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Russian, Eastern European and international cuisine brought to you by a mother and a daughter

Fluffy Vanilla Custard with Cranberry Kisel

Fluffy Vanilla Custard

Whipped vanilla custard is yet another dessert which I find quite healthy – especially when it’s served with kisel (speaking about kisel, it’s one of the oldest Russian dishes and it is even known to have saved a city!). It doesn’t contain a lot of fat, and whipped egg whites* that are added in the end make it even more airy and light.
Mom says that in Soviet times, whipped custard was a popular dessert also here in Latvia. In the Latvian language, it’s called Buberts and can be made with semolina. Nowadays the variety of packaged desserts is huge in supermarkets, and I’d say Buberts has become more of a make-at-home type of dish, but I’m sure a lot of families like to have it for dessert every now and then.

*Since raw eggs are used here, please please wash them properly before cooking!

Vanilla Custard with Cranberry Kisel


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Cranberry Kisel

Cranberry Kisel

Kisel (kee-‘sel) is a thick, starchy drink made mostly of fruit and berries. Kisel can be also made of oats or wheat, which I wouldn’t dare to try. I do admit that this can be really healing for a diseased stomach though. What’s interesting is that oatmeal kisel is one of the oldest Russian dishes ever. There’s a legend telling about an ancient Russian city besieged by nomadic tribes and suffering from famine until an old sage told the citizens to collect all remaining oats and all honey they could still find in their cellars. The citizens did as the wise man told them and brewed kisel from the oats, and sweet drink from the honey. They made two new water wells and filled them with kisel and honey drink, then invited a delegation of nomads, showed them the wells full of drink and kisel, and assured the guests that they had enough food to survive. The nomads were astonished at the fact that Russians obtained food directly from their land and told their king about the miracle. The situation seemed pretty hopeless. The siege was raised, and the nomads went away in search of a different city to conquer.

There’s also the expression “Milk rivers and kisel shores” in the Russian language, which is used to describe carefree and prosperous life.

You see how important this drink is in Russian culture?

You can have kisel as a soothing drink or serve it with cream of rice, rice pudding, oatmeal cream, or with all kinds of mousse, cream, and custard. In our next post, we will be talking about whipped vanilla custard with cranberry kisel. Kisel is also a pretty widespread dish/drink here in Latvia. They even sell dry kisel mix in stores (never tried that as it’s very simple to prepare from scratch). At my office canteen, they manage to serve nearly every dessert with kisel (ķīselis). It’s a little bit unusual for me to have my apple pie sunk in kisel, but generally it’s nice. And it’s so healthy.

Please note that in this recipe we are using wild cranberries picked in the forest – they contain much more acid and are very juicy inside. Is you use farm cranberries, consider adding less sugar.
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Sweet Milk Soup with Filini Pasta

Sweet Milk Soup with Filini pasta

There’re some things from our childhood that we start to value only after we’ve grown up. Remember those novels and poetry from Literature classes back in school – a good deal of them seemed so tedious back then, but now as we’ve grown up we re-read them and finally discover all the sophistication, and the irony, and the beauty of language, and the vividness of author’s imagination. The same thing goes for food. A lot of my friends hated milk&noodles when they were children. One of the reasons might be that milk&noodles used to be a standing dish in nursery schools. Luckily, I never went to a nursery school, so I enjoyed my milk soup made by my Mom’s caring hands. And yeah, Mom always removed milk skins (the only cringe-making part about boiled milk, to my mind). Nowadays I still enjoy sweet milk soup with leftover Filinis as a comforting evening meal or lunch… just as much as I enjoy re-reading books from my teenage years. Read the rest of this entry »

Vyprážaný syr (Slovak Fried Cheese)

