Tikvenik on Christmas Eve
Bulgaria is the biggest pumpkin producer in the EU.
Pumpkins are big in Bulgarian culture and literature. They play a central role in many short stories by Bulgaria’s most famous novelists, Elin Pelin, Yordan Radichkov, to name a few. Pumpkins are big on the table, too. The most famous meal with pumpkin (tikva) is tikvenik - a pastry with phillo leaves, pumpkin, walnuts and a bit of imagination.
Considered a symbol of healthy life, longevity and eternity, tikva and tikvenik are traditional for the Christmas Eve dinner, when only vegan meals are allowed. Do not use butter when making the Christmas Eve tikvenik - we are still fasting!
We will need:
1 pack of phyllo dough
2 lbs (1 kg) pumpkin, peeled and seeded
1 cup of sugar
4 ounces (100 gr) finely chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 lb (20 ml) sunflower oil
Two tablespoons caster sugar
Grate finely the pumpkin, mix with the sugar, cinnamon and walnuts. Take two sheets of phyllo pastry, drizzle oil on top, add some of the pumpkin filling, and roll loosely.
Oil the bottom of the baking tray. If your baking tray is round, start lining the edges of the tray with the stuffed phyllo rolls, slowly spiralling them (like a snail) towards the centre. If your baking tray is rectangular, place the rolls parallel to each other. Add some oil and sugar on top, and bake at 180 degrees, in a pre-heated oven, for about 30-35 minutes.
When the tikvenik is done, remove from the oven, cover in a cloth for twenty minutes to soften. Sprinkle with caster sugar. Eat warm or cool.