It’s been two months since we moved to Bulgaria. A steep learning curve is being climbed but I have to admit, despite all that’s weird and different here, we are loving it!
Moving is stressful in general, now imagine moving to a foreign country without any real knowledge of the local language or even the ability to read their letters… madness, wouldn’t you say? Well, yes yet we decided to call it “an adventure”… it’s been a bit of a crazy roller-coaster but in the end, I claim it was worth it.
So, what’s different?
Weather, for a starter.
It’s so different to your typical English weather, Mark still can’t believe it. Last weekend we had 15C, hitting 30C in the sun… perfect summer weather one would say yet the calendar definitely shows December! We had breakfast in our cotton shirts in the garden and then BBQ’ed some goat legs for lunch and dinner later during the day. A few days later and a wake-up call, the snow hit, temperatures plummeted and now it’s stunningly beautiful and dazzlingly white everywhere. Crazy hey? It might be crazy but at the same time it’s wonderful, do you know why? Because of the sun! The sun comes to play every day. It might be 2C outside but after putting the washing on the line in the garden it is dry in a couple of hours, come on… this would never happen in the UK in December with its freezing cold rain and the almost constant gloominess from the perpetual grey skies. The sun shines here on average 300 days a year and when it does it is always accompanied by a majestic deep blue sky with the occasional scattering of little fluffy clouds.
Well, the food here is truly a wonder to behold and try! The almost total lack of supermarkets means most produce is truly local and let’s face it healthy (or at least much healthier than all that factory farmed mass produced stuff designed to the strict requirement of various superstores). The food here taste delicious, even a simple meal has so much flavour, it is pure pleasure to eat.
Most people who have some general knowledge about Bulgaria will probably know that it’s less expensive here. Well, for the most part, this is true. Bills, which used to take a fair chunk of our income in the UK, don’t really amount to anything here. For example take the council tax, we paid over £2500 a year for a small, standard 4-bed cookie cutter house, now, it cost us less than £20 for property triple the size. Water, gas, electricity, road tax they all cost a fraction of our old bills but they are some things which cost more… Things like milk for example… if you like UHT milk, not a problem, it’s everywhere and its cheap but if you want fresh milk then you have to pay a premium for it, therefore bottled fresh milk from the store is hard to find and more expensive than in the UK but there is a way around it… you can simply take a more local approach, just like we have, and order some from a local man who just so happens to own a cow, fresh milk straight from the cow or even a goat, pasteurise it yourself at home and enjoy!
People here are so unbelievably friendly! The fact that we don’t speak the same language doesn’t seem to faze them at all. They can chat to you for hours, will smile and wave when you pass them by and give you any help you need even if they have less than you… this is such a culture shock! Let’s face it in England we all have our circle of friends and associates but if a stranger knocked on your door and offered to help you fix a problem they spotted whilst passing your house how would you feel? Would you invite them in and accept them at face value, would you be cautious, maybe tinged with a sense of mistrust. In Bulgaria it is normal, a cultural thing it’s different here to what we have historically felt and thought but extremely satisfying as your faith in humanity is restored brick by brick.
During our time here we have learnt a lot of new things. Some have said to us that we have gone backwards in time and regressed back to olden times and ways, but you know what… it’s good, and if you are of a certain age (lets’ call it middle-aged) it’s not that different to what England was like when we were kids and it makes us happy. Yes, I would probably prefer to have central heating and not have to worry about burning wood logs in my petchka to stay warm but even this has its charm especially in the evening sitting by the fire, not many can say that back home… and with time you simply get used to it.
Don’t get me wrong as I gush about living here, life here isn’t all perfect, there are quite a few things we will want to change in the years to come but for this moment I think we made the right choice. We are genuinely happy, more content and OMG so much more calm than we ever were in England. We get to enjoy daily sun, good food and unbelievably kind and friendly people every day… after all isn’t that what life should be all about?
Soft and chewy, those coffee, chocolate and pecans cookies offer a great treat; an irresistible flavour combination for any time that you need a pick me up.
It’s cold out there, and very white… yes, we are kind of snowed in, which means no playing outside… as a result, we are spending more time in the kitchen, cooking and baking and generally creating some wonderful creations… and today I would love to share our new cookies with you 🙂
- 175g flour
- 115g butter; soften
- 115g light muscovado sugar
- 85g caster sugar
- 50g dark chocolate; roughly chopped
- 50g pecans; roughly chopped
- 2tbsp instant coffee
- 1tbs hot water
- 1 large egg
- 1tsp vanilla essence
- 1/2tsp baking powder
- 1/4tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1/4tsp grounded ginger
- 1/4tsp grounded cinnamon
For decoration (optional)
- 25g dark chocolate; melted
- 25g pecans; roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 180C and prepare two large baking trays by lining them with baking parchment.
In a large bowl place the butter and both sugars and beat until light and fluffy.
Put the coffee granules into a small bowl or cup; add hot water and stir until dissolved, set aside to cool. Then add the vanilla extract and the egg and whisk until combined.
Slowly add the coffee mixture into your butter and sugar mix beating until creamed and fluffy again.
Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon and fold carefully into your mix.
Finally, fold in the pecans and chocolate chunks.
Measure approximately one heaped tablespoon of mixture per cookie and place onto your earlier prepared baking trays spacing them well apart to allow room to grow.
Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown and slightly crisp on the outside, they will still feel very soft to the touch but they are ready at this stage.
Leave to cool on the baking tray for a 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
If decorating, wait until the cookies have cooled down completely, drizzle with melted chocolate then immediately sprinkle with chopped nuts (the still warm chocolate will work like a glue as it cools and sets).
Store, after cooling down completely, in an airtight container.
