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Bulgarian Veal Brains and Ratatouille

by Florian

This recipe is inspired by a dish I ate in a Bulgarian restaurant in Moscow many years ago. If I’m correct, the restaurant was called Mekhana Bansko and is now closed. I clearly remember that the veal brain was unapologetically served whole in an earthenware dish —  quite a sight once the lid was removed! I had to improvise a little for the rest of the recipe, and I opted for a quick variation on ratatouille with some paprika.

Brains are quite popular in the Balkans, and Vladimir Mirodan’s Balkan Cookbook lists no less than 6 different recipes, including deep-fried, as a pudding, or in stuffed tomatoes. Buying veal brains can be tricky, as I discussed here. I seized the opportunity of my trip to France to try this recipe, as it is pretty easy to special-order brains from a butcher there without having to deal with the whole head.

Bulgarian veal brains and ratatouille
Yields 2 servings

1 veal brain
6 oz medium-diced eggplant
6 oz sliced red pepper
3 oz olive oil
3 oz sliced shallot
6 oz medium-diced tomato
sweet Hungarian paprika

  • Soak the brain in cold water for 30 minutes, then change the water and repeat.
  • In a blender, mix 1 qt water with 2% salt. Place the brain in the salted water, and refrigerate for 6 hours.
  • In a hot pan over high heat, sauté the eggplant and red pepper with 2/3 of the olive oil until brown. Add the shallot and tomato, season with salt and paprika, and simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes to get a thick vegetable mixture. Reserve.
  • Drain the veal brain and pat dry, and sauté in a hot pan over high heat with the rest of the olive oil for a couple minutes on each side. Transfer to a terracotta dish, sprinkle with paprika, and arrange the vegetable mixture around. Cover and bake in a 350 F oven for 15-25 minutes, until the internal temperature of the brain reaches 145 F. Serve immediately.

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Jenn's dipping cabinet January 16, 2012 - 20:30

No food is wasted in Bulgaria.A very unique meal.not for the faint of heart.

lordsofthedrinks November 22, 2017 - 03:19

Lived in Bulgaria for 4 months, but never saw veal brains on the menu anywhere. Guess the younger generation is no fan of it. I did try it in Georgia once. One of the weirdest food experiences of my life. So soft, like jelly. Still quite tasty as well.

Vyara December 20, 2018 - 07:22

Well, I’m Bulgarian and that’s definitely not a bulgarian food.

Petar Tsenev February 5, 2019 - 18:30

I’m a Bulgarian and I never saw in my life such a meal (ever). Don’t try to mislead your readers that veal brain is Bulgarian food (nor Balkan).

Florian February 5, 2019 - 22:16

You’re the second person to say something like that on this post, I’m starting to think that calves in Bulgaria don’t have brains! It’s true that most people don’t eat brains, neither in Bulgaria nor anywhere else. However, there are some recipes out there – you just need to look hard enough. In general, Eastern Europe has quite a few offal recipes. Here are some examples of Bulgarian veal brains: Телешки мозък пане, СВАРЕН ТЕЛЕШКИ МОЗЪК С МАСЛО И МАГДАНОЗ, Телешки мозък с яйца на фурна.


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