SOFFA magazine

19 December 2013

Extra!  Extra!  Read all about it – Hot off the press all the way from Prague!

A wonderful magazine was born from the passion and talent of three gifted women – RADOSTINA BOSEVA, ADÉLA KUDRNOVÁ and LENKA HLAVÁČOVÁ.

SOFFA magazine is a design magazine filled with mesmerizing stories and takes you for a joyful journey to places in Central and Eastern Europe; meets you with intriguing and artistic people, their taste and style; reveals you attractive design ideas for stunning interiors and entice you with mouthwatering dishes and fresh produce and last but not least – shares the love for all beautiful.

I can’t be happier for three of them and I am very proud that one of them is my dear and close friend Radostina.  She is very shy to talk about herself but I commend her as a very gifted and inspiring photograph with lots of feeling streaming from her images.

And I am also so proud to be a part of their first step in this remarkable and promising journey with my featured story about Our Family’s Christmas Baklava the Star of Bethlehem.

Enjoy the delightful pilot issue of SOFFA magazine with their Christmassy ideas and warm wishes for a Happy New Year – head over here!

Till my next post!
My very best wishes,

© 2013 - sophia terra~ziva.  all rights reserved


18 December 2013

Christmas in our home was exciting time with endless fuss in the kitchen and with some staple dishes on the menu:  Stuffed Turkey with herbs, turkey giblets and wild mushrooms risotto on a “bed” of sauerkraut seasoned with smoked paprika; Russian Salad; Fortune Banitza - filo with Bulgarian brined sheep cheese with fortune wishes inside, and of course our own baklava “The Star of Bethlehem”.

The baklava was a special family thing that we prepared with a great pride as it was cut in a unique way that resembles a star and we, the children, were eager to name it after the star on Christmas that marked the birth of baby Jesus.  Dad would take the big trays with the turkey and the baklava and slide them with the snow sled to the Old Bakery around the corner.  Those were the days that by Christmas the snow would pile up to our chest, and the Old Bakery was still working.  Their ovens were wood fired and they were baking the big dishes for the local households.  We use to leave there our baklava for baking, because it is an art to have it properly done on very "slow fire", which would not be always the case in our kitchen's oven...  As far my Mum can recall, the recipe and the tradition of cutting was passed down by her great grand-uncle who was an adventurer, travelled a lot around the world and in his older days settled down and opened an inn.

As much as this delightful dish is famous, there is no secret ingredient.  However, if there was something special to look for, that were the few little tips that we would whisper from generation to generation about the care a baklava should be prepared with – use clarified unsalted butter, bake slowly, poor hot syrup on cold baked pastries and just like in the fairytales it takes three days and three nights to be made.  And here is the "road" to get to this delightful Christmas treat:
1 kg of filo pastry
500 gr of unsalted butter (clarified)
500 gr walnuts crushed
1 cup of sugar
Grated skin of one lemon
1 tablespoon Cinnamon
1 litre of water
1 kg sugar
1 whole sliced in half lemon
1 whole sliced in half orange (optional)
Divide the pastries into three portions.  Divide the walnut filling into two portions.  Spread gently one portion of the filo on a big round tray and cover with the mixture of nuts.  Continue with the next portion of filo pastries.  Repeat with the filling of walnuts.  Cover with the last portion of filo pastries.  Cut thoroughly into small diamond shapes using a very sharp knife.
Clarify the butter and pour it while still hot onto the cut pastry making sure that the butter goes between each cuts.  Put in an oven and turn it on 125 degrees Celsius.  It will take about three hours to be ready.  Check occasionally and look for the distinctive golden colour.  Let the baked baklava rest overnight and cool down well.  The next day prepare the syrup by mixing all the ingredients and cooking on low temperature until it looks glossy and thicker (that will take about half an hour) and pour it hot over the cold baklava.  Let it rest another day and then refrigerate.

This enjoyable flaky syrupy desert is perfect to serve with your home-made liqueur or a nice coffee.
Let the Star of Bethlehem watch over you and keep you safe and prosperous in the coming New Year!!!

