There are times in life when we are attracted to foods that we usually don't like. I just woke up one day with the very strong determination to have a Bulgarian dish called drob sarma, which is made of lamb offal, greens as spinach and spring onions, lots of mint and parsley and rice baked in a large tava with bechamel topping.
It took me some days to cook but my determination stayed. Which is weird as I have never been a very big fan of this dish.
It is very traditional for Bulgaria and is mainly cooked around and after Easter and St George's Day, which in Bulgaria is celebrated on May 6. During that time spring is on with full power, there are many greens in the gardens as spring onions, mint, parsley, spinach and a special plant apparently called garden patience (Rumex patientia is its Latin name, according to Wikipedia), and which is very similar to sorrel.
As spring in the UK comes earlier than in Bulgaria, I guess I intuitively craved this dish which represents the end of the cold winter, the beginning of new life, the warmer weather and the sunshine, the spring in general and the family gatherings and eating in the open air.
The dish is served as an accompaniment for roasted lamb and I have always thought that there are some good parts of it and some really repulsive too. So to make it to my taste I would eliminate all entrails and organs other than liver. But in case you want to make it as it is traditionally made, you should buy lamb heart, liver, intestines, kidneys and lungs (I hope I don't miss something).
Reportedly the drob sarma can be made with other offal than lamb - ie chicken, calf, etc, but the best one is made with lamb (in case you omit everything but the livers me thinks).
And apparently liver has a very good nutritional value being over packed with vitamin A and iron.
Still I feel the need to add here that vitamin A content in all types of livers is quite high so the recommended portion is up to 100 g per person (and even less ~ 30 g) and should not be had more than twice a week or even less.
I adore cooking with lots of herbs, one reasonable sized bunch of mint would be the size of small bouquet and in case you buy the prepacked supermarket herbs you would need two packs at least.
This time I used mint and lemon thyme to add some sourness. I also served with yogurt although some people argue the yogurt does not add anything good to the dish.
The topping can be made of ordinary bechamel, another type f Bechamel which is with eggs and is more like custard, and a topping with yogurt and eggs. This time I used just plain bechamel.
500 gr lamb liver
1 tsp peppercorns
2 stalks celery chopped
1 l water
300 gr fresh spinach leaves (or sorrel, or both)
1 large bunch mint - chopped
3-4 tbps lemon thyme leaves
8-10 spring onions
2 cloves garlic
400 gr rice
100 ml oil
for the bechamel topping:
500 ml hot milk
100 gr butter
4 tbsp flour
(*Next time I am going to try the bechamel topping with eggs and will post a recipe for it too)
First wash the livers and place in a pan with 1 l cold water and bring to the boil. Skim the froth that would form. Add the peppercorns and celery. Boil for some 30 minutes. Then drain, keep the stock and leave the livers to cool down.
Chop into small pieces.
In another pan heat 100 ml oil, place the chopped spring onions, and sautee for 1 minute. Then add the spinach, mint, cloves of garlic and mix well. Leave for some minutes until everything is softens. Add the rest of the herbs and spices, then the chopped liver. Cover with a lid and leave on low heat for 5-6 minutes.
In the meantime wash the rice very well in cold water, drain and add to the pan.
The volume of liquid should be 3 time the volume of rice.
Strain the liver stock, measure it and add to the pan. Mine was 1.5 the volume of rice, so I added 1.5 more boiling water.
Add the required additional quantity boiling water, over the a lid and leave to simmer for 10 minutes.
Transfer to a big deep dish suitable for serving 8-10. Put in a preheated oven and bake at 180 C for 10-15 minutes.
In the meantime make the bechamel topping.
In another pan heat the oil and add the flour and fry until well golden. Add the milk gradually whisking well all the time until the sauce thickens.
Add the spices and cover the dish in the oven with it.
Bake for more 20 minutes until brown spots appear.
Leave to set for at least 40 minutes or 1 hour or over night.
It will taste better on the next day :)