Vyprazany syr
I’ve been going to post this recipe for ages but never had any decent photos! Today I finally wasn’t in a hurry (you know, Vyprážaný syr is a very quick dish to make, so it’s good to make when you’re short on time) so I made some shots for our blog!
Vyprážaný syr is probably my favourite recipe from Slovakia. I had eaten it a few times in my hometown before, but it was Slovakia where I first tried it as a main course – accompanied by pommes frites and vegetables. I have to say there is quite a limited choice of main courses for vegetarians in Slovak restaurants, so I always opted for fried cheese – and never regretted that, as it was equally delicious in all towns I visited. This summer I learned how to make it at home, and even though I haven’t yet mastered the technique of frying cheese so that it never leaks out of the crust (tips and suggestions are welcome!), I have made some useful notices about the process in general. The first one is to use a harder sort of cheese with few holes – Gouda cheese is pretty perfect in this respect. Another thing I consider crucial is the breadcrumbs. Do not use any store-bought breadcrumbs; make your own for an extra-crunchy, extra-flaky crust. The smell of fried home-made breadcrumbs mixed with eggs is so cosy and warming!

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Lazy Pahlava

Pahlava

The best Pahlava I have ever tried was in Turkey: it was soaked in honey, golden, and crunchy. Tatar Pahlava in the Crimea is also good, usually made in two ways: with minced walnuts and without them, just of thin, glossy honey filo pastry. Here in Riga you can find Pahlava in, say, Armenian restaurants or even buy some in a supermarket, but of course it’s not as fresh and good as it is in those Southern parts of the world, where the sun makes honey melt, and your fingers stick together as you take another piece of delicious Oriental dessert.
Dreaming about all that warmth and sunshine and summer laziness, we cooked this “Lazy Pahlava” today. It’s really lazy as we didn’t make any filo pastry. And we didn’t add any rosewater or other special flavourings that are added to traditional Pahlava. But, I think the result was very good nonetheless! Lazy Pahlava is quick and easy to make, it doesn’t require a lot of ingredients, the crust is soft and the filling is pleasantly moist. Actually, we used fresh organic walnuts from Slovakia, so the filling is incredibly juicy!
If you try this, you might want to substitute at least half of the sugar for honey I guess. It’s just that not everyone in our family likes honey in baked goods.

Pahlava

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Draniki (Potato Pancakes Belorussian style)

Draniki

We haven’t posted any new recipes for a long while – not because we’ve been starving our family as you might have presumed, but because I’ve been ill and absolutely unwilling to approach the PC. This also meant I didn’t really have any cooking sessions with my Mum. However, being ill and staying at home gave me the time to do some relaxed cooking in the mornings, which was so good! During those three weeks I cooked record-breaking quantities of French toasts and omelets!

Alright, but we do have some Eastern European recipes in stock, and I’d like to start with a very simple one: Draniki. This Belorussian method of making potato pancakes is also very typical for Russian and Ukrainian cuisine. Actually, I guess you can find these in nearly every European cuisine (starting with German) and beyond, because everybody loves crispy golden potatoes!

Draniki are usually served with smetana (sour cream) or with garlic sauce, which can be made with minced garlic and herbs stirred into smetana or vegetable oil.

Draniki, Potato Pancakes
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RussianSeason.net is a food blog run by two Russian-speaking women - a mother (Natalia) and a daughter (Alina) - living in Latvia. Natalia is a professional artist and Alina is the co-owner of a web directory of Russian-speaking businesses in Europe. We both cook and Alina writes posts and takes photos.
In our blog you'll find a range of (mostly tweaked&adapted) recipes from Russia, Eastern Europe, the Baltics, and former USSR. But we can't restrain ourselves from experimenting with other cuisines too :)
Stano is the guy behind the Slovak version of this blog. He is currently living and working in Latvia and is also known as the Man Who Makes Alina Eat A Lot Of Cakes, because he hardly ever eats cakes or pies she bakes. He doesn't have a sweet tooth, you see. Stano also provides us with traditional Slovak recipes - such as Halušky that he's been promising to make for 7 months now :) Just be patient - we're sure he will eventually do it!
Ivanka is the largest cross-cultural project Alina and Stano have been ever involved in:) We hope she will be a foodie too when she grows up!
Our email address is: russianseason@gmail.com

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