Till my next post!
My very best wishes,

© 2013 - sophia terra~ziva.  all rights reserved


1 December 2013

Christmas is around the corner and we already have started to gather for lots of family celebrations.
Here is one very traditional pastry dish we prepare for Christmas Eve feast.  I need to be clearer – we make this dish almost on weekly basis but the special thing is that for Christmas Eve we add special wishes and the buds from a tree that starts to blossom during winter time and it is known as Dog’s Tree.  It represents strength, resilience and good health.  Since Christmas in Australia is summery season, I replaced the buds with the ones from my Apricot tree in our backyard.  We always try to put a wish worthy and thoughtful (no Porsche, Paspaley pearls and bubble ice cream included!).  The list goes – “WISDOM”, “FAMILY”, “HEALTH”, “WEALTH”, “LOVE”, “WORK”, “LUCK”, “HAPPINESS”...
This pastry dish can be seen in many shapes and cuts around Bulgaria but the one that stays with the strongest meaning and blessing is the Fortune Banitza twisted in coil.  The spiral shape symbolises the Circle of Life, the endless journey for inner peace, love and success.  And most of all, my children love the crunchy and beautiful texture we get, when Banitza is swirled around.  When ready to eat, we always cut and keep one piece of this dish for "Grandpa" God.

So, let’s roll up our sleeves and start rolling these pastries!
You need:
1 packet of good quality filo pastries
2 egg yolks
500 gr Bulgarian brined sheep cheese
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil

Remove the cheese from the brine and soak it overnight in plain water to remove some of the saltiness and to allow mellower taste.
Keep the filo pastry wrapped in damp kitchen towel to protect them for drying.
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius.
In a big bowl mix roughly the cheese and the eggs without overbeating and let it have a lumpy texture.
Spread one sheet of filo pastry, brush over olive oil with fast strokes. Place over second sheet and repeat.  Cover with the third sheet and spread at the longer side of the pastry some of the feeling.  Place in one of the fortune wishes.  Working fast, roll gently the pastry into a tube and start twisting it into a coil.  Leave the end of it slightly undone, so it can be easily connected with the next roll of pastry.  Continue with the next roll as you allow some of the pastry undone so it can be connected and twisted into the previous and to continue the smoothness of the coil.  At the end brush with olive oil.
Place in the oven and bake until golden.

Now it’s time to see what fortune we’ve got!  What's yours?  I've picked again the “kitchen chores”...

Till my next post!
My very best wishes,

© 2013 - sophia terra~ziva.  all rights reserved

Carême Traditional Pastry

18 November 2013

I have never met somebody with so much passion for the things they are doing as the family behind the famous Carême Traditional Pastry from Barossa Valley, South Australia.  And it hasn’t been once or twice when I was specially treated with their kindness and generosity.  Meet William Wood and his lovely wife Claire – two lovely people that everybody should be proud to have them as friends!
It was about a year ago when I got in my mail box a special parcel with a fresh aroma of mother for sourdough starter.  I still can close my eyes and remember the feeling when I opened this precious packet.  The old people in my country say that if one gives away bread starter as a present he or she is blessed to have lots of good fortune and good luck in their life!  Well, looking at my big box, William and Claire are family I will be blessing for the rest of my life…
Last Saturday I got the pleasure to meet personally William on one of his regular cooking classes which he runs around the country.  It was in Sydney Cooking School at Neutral Bay as part of the introduction of their new gluten free pastry range in both sweet and savoury.
Until this class I haven’t ventured much in Gluten-Free land, but with William’s excitement about creating dishes from the best ingredients, we were in for a treat.  So here is what we had the pleasure to see being prepared right in front of our eyes and to taste it –

Next was Mini Middle Eastern Lamb Hand Pies.

And the best for last - we finished with amazingly delicious Pear, Walnut and Preserved Lemon Tart.  And when I say 'delicious', I mean gloriously delicious!  So much so that my daughter ate it before I can take a photo of it…
I owe another blog post that will be dedicated especially to this amazing desert.

We had the opportunity to hear invaluable tips and secrets that can help every time to be successful when baking with gluten free pastry.
Keep your eyes on any new classes and events that Carême Traditional Pastry might be running in the town near you.  Most of the information is on their website, but if you follow them on their Facebook page, you will get instant notifications for the latest upcoming events.  I can't wait for the next William's visit in Sydney to take part of his classes.  By then I'll make sure I have the baby sitting sorted and I will not have to tow along my daughters.   If you ask them, they had big fun - they met a Master Chef, they ate and licked their fingers, they played under the table...
There was only one thing missing...  “Mum, when is Manu coming?” my oldest daughter was nagging.  Hmmm, my little lady has become another casualty of the celebrity tv shows!

