SAINT IGNATIUS’ DAY /Ignazhden /
20 DECEMBER

RHODOPE KOLAKS  |  SESAME RINGS  |  PATATNIK  |  HARICOT AND POTATO DISH

The other names of this holiday are Ignat or Mlada godina. This festival venerates the bishop of Antioch - Saint Ignatius Theophorus, sentenced to death because of his Christian faith and thrown to the lions. It was from the day of St. Ignatius to Christmas Eve that Virgin Mary's labours continued. Christmas and New Year festivities begin from Ignazhden. The popular belief holds this day as the beginning of the new year, that is why in some places in Bulgaria its name is Nov den /New Day/. And since it is the start of a new year, it is very important what man or woman first steps in the house - good or bad. On this personality depends the whole year ahead. The individual who enters the house first is known as “poleznik”. He is given an Ignatian ring-shaped bun and he sits at the head of the table. Early in the morning of Saint Ignatius’ Day the women make fire, put a pot of pulse on it and knead dough to make kolaks /ring-shaped cakes/, one for each family member and one which is kept for Christmas Eve. Little sesame rings are also made (“horse-shoes”). From Ignazhden till Christmas young women who had not given birth to children yet, do not work, in order to have easy labours. In the different corners of Bulgaria there exist various customs related to this festival. In Eastern Bulgaria, for example, in the morning of Ignazhden the mistress of the house gave the hens incensed grains scattering them in a circle. It was believed that this ritual would make hens multiply during the new year and prevent them from “visiting” other yards. Nothing should be lent on this day, in order to keep abundance and rich harvest with the family. Before sunrise, on this day the chimneys were cleaned too. The soot was thrown away over cross-roads or in the courtyard, in order that fleas be gone in the summer. In the southwest parts of Bulgaria a special oak or pear-tree log was put in the fire and kept burning until Saint Jordan’s day (6 January).



We suggest that on this day you get immersed in the Bulgarian cooking tradition -  make a surprise to your family and enjoy an Ignazhden meal together with them. Your children will be pleased most with the Rhodope kolaks.
 
 

 RHODOPE KOLAKS (Ring-shaped cakes)
Ingredients
  • 3 eggs
  • one teaspoonful of salt
  • a cube of yeast, half the size of a match-box
  • 1 coffee-cupful of fresh milk
  • 3 teacupfuls of flour
Directions:
    It is very easy to make these cakes and their preparation does not take much time.

    First beat the eggs with a wooden spoon and add the salt. Then dissolve the yeast in the milk adding one coffee-cupful of tepid water and mix this with the eggs.

    Sprinkle the flour step-by-step and stir with the spoon to get thin smooth dough; cover it with a cloth. Leave it in a warm place for half an hour. Then mix it again and let it stay for another half hour to rise. This procedure is repeated five times.

    Spoon out portions of the risen dough and pour them on the hot stove (the way our grandmothers did) or on a hot-plate over a place oiled or covered with a mixture of egg yolk diluted with water.

    Spread the dough to get a thin layer and bake it. When bubbles begin to come up, turn the cake with a wooden blade to get the other side baked. The ready cakes are arranged one on top of the other after spreading butter on each. Once a special iron utensil was used to roast these cakes - it was named “sach” - a shallow iron pan heated up on open fire.



In the neighbourhood of Stara Zagora sesame rings are made for Ignazhden. Here is an old original recipe by preparing which you can pleasantly surprise your guests who have never tasted Bulgarian dishes or pastry.
 
 
 

SESAME RINGS
Ingredients
  • 5 eggs, 1 teacupful of sugar
  • 1 teacupful of melted lard
  • 1/4 kg of yoghourt
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of baking soda
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 coffee-cupfuls of sesame seed
  • 1 coffee-cupful of powdered sugar
  • flour

Directions:

    Provided that you follow instructions strictly, it is very easy to prepare these sesame rings.

    First beat up four of the five eggs with the granulated sugar. When the mixture turns white, add the melted lard in portions. If you have no lard available or if for some reason you or someone of your family is not allowed to eat this animal fat, use the same quantity of vegetable oil - olive or sunflower.

    Then add the yoghourt, well mixed with the baking soda. Squeeze out the lemon juice and add it to the mixture together with its grated peel and flour enough to make a paste.

