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Borscht Soup and Bulgur Salad Cooking Workshop

I hit the button to begin the workshop. A few people have already lined up to sign in. There they are, my friends and family, my heart-to-heart support. And a bevy of friendly new faces.

First virtual Zoom cooking workshop with Tasty Talks. Twelve people are signed up.

Let’s go!

This midday workshop was my first under the sponsorship of Tasty Talks Netherlands. Since I had debuted my online cooking workshops one week before with Venture Café Rotterdam, I was less nervous in front of the camera. With Venture Café, we used my telephone only, my husband was holding it, and I was unable to see faces while I received questions from the participants.

Then we shifted the screen when the workshop was over so I could field those questions. This time we thought we could connect both from laptop and phone from our two accounts. Actually, this time I interacted more, saw people come in, and admitted their entrance to Zoom. It was all fine until we used my phone for showing the ingredients and stove. Because somehow, I could not arrange Philippe as a host. My husband used the laptop for the entire show. That was the solution! Every experience is an experience. I gain more skills and experience each time I am front of the camera, definitely not easy. But with a little bit improvement and practice I will be better for sure.

I started to show the ingredients for the bulgur salad, then went to the stove for the Borscht soup. I prepped all ingredients beforehand so everything was ready on the counter. When I prepare myself for a workshop, I rehearse and write things that I am going to talk about, which leads me to learn new things as I go. I learned a lot about beets; and the history of bulgur.

Borscht Soup

Borscht is a Slavic name for the famous ancient soup from Ukraine. It is also very popular in Poland, Lithuania, Moldavia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Russia. It is originally cooked from meat or bone stock or together, vegetables. This soup often includes several different vegetables like cabbage, carrots, onions, celeriac, zucchini, red bell peppers, potatoes and tomatoes.

In every region in Ukraine they cook this soup differently. The difference comes from the type of stock used, whether pork, beef, chicken, bone, sausages or vegetable. It may be served hot or cold and is often served with potatoes or hard-boiled eggs and topped with smetena. Smetena is a type of sour cream from Central and Eastern Europe, a little bit similar to crème fraîche.

It is widely used in cooking and baking. If you cannot find smetana (check your local eastern European grocery), you can easily substitute it with regular sour cream from the supermarket, or crème fraîche.

In the workshop I cooked vegetarian borscht soup. For the vegetable broth, I used four carrots, an onion, two cloves of garlic, bunch of parsley and fresh thyme. I avoided celery leaves because my husband does not like it. But you can definitely use celery leaves for your broth. I always roast the beets advance in 200 C for 40 minutes, and then I grate them for the soup. Potatoes and carrots were diced.

Borscht is a hearty and earthy soup. Sour cream and lemon give freshness and flavor to the soup. What makes this soup Borscht are beets and sourness. It is a winter comfort soup. But you can also eat this soup in summer. The color turns out so red, it is irresistible :-) Borscht can last up to four days in the fridge.

Beets, a delicious and versatile vegetable, have healthy dietary nitrates in them which lower blood pressure and help to improve cycling and athletic performance. Beets increase oxygen and blood flow. They have fiber, vitamins and minerals. They are low in calories and high in water. It helps to lose weight.

Choose firm, weighty beets fresh from the market.

Bulgur Salad

Making wheat into bulgur is an ancient process that originated from Mediterranean region.

Some knowledge about bulgur from NY Times website is that:

"Bulgur is made from precooked wheat berries. The wheat grain is boiled until the berries crack. The resulting product is then dried, at which point the outer bran layers are rubbed off and the grains are ground. The process of boiling the wheat berries dissolves some of the soluble vitamins and minerals in the outer bran layers of the seeds, but these nutrients are absorbed back into the endosperm of the grain during cooking."

Bulgur cooks quickly. Fine bulgur only takes 6 minutes to prepare by soaking in warm water, without cooking on the stove at all. Fine bulgur is mostly used for salads and meatballs. Eating bulgur helps to create healthy bacteria for digestion. Bulgur has iron, manganese and magnesium in it. It helps to controls blood sugar. Be aware that if you are allergic or intolerant to gluten you cannot eat bulgur.

Bulgur has a similar consistency as couscous and quinoa. Bulgur has fewer calories than brown rice and quinoa.

For pre-industrial people, bulgur was an excellent food as it resists mold contamination and attack by insects and can be stored for long periods of time.

Bulgur salad, known in Turkish as Kısır, is one of the easiest salad recipes in Turkish cuisine. It is also popular in other parts of the Mediterranean Middle East, with some variations, where is it called tabbouleh. Some people make their bulgur salad only with greens, some choose to add tomatoes, cucumbers, or red onions. Kısır should be made only with fine bulgur, labeled in Turkish shops as köftelik bulgur.

The other key ingredients that make this salad unique and delicious are tomato paste, pepper paste, pomegranate syrup and cumin. Turkish pepper paste is made either from sweet long red peppers or chili peppers and salt. For Kısır, it is most common to use sweet pepper paste.

On this workshop, a number of people cooked along with me. I really enjoyed it and felt I was not cooking just for me and my husband. When all these beautiful people share their finished plates with you, that is the most gratifying thing about having these workshops. Someone learns and cooks for their lunch or dinner with your culinary skills, even if it is virtual.

Some of the dishes from Gabi, Paulami and Lies:

For those who want to have fun and get away from the regular duties of the day, this is a great activity to share with your mate or family, and the most enjoyable part of it is you create your lunch or dinner for the day. Whenever I join a cook-along workshop it gives me a kick to get out of bed and use the day well.

Afiyet olsun! Eet smakelijk!

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