Till my next post!
My very best wishes to you,


© 2013 - sophia terra~ziva.  all rights reserved


4 November 2013

Sneaky sun rays caress my face on a lazy Sunday morning.
This is the first clear memory from my childhood – full of light and smell.  The fresh tangy smell of the strained yoghurt that spills around the whole house and I know that my Sunday starts with the promise of a something special.  Mama is making Tarator!  Not the daily Tarator summer soup that we can make with eyes closed, but the “dry” Tarator.  Ah!  I can eat it with the big spoon!  Straight from serving bowl...
I was expecting my first daughter Apollonia when general discomfort and heartburns were making my nights hard to get some rest.  I asked my doctor for some natural way to help me.  He said “Eat fresh food.  Have more yoghurt, olive oil, walnuts, dill, cucumbers, and even crushed fresh garlic.  They'll help your tummy settle down and ease your heartburns and it is good for the baby”.  All I was hearing was “Eat Tarator!  Eat Tarator! Eat Tarator!”, because these are the staple ingredients of the Tarator.  And that is what I did.  I went to the local Green Grocer and picked the freshest and crisp ingredients and went home to hang the yoghurt in the muslin to strain.

Curled up on the couch next to the window I could hear from the kitchen this tiny-tiny sound “drop, drop, drop” and the house was starting to fill more and more with the smell of strained yoghurt whey.  My childhood returned like strong wave tides with flashes of sunlight jumping from the leaves through the Linden tree, with smell of Mama’s cooking and the wholesome feeling of being loved and happy!  I touched my belly; I knew that all I wanted to give my precious baby is that loving feeling that has been holding me like a warm hug, like an honest kiss on the forehead.  My remedy Tarator became a tribute to carefree childhood memories and I wished upon a wish for the best childhood I can possibly give my child.
Here we are now, making Mama’s Tarator for countless times.  Trust my recipe and every time and effort that you'll put in it will reward you.

1 litre yoghurt
4 fresh and crisp flesh cucumbers – stay with Lebanese or Telegraph cable cucumbers – diced in small cubes about ½ cm each side. DO NOT GRATE!
3 gloves of garlic
1 cup of walnut kernels
1 bunch of fresh dill – washed and finely chopped
Olive Oil – to taste

Salt – to taste

Thoroughly wet and squeeze kitchen muslin and pour in it a litre of good quality full cream yoghurt.  The wet muslin prevents the yoghurt from sticking in.  Leave to strain overnight.
Peel and dice the cucumbers with very sharp knife avoiding any bruising that may make them soggy.  It is imperative for a true Tarator to be made with fine dices of cucumber because it keeps the ingredient intact as much as possible, it doesn't bruise and therefore the water doesn’t escape and every little bit stays fresh until consumed.  It also gives the best sensation in the mouth when eating Tarator, because with every bite the little dices burst in your mouth and fill you with feeling of exploding freshness.
In a mortar prepare the Walnut, Garlic and Dill Pesto – crash carefully the nuts, garlic and dill mixed with a pinch of salt and dash of olive oil.  Grind it gently until you get one smooth and fragrant pesto.  Add if need be some more grains of salt and drips of oil, but make sure you are getting the natural oils of the walnuts themselves.  They are extremely nourishing, wholesome and jam packed with good omegas!!!
In a large mixing bowl place the strained yoghurt which by then would look and feel more like a ball of soft cheese.  Break it with whisks and mix until smooth, add the walnut, garlic and dill pesto and continue to mix.   Add the diced cucumbers and stir very gently.  Add salt and generous amount of olive oil.  Try it and adjust if needed.
Now sprinkle with a handful of finely chopped dill, decorate with drizzle of olive oil and enjoy it!

Every bite you take you are filling your body with pleasure and bursting surprises of flavours and textures and most of all – a mouthful of health!  Tarator is a symphony of wellness in its own right.

Here are some facts about the benefits of Tarator:
Yoghurt –
It is a great source of probiotics specific to certain strains of "good" bacteria.  They adjust the microflora in the intestines and also act directly on body functions, such as digestion or immune function.  Yoghurt gives good dose nutrients like calcium, vitamin B-2, B-12, potassium and magnesium.
Cucumbers –
Aid digestive disorders like acidity, heartburn, gastritis and even ulcers can be cured by the daily consumption of fresh cucumber.  The water and fibre in cucumber are very effective in driving away the toxins from our digestive system and hence aid digestion.
Olive oil –
Among the myriad benefits of this gold in liquid, it was an ancient practice to address all digestive problems with a good spoon of olive oil.  And yes – I go to big lengths to find olive oil produced from Crete.  It is the Rolls Royce of the olive oils!!!
Walnuts –
“The food for brain” as Dad use to say, walnuts contain essential omega-3 fatty acids in higher amounts.  They are an excellent source of antioxidants, manganese and copper.  Walnuts offer calcium, chromium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, vitamin E and zinc in large amounts.  They hold abundant anti-inflammatory properties.
Garlic –
It has been praised for so many health benefits, but little is known about the help they give for digestive discomfort.  It aids in eliminating noxious wastes matter from the human body and stimulates peristaltic action and the secretion of the digestive juices.
Dill –
This humble herb has been admired for strengthening the bones, for its anti-bacterial properties, optimising the digestive health and even its calming effect on the body and dealing with insomnia.
*also known as Tzatziki in Greece and some other
countries with diverse  ingredients in the recipes.

