This is a recipe I discovered in Bulgaria. Shopska Salad (Шопска салата) is very much a staple across the country: we could have had it most nights and in most places we visited. It’s a simple combination of tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, peppers and crumbled brine cheese. The cheese is the most important element, and unfortunately the hardest to get. It uses “sirene”, a brined sheep cheese that is distinctive (and a bit overpowering) in flavour. It’s excellent in this salad: but feta cheese will work if sirene is not available.
I remember the first time i found sirene in Toronto. I had been looking for it for years: my closes encounter had been a can of cheese that’d bought some years after Bulgaria. Yes, that’s right, a can of cheese. It was expensive, but it was worth it. Since that time, I’d not seen it anywhere. But it happens that one time we had gone into a “Highland Farms” grocery store not far from our house; they have a lot of exotic foods and I remember seeing something that looked like sirene. But I wasn’t sure if that was it, so I if it was Bulgarian.
“Of course we have Bulgarian cheese,” the attendant responded. “Do you want sirene or kashkaval?” Kashkaval is a yellow cheese more like our cheddar than anything else. I had not heard it mentioned since I’d left Bulgaria, so I was excited to find a source for both.
When I first came back from Eastern Europe, I remember tying to recreate what I remembered about Shopska Salad from taste: sirene is much of it, but I also remember a bit more spice than most of the recipes I was able to find. Perhaps it was a local variation, but I was able to recreate my remembered taste with a dusting of cumin in the salad. Otherwise I like the simplest recipe I was able to find; it seemed to me that everyone made this salad, but no-one spent a lot of time on it.
1 medium cucumber
1 green pepper (optional)
1 tbs. chopped onions
2 oz. sirene: or feta cheese if not available
olive oil, vinegar
black pepper, cumin
- Chop cucumber, pepper and tomato into bite sized pieces.
- Mix chunks of tomato, pepper and cucumber in a large serving disk.
- Sprinkle onion pieces over vegetables.
- Crumble feta cheese on top of salad.
- Dust with pepper or cumin to taste.
- Mix vegetables and cheese
- Serve with oil and vinegar