Tarama (tah-RAH-mah) is a popular no-cook / no-bake appetizer spread made with fish roe, olive oil and lemon juice, common to Greece, where it is known as taramosalata, and to Bulgaria, among other countries.
It's not surprising tarama would appear on a Bulgarian meze (an appetizer feast before the main meal) because the Turkish/Greek influence on Bulgarian cuisine reigns supreme. Tomatoes, bell peppers, olives, roasted eggplant and zucchini, bean salads, cheese, ham, kebabche sausages, similar to Croatian / Serbian cevapcici, and kyufte (a round, flattened version of kebabche like Middle Eastern kefti kebab) would all be represented.
Bulgarian pasterna (dried beef often combined with paprika), also appears on appetizer trays along with persut (a Dalmatian dark smoked ham not unlike Italian prosciutto), yogurt, pickled cucumbers, vegetables and tarama.
Tarama is an affordable appetizer because it's made with carp roe or cod roe instead of pricey sturgeon roe, and it's so easy to prepare. There are only four ingredients and it can be made entirely in a food processor. It is usually served with toasted bread and garnished with cured black olives, parsley or celery leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.
Makes 4-6 servings of Bulgarian Tarama
- 8 tablespoons smoked or unsmoked carp roe or cod roe
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon finely grated onion
- In the bowl of a food processor (or using an immersion blender), puree 8 tablespoons smoked or unsmoked carp roe or cod roe. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and mix. Slowly pour the 1/4 cup olive oil through the food chute until it is well incorporated. Add the 1 tablespoon finely grated o9nion and give a final pulse. If tarama is too thick, add water a little at a time to give an easily spreadable consistency.
- Transfer to a pretty serving bowl and refrigerate. When ready to serve, drizzle the tarama with a little olive oil, sprinkle with paprika and garnish with a few olives and parsley or celery leaves. Refrigerate leftovers.
Here are more ideas for a traditional Bulgarian appetizer spread or meze:
Note: If you would like to experience the cuisine of Bulgaria but don't have an authentic restaurant nearby or finances make it prohibitive, take this virtual tour of a typical Bulgarian meal.and try making the recipes at home.