Till my next post
My very best wishes to you,

© 2013 - sophia terra~ziva.  all rights reserved


30 October 2013

No, no, this is not a love tea.
It isn't a recipe either, but it has the right ingredients.
And I guess it could help as a friendly guidance to all of those that haven’t pricked yet their hearts with love’s capricious nature.

Love’s beauty you can’t feel or truly see until you slash it through in half and make it bleed.
Love’s strength you can’t test before the steel blade has been 300 times fold and forged.
Love you can understand only when you learn to speak all dialects in China...

Till my next post!
My very best wishes to you,

© 2013 - sophia terra~ziva.  all rights reserved


27 October 2013

I hear about some impending homework always at the doorsteps just as I lock the door and will drive to school...
It was a “bring-something-green-and-useful-nature-loving-for-the-school-kitchen-garden” kind of thing.  And I could feel my blood pressure just pumping through my ears and I could whistle like a steam train from fury and very reasonable parental rage...
There we go again!!!  I made a U-turn and shoot straight to the nearest nursery where just few days ago I was procrastinating over one gentle branch of olive tree sheltered between clay pots and bags of manure.  I stormed into the shop, walking directly to the little seedling, grabbed it and herded my daughters to hurry up.  As I was paying I remembered “There was one more.”  So we ended up with one for school and one for home.
When I handled the teacher our little seedling, I apologise that it is not a vegetable for the school kitchen garden.  Just hope, I continued, that the children take the deep meaning of the symbol this beautiful tree carries – about long life, about victory, about peace, wisdom and freedom.  As I was cracking my knuckles and excusing about my choice, the teacher rushed to me with the biggest, softest, warmest hug and said: “You are a wise woman”.  I saw her eyes swimming in emotions.  Well, this little tree will thrive great in this school yard!

The next morning my daughter dragged me to the middle of the school yard with exiting skipping and shouting around the newly planted baby-tree: “Mama, mama, look!  This is our tree!  Our teacher called it “Apollonia’s Tree!”
Yes my dear Apollonia and all children that will water and will watch this tree grow – live long, be victorious, stay in peace, grow wise and treasure your freedom!

Till my next post!
My very best wishes to you,

© 2013 - sophia terra~ziva.  all rights reserved


27 September 2013

Having inflamed tonsillitis was an often occurrence and as much as I dread it, as much I was looking forward to Mama making the walnut tea.  It looked a bit dark and frankly revoltingly brown, but it tastes amazingly lovely and I wasn’t sharing it with anybody.  And I loved the feeling of being dotted over and looked after.  I eventually would lose my voice and would only screech and scratch when I speak.  So I was told I am talking like the Godfather...  And they were rolling down laughing that finally I can't talk!  Well, they wouldn’t want me making them a deal they can’t refuse!
I still get these painful moments with throat so red and inflamed that I can’t swallow sip of water.  These days I have to get up of my mighty backside and start making my own walnut tea.
Then I curl up on the arm chair, daydreaming or just staring through the window.  And thinking what if I was at the Bahamas, walking on a blinding white sandy beach.  Or, wait!  Scratch the beach, we have beaches galore here!  I want to be in Venice!  Oh, that’s right!  But this packing and unpacking is getting me tired.  Somehow Venice is charming me, but not that hard to wish it bad.
My eyes are getting heavy and tired.  They are still wondering through the window, but I am trying to remember why I ever was mesmerised by Venice if I’ve never been there?!  And as I moved my sleepy grazing eyes and they licked naked woman on the book cover at my library shelves, I recognised the old devil there – 12 volumes of Casanova’s History of My Life.
Ciao Giacomo!
Now is good time to get together again – nice soft spot, walnut tea, lemons, cherries and you and me...

8 cracked open and unpeeled shells walnuts
1 litre water
Bring to boil and reduce the heat.  Boil for 20 minutes.  Serve with honey and lemons.

