It was about time I shared something from my mum’s kitchen and this one in particular is one of my favourites – a delicious festive pumpkin strudel: Tikvenik. This is a very traditional Bulgarian dessert especially on Christmas Eve dinner as one of the typical dishes to celebrate the last day of the Nativity Fast. Therefore, 100% vegan, as well as absolutely delicious! I just wonder why we always have to wait till Christmas for it…
Well, luckily this year I made Christmas come early as I prepared it for the Harvest Fest bake sale. It was one of everyone’s favourites! A true moment of a baker’s joy and a bit of national pride! The recipe comes from my great-grandmother with some modifications by my mum.
A pack of filo pastry
A big bowl of grated pumpkin or butternut squash (I used 1 small sized squash)
Cup of raisins, soaked in a bit of rum or any liquor with some hot water (or just water)
Cup of chopped walnuts
Cup of sugar
Small cup of corn starch or breadcrumbs or biscuit crumbs
Get all ingredients conveniently around you and have an oiled tray ready. In this case I used a rectangular tray as I was making individual straight rolls.
On a flat surface lay down the filo pastry sheets and start sprinkling all the ingredients onto the top sheet. Start with a drizzle of oil across the whole sheet. Then a sprinkle of crumbs, again generously across the sheet. Then comes the grated pumpkin – spread it nicely with no big chunks. Then the sugar – add as much or as little as you like. Then add walnuts, raisins and cinnamon to taste. To finish add another small dash of the crumbs. This helps taking away the pumpkin moisture from the pastry.
Then roll carefully the filo sheet trying to touch is as little as possible. We don’t want squashy rolls. If your sheets are too thin or you have too much filling use 2 sheets for 1 roll to support it.
Transfer your roll into the tray and move on to the next roll. Repeat the process until you are out of filling, filo sheets or trays!
Once all rolls are ready in the tray, finish with a sprinkle of oil. Pop them in a preheated oven at 180 -200oC and bake until gold and crispy (about 30min)
You can be a bit more playful with the shape of your Tikveik. In this case as I was making it for a bake sale I chose the straight rolls as an easy way to sell individual pieces. However, a much more attractive option is to arrange your rolls in a spiral using a round tray. Start in the middle of the tray by curling the first roll in a snail-like shape. Wrap the next roll around it and so on till you reach the tray’s walls.
There is however another way! This one is ideal if your pastry sheets are very fragile and keep braking. Instead of rolls you can make a layered Tikvenik. You will then place 2 empty sheets on the bottom of the tray, however make sure they are not tidy & straight but naturally folded to fit the tray allowing for some air in between. Ensure there is a bit of oil in between the 2 sheets. Then sprinkle with all your fillings as before. Add one sheet, drizzle some oil, then another sheet. Then comes the filling again. Essentially you want filling on every 2 sheets, ensuring there are drops of oil in between each sheet. Repeat until the tray is full.
To serve your Tikvenik sprinkle some icing sugar on top and enjoy this so simple piece of winter heaven!