    Roll out the paste to mould a sheet 1/2 cm thick. Cut out rings using 2 glasses - a larger and a smaller one. Spread the beaten egg left on the rings, sprinkle them with sesame and  arrange in a thinly buttered baking dish. Bake in an oven at a moderate temperature.

    The baked rings are well powdered with soft sugar. They are suitable for your New Year table, as well as for all kinds of festivities.
     



You can prepare PATATNIK as a main course on Ignazhden. In the cold winter months potatoes represent one of the main foods of the Bulgarian diet. It is interesting to know that, as mentioned by  author Sava Dobroplodni in “A Concise Manual on Health or Lessons on how to Protect our Health”, published in 1865 - potatoes had been used even to make bread. Naturally, it was not equal to wheaten bread in taste, but, still, it was very nourishing and people from many regions in Bulgaria gave it preference.
   

PATATNIK
Ingredients
  • 6 spoonfuls of flour
  • 1/2 coffee-cupful of vegetable oil
  • 1 spoonful of melted butter
    For the filling
  • 1 1/2 kg of potatoes
  • 4 onions
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 spoonful of fresh mint (or if fresh mint is not available - a pinch of dried mint)
  • 1/2 spoonful of vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of salt

Directions:

    Having supplied yourself with the required products, you are ready to begin cooking the patatnik.

    Make a soft paste of the flour, the vegetable oil and as much water as necessary. Leave it for a quarter of an hour at room temperature, then divide it in two, one of the two parts a bit larger.

    Spread the smaller mass to form a sheet 4-5 cm larger than the bottom of the baking dish.

    Make a filling of the grated potatoes (potatoes are peeled beforehand) and the grated onions, the beaten eggs, the mint and the salt.

    Place the bigger sheet in a buttered (melted butter) dish, add the filling and cover with the smaller sheet. Turn the ends of the first sheet inside and pinch the two sheets together to prevent the filling from coming out when baked. Bake the patatnik at a moderate temperature till it turns rosy.



The Ignazhden diet may include also another traditional Bulgarian dish, which may challenge the interest of both foreigners and Bulgarians. It is made of beans and potatoes - a combination which is rich in taste and nutritive qualities. In addition, as is known, potatoes are one of the food products most applied in Bulgarian cookery. So is haricot, although it is a vegetable originally grown in America and therefore considered American, this product is much more frequently used in Bulgarian cuisine and largely spread in all parts of Bulgaria. It is prepared - in combination with other products - as a broth or as a main course. In winter it is very often present on the Bulgarian table, on account of its healthfulness.
 
 

HARICOT AND POTATO DISH
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 teacupfuls of haricot
  • 6 potatoes
  • 1 big onion
  • 1 coffee-cupful of vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoonful of red pepper
  • 2 spoonfuls of chopped parsley
  • 1 spoonful of mint

Directions:

    Soak the haricot in cold water mixed with a teaspoonful of salt the night before.

    In the morning the haricot is drained and then boiled on a moderate fire. When it begins to grow soft, add the minced onions, the peeled and cubed potatoes, the vegetable oil, salt to your taste and add the red pepper.

    Boil on a moderate fire till the haricot and potatoes become really soft.

    Finally, sprinkle with the minced parsley and mint. If mint is dried - put it together with the potatoes and the other spices.


 

Although this dish is prepared without brown thickening, it is not recommended to people with sensitive stomachs. Haricot is a hard food and it often irritates the stomach and the digestive system.
We should note here that in cooking haricot dishes the Bulgarian tradition is to use mint - the fresh or dried leaves of this perennial herbaceous plant. Mint has a pleasant flavour and a slightly stinging taste. It is applied also for seasoning salads, soups, vegetable dishes, meatless and meat preserves.
 

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SOURCES OF REFERENCE:
Marinov, D. Folk beliefs.
Stoichev, Anani. Bulgarian Mythology. 7M+ Logis, 1994.
Mantov, Dimiter. Folk Dishes from St. Dimitri’s to St. George’s Day. Svetulka 44 Publishing House, Sofia, 1997.
Petrov, L. et al. Bulgarian National Cuisine. Sofia, Zemizdat, 1984.