Till my next post!
My very best wishes to you,

© 2013 - sophia terra~ziva.  all rights reserved


26 September 2013

Grandma's Quince tree was heavily pregnant with sun and sweetness...  The branches were weighing down with myriad of fruits and golden rays and we knew the end of summer was approaching.  Their fragrance was like a tossed blanket, hugging us with every slight breeze and we were already checking if Mama and Grandma are getting the big pots and jars ready for the traditional preparing of quince compote, confiture and jelly.

It was a ritual for the family’s matriarchate, executed with precision of military manoeuvres.  And when Grandma would take from her old glory chest the primitive grater she kept from her Great-grandmother, we felt as we were part of some sacred ceremony…

Now I hold in my hands the same old weathered primitive grater and I have my two girls tiptoeing on their chairs to get as high as the table and watch me prepare confiture and jelly.  It feels good!  And I can’t be happier!

If you want to pour some “memories from summer” into the jars, here is the recipe –
1 ½ fruit of quinces grated
1 ½ kg sugar
1 litre water
4 table spoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice (you might reduce it to 2 tablespoons, if you are planning on using some pectin-based jam settings because they already contain some amount of citric acid).
Wash, dry and keep warm in the oven at 100 degrees Celsius the jars for preserving.
Bring water and sugar to boil and reduce the heat.  Cook until starts to thicken, about 15 minutes or just check by dropping drop syrup on a clean plate and look not to spill and keep its shape.
Clean the quinces from the seeds and skin and keep aside the peels and cores.  You will need them for the jelly.  Add the grated quinces, which should be grated just in the last moment so their colour can be intact as much as possible.
Bring to boil and boil for another 15 minutes.  Do the drop check and if the drop holds its shape, take the confiture from the heat; and allow to stand for 5-10 minutes.  Pour into the prepared sterilized jars and seal immediately.
*If the quantity of sugar is your concern, you can reduce it, but you have to help thicken the jelly with extra pectin.  For this amount of syrup 25 grams of pectin will do a great job.  Add the pectin in the last 5 minutes, boil it vigorously stirring occasionally.
Peels and cores from the quinces
1 ½ kg sugar
1 ½ water from the boiled peels and cores
4 table spoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice (you might reduce it to 2 tablespoons, if you are planning on using some pectin-based jam settings because they already contain some amount of citric acid).
Wash, dry and keep warm in the oven at 100 degrees Celsius the jars for preserving.
Place in big pot the peels and cores and generously cover with water.  Bring to boil and reduce the heat.  Let it cook for ½ hour.  Drain the water and sift through cheese cloth.  Measure the liquid and for mix equal quantity of liquid and sugar.  You might choose to have no more than 1 ½ litre of the boiled liquid mixed with 1 ½ kg of sugar.  Boil until thickens into a syrup.
Bring to boil and boil for another 15 minutes.  Do the drop check and if the drop holds its shape, take the confiture from the heat; and allow to stand for 5-10 minutes.  Pour into the prepared sterilized jars and seal immediately.
*If the quantity of sugar is your concern, you can reduce it, but you have to help thicken the jelly with extra pectin.  For this amount of syrup 25 grams of pectin will do a great job.  Add the pectin in the last 5 minutes, boil it vigorously stirring occasionally.
Enjoy!  Now the only thing you might have to worry about is getting nice bread and butter for the breakfast tomorrow…

My very best wishes to you,

© 2013 - sophia terra~ziva.  all rights reserved


16 September 2013

My dear friends, this post wasn't planned.

However, I would like to share with you a little news that tickles my pride and gives me more reasons to work hard.

Last Friday, 13th of September I received two Honourable Mentions in Non-Pro Advertising : Food category at The International Photography Awards in Los Angeles.  This is an annual competition for professional, non- professional, and student photographers on a global scale, creating one of the most ambitious and comprehensive competitions in the photography world today as they describe themselves.

Here are the links for my entries, which are two series of images – The Spice Trail and Gastronomia e Natura Morta .

The 2013 International Photography Awards received nearly 18,000 submissions from 104 countries across the globe.  IPA is a sister-effort of the Lucie Foundation, where the top three winners are announced at the annual Lucie Awards gala ceremony.  The Foundation’s mission is to honour master photographers, to discover new and emerging talent and to promote the appreciation of photography.  Since 2003, IPA has had the privilege and opportunity to acknowledge and recognize contemporary photographer’s accomplishments in this specialized and highly visible competition.

I am grateful to all my friends that were supporting me and encouraging me and especially thankful for all direct, to-the-point and no nonsense critique I've received all those years!

Till my next post!
My very best wishes to you,


© 2013 - sophia terra~ziva.  all rights reserved

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