Enjoy with a beverage of your choice!
Sticking to your diet can be tricky because you are often tempted by foods that you should not be eating. While there are tips that you can use to help you stay on track, you need to know that not all tips work for everyone. Every dieter is different, but there are some points that you should remember that could help you.
1. Never change your eating habits until you have learned how to motivate yourself. You should also learn how to withstand your cravings and hunger while finding out how to shape your lifestyle towards good eating habits. It is also important that you learn how to get yourself back on track if you go off your diet for a while.
2. One of the ways that you can motivate yourself is by having a list of all the reasons why you want to lose weight. Reading through this list every morning will help you remember why you are doing this and can help you through the more vulnerable parts of the day.
3. When you eat you should sit down and eat slowly. It is important that you take the time to enjoy every bite of your food. Having this routine makes it harder to fall off the wagon, binge eat or mindless snack outside of your diets allotments.
4. Think about accountability when dieting. Do you have a friend or family member you can contact every day to give a report on your diets progression? If you do not feel comfortable reporting to someone you could keep a log. Another way of remaining accountable is by weighing yourself every day to see if you are still on track.
5. Stop looking for perfect food combinations and the perfect diet because everyone is different. Eating in a healthy way allows you to lose weight while still ensuring that you can eat your favourite foods. Of course, you might still have cravings or want to eat more of your favourite food. If you feel the cravings have the food just before bed then brush your teeth and get into bed.
6. A very important tip to dieting is to change your mindset about eating and food. You have to realize that you have the choice between eating what you want when you want or choosing to get thinner. There are very few people who can have both.
7. You should also prove to yourself that hunger is not an emergency unless you have a medical condition. You can do this by skipping lunch and snacks one day. This will show you that your hunger is actually a mild inconvenience when compared to the discomfort you might feel say after surgery. The hunger will generally come and go throughout the day and it will be easy to tolerate.
8. It is important that you teach yourself what the differences are between feelings of hunger, which is the empty feeling in your stomach after not eating for hours, and cravings which is when you feel hunger in your mouth and throat. You want to be able to correctly label what you are feeling; whether it is hunger, boredom, cravings, thirst or negative emotions and learn to tolerate them without eating. A good way to do this is to have a list of distractions on hand to take your attention away.
9. Having regular meals and snack times is a good idea, having a meal plan is one of the best ways for your body to stop feeling so hungry, if you can afford it, you can try a company like Eat Clean Direct, who can set up a plan for you, and send you the meals daily. There are many people who are not able to cope without snacks whether it is between meals or just after a meal. The key is to not snack when it is not the set time.
10. You need to re-enforce the fact that “every time” matters. While it is not all about the amount of calories you take in, it is also about the habits you form. Every time you eat when you shouldn’t you are strengthening your “giving in” muscle. However, every time you stick to your plan you strengthen your resistance muscle and you are more likely to continue the habit of resisting temptation.
I hope you will find these tips useful and that they will help you on your journey to getting thinner.
Super crunchy on the outside and light and fluffy inside, this falafel delivers a delicious flavour combination – fresh herbs, nuts with a wonderful spicy finish of ginger and chilli.
- 300g dry chickpeas
- 50g pecans
- 50g fresh coriander; chopped
- 30g fresh flat leaf parsley; chopped
- 3 large cloves of garlic; halved
- ~2cm piece of fresh ginger; peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 medium size onion; roughly chopped
- 1tbsp spelt flour
- 1 1/2tsp salt
- 1 1/2tsp black pepper
- 1tsp cumin
- 1/2tsp chilli flakes
- ~100ml olive oil for frying
- 1.5l water for soaking
Pour 1.5l litre of filtered water to a pot, add the chickpeas, pop the lid on and leave to soak for at least 10h (overnight works best).
When you are ready to make your falafel, drain the chickpeas then pop them into a food processor.
Add all other ingredients spreading them evenly around the processor bowl but leaving the pecans to be added last. They will help to weigh down the fresh herbs, which means that everything will better stay in place while mixing.
Use the pulse function until your mixture is coarse to semi-coarse. Do not over pulse / mix or you will end up with a hummus-like texture, which isn’t ideal for falafels.
Once done, remove the blade from your food processor and start forming your falafels. I used an ice-cream scoop to measure mine out and the mixture should yield 24 almost perfect balls of falafel 🙂
Do not squeeze your mixture too much as this will make it dense and remove moisture from it, which will result in dry falafels later on. If you are struggling to form your desired shape you can:
- Pop the blade back on your processor and pulse few more times.
- Pop it into the fridge to help firm it up a bit
- Or worst case scenario add some eggs to help it glue together, but you really shouldn’t need to do this, if you followed the measurements as stated.
Once all your falafels have their final shape, it’s time to fry!
In a heavy bottomed frying pan, ideally a small cast iron one, preheat 100ml of olive oil (or more if you pan is bigger, ideally you are aiming for enough oil in the pan to cover half of your falafel).
Bring the oil up to 180C before popping your falafels in. Do not over crowd the pan. I cook 6 at the time despite having space for 12 or even 15. More falafels at one time popped into the pan means a bigger drop in the oil temperature once you put them in (this will result in your falafel soaking up the oil making them greasy) and a general inability to turn them with ease, so take it easy and fry them in batches.
When I fry the oil drops to 170C, this is temperature of my oil once all new falafels are in. I heat it up to 180C again as quickly as possible before turning the heat down and cook for about 5-6 minutes turning regularly
When done remove with a slotted spoon and place on some kitchen roll to soak up any residual oil.
Serve warm or cold with a green salad or go classic and add into a wrap.
Most importantly of all though… enjoy!
Do you like falafel?
What’s your favourite way of serving them?