 2018

You never know what you win when you lose, so true! Yesterday we had prepped for climbing Cherni vruh from Zlatnite mostove, a hike we've done a couple of years ago and liked. However, some 10 km from Zlatnite there was a road block and no cars were allowed to go further. I still haven't learned the reason for that, but anyway we had to turn back and quickly come up with another idea for a hike. It was late in the day, we had lost time to travel to Zlatnite, so it had to be Vitosha and nearby. Initially I thought of going to Zheleznitza and then it occurred to me that we had never climbed the mountain from Bistritza. We've been to Bistritza so many times, but always, always going horizontally either to Simeonovo or to Zheleznitza, never up. We were not prepared for the track and didn't have info for the length and difficulty, so initially we planned to do the climb only to Aleko. Surprisingly, the path turned to be very beautiful and despite the big elevation gain it felt fairly easy. The day was perfect for a mountain hike, sunny but not suffocatingly hot, as it gets in the summer. We were in great form, so when we reached Aleko and had our lunch there, we decided to continue to Cherni vruh. And then back to Bistritza. The whole hike was a solid 23 km with net elevation gain of 1260 m - the most exercise we've gotten this year so far. And no wonder - after all we started at the foot of one of the higher mountains in the country (Cherni vruh is 2290m high) and climbed to its summit and then back in one day.

:The track starts with birch and other deciduous trees and shrubs

: For miles it runs along the Bistritza river

: and it's really very picturesque

: Gradually the forest changes to conifer trees

: 18 years ago there was tornado in this part of the mountain. Some of the slopes still haven't recovered from the devastation it caused. As this is a preserved area, it has been left to itself to rot, grow and recover

: An interesting wooden chapel has been built in Aleko area. We had our lunch at one of the tea bars there. Because of the Simeonovo-Aleko gondola lift the place was full of people enjoying the sunny day in the mountain.

: And up we went to Cherni vruh. Despite the tiredness from the climb from Bistritza to Aleko, I believe our further climb from Aleko to Cherni vruh was one of the fastest we've done - probably because we were a bit pressed for time - we didn't want to be still in the forests after dark :)

: The plateau - it's beauty always delights me

: We had a short rest on the top, I put away the camera in the backpack and we took the way back in record time. I was very tempted to take a few shots in the mild light of the golden hour, but decided to skip it. It sounds cliched but the forest was truly magical and somewhat spooky in the dim light after sunset and though we were quite tired, it was a great experience to be there at such a time of the evening. A very satisfying hike!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Secret Garden Cropped Cardi


Yesterday Gaby and I organized a quick photosession of the little black cardigan I knitted for her this summer. As I mentioned, Gaby spent the summer in a two months' practice at Cambridge university, so I had to improvise the fit, trying the cardigan myself. I should confess that I am as pleased as punch with the general outlook and the fit of the cardigan on her, it's better than I imagined it to be!

I am taking part in a Design Along voting on Ravelry, so I wrote the pattern for the cardigan for size S and I'm offering it free here. I thought I could grade it for other sizes, but that would require testing and I simply don't have the time for such a big endevour. However if size S suits you or if you are experienced enough to grade it to your desired size, I'm happy to provide the pattern.

Pattern: Secret Garden Cropped Cardi
Yarn: Performance Cotton Gem 330 g
Needle: 3.25 mm, 3.5 mm
Time to knit: two weeks

My husband proposed the name Secret Garden, as the columns of ssk and yo looked to him like the steel bars of a fence, through which you could see the cables (trees) of a garden.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Mitered Square Blanket: Progress Update

I had abandoned my Mitered Square Afghan for a while, but I've been back to it and knitting it with full speed. I passed through the point where it was big enough for a cover for our balcony sofa, but I decided I wanted it a full size blanket. I'm enjoying it so much! However, because I started it out of cotton/acrylic blend, it is not as warm and cozy as a wool blanket and I'm seriously considering a second one next year, out of wool/acrylic blend. Dyeing all the tiny skeins of yarn and then turning them into colored squares is simply too much fun :)

: A few progress pictures

: And this is how I join the squares. Instead of picking up stitches with the new yarn, I go with a small sharp needle (I believe it's a US00  - 1.75 mm needle) through the bumps of the garter stitches of the square to the right of the new square - this makes 17 new stitches

and then I continue going through the square to the bottom of the new one and further create 17 more stitches + 1 in the middle, a total of 35 stitches.

Then I fix the new thread and directly start knitting the new square with my 3 mm needles.

The last two squares of this row are done. I've decided the width of the blanket to be 13 squares, which is about 1 m wide now, before washing, but given how garter stitch stretches, I expect it to grow to at least 1.20 m wide.

As for the length, I've knitted 14 rows of squares so far (you can see on this last picture I've added a whole row of squares to the blanket) and I intend to make them probably 23 or 24 rows. I'll have to go downtown today and buy at least  400 g more of white YarnArt Jeans to continue my blanket. The final product will be about 1 kg in weight.