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Food for Thought

Photo: Rien Meulman

14 januari 2009 - When we come in at Hristina Moneva (30), who works for the Embedded Systems Institute (ESI), a large dish is cooking in the oven. On the table is a bowl of shopska salata, a typical Bulgarian salad with cucumber, tomato, Bulgarian cheese, parsley and spring onions.

Hristina would have no problem whatsoever filling this section for a few weeks more. In addition to Bulgarian cuisine, she cooks anything she learns from others, such as a traditional Dutch chicory dish from her Dutch teacher or Iranian soup from a friend of hers. She really loves to cook. “I have cooked since I was ten. My grandmother was a cook in a hospital, so I learnt it from her. My grandparents also had a huge garden, some two thousand square meters, with vegetables but with animals as well: ducks, chickens, sheep, rabbits. Yes indeed, to be eaten.” She has missed it, the feeling of simply walking into the garden to fetch your own food. So when she got a house with a garden here in the Netherlands, she laid out a small vegetable garden where she grows tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions and all kinds of herbs.

Today everything is covered by a thick layer of snow, but the ingredients from the shop are also of excellent taste. From the oven she produces a delicious dish of potato, minced meat, tomato purée, onion and a creamy brown top layer of egg and yoghurt. “And to finish it we always have a bit of yoghurt to go with it in Bulgaria, which is good because the dish is hot and the yoghurt cold.”

After dinner it is time for tea. And for Hristina that involves more than just tossing a teabag into a pot of hot water. She makes the tea in accordance with a tradition that she has thought of together with her Iranian friend. The loose green tea leaves (brought along from India) go into the tea pot together with a cinnamon stick. The pot is placed on a hot plate and left to infuse for a while. A little bit of honey is added to finish it. “At work I always do it like this also, with the leaves. In the beginning my colleagues at the ESI wondered whatever sort of soup it was that I was eating.” (SK)

The recipe may be found on
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