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

Zephyr - A Sweet From Post-Soviet Countries

Zephyr

Zephyr is a very common sweet produced in Post-Soviet countries. Outwardly it’s similar to marshmallow, but it’s made with pureed apple (or other fruit), egg white, and pectin. It’s considered to be very healthy, as it contains a lot of pectins and almost no fat (the varieties of Zephyr I’m showing you today contain 0.2% fat). You can see that it’s recommended by the Latvian Dietitian Association:

Zephyr is a sweet recommended by dieticians

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Persimmon Tarts

Persimmon Tart

Men are strange.
I can spend hours in the kitchen, whisking, mixing, melting, decorating, and when I finally enter the living-room bearing a plate of delicious cookies or cakes, Stano will murmur something like “yes of course, thank you, I’ll try them later, I’m not hungry now” - all this barely raising his eyes from the laptop, by the way. Aaaargh. Seems like he doesn’t share my cake love at all. Then one day, I grab a few sheets of frozen puff pastry, top them with sliced persimmons, brush them with whisked egg and throw the pastry into oven for 10 minutes. And he loves that! He asks me to make persimmon tarts again and again. I agree, they are nice and they can really come to a rescue when you need to bake something very quickly. Slices of persimmon look great on a crispy golden puff pastry, and cinnamon and nutmeg add a spicy twist to the mild sweet flavour of persimmon. But… Stano… what about all the other cakes I’ve baked?!

Persimmons
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Lemon Polenta Apricot Cookies via 6Bittersweets

Lemon Polenta Apricot Cookies

“No more expensive foods until the end of the month”, I said to myself after receiving my January bills. I just wasn’t prepared to pay TWICE as much for things like central heating and water; seems like someone’s prosperity is improving in the new year, huh. Then I sat down and started to ponder what those expensive foods of our daily menu could be. I couldn’t think of any luxury foods I had recently bought - dried dates sounded like the most decadent of my latest purchases. It’s just that in a country with 22% VAT, everything is freaking expensive. So I headed off to the supermarket and bought potatoes, cornmeal, oatmeal, some butter (certainly we will have to cut down on that next month, haha) and other staples like milk and flour. If they raise VAT to 23%, we’ll have to rename our blog to “Creative Cooking with Potatoes” or something like that.

Anyway. If you like cornmeal as much as me, and even if you don’t have to think of 10 next ways to cook polenta because your family budget is staggering, you MUST make these cookies. I found them on a blog called 6 Bittersweets - it’s so beautiful and inspiring and fresh, I just can’t take my eyes off those stunning food photos. Xiaolu adapted the recipe from Bon Appetit, and I adapted it from her blog, substituting finely diced dried apricots for cranberries just because that’s what I had at hand. I think I’ll bake polenta cookies again for my birthday, and make both cranberry and apricot versions. They’re so yellow, crumbly, homeopathically salty, and noticeably lemony even though there’s just one teaspoon of fresh lemon zest in the dough. The smell of baking polenta cookies will make your home a million times cozier than the most expensive furniture would do. And with remaining egg whites, I made a small batch of tiny raspberry jam meringues, so we had enough sweets for all weekend.

Oh and it’s snowing again today, all day. How sweet :-/ I decided that no matter what,  we have our own micro spring in our home. I’m terrible at growing flowers, but luckily I have a good relationship with bulbous plants, so I’m going to buy more hyacinths and, hopefully, crocuses.

Lemon Polenta Cranberry Cookie recipe at 6Bittersweets

Pink Hyacinth

Chocolate Butter

Chocolate Butter

Along with boiled condensed milk, chocolate butter is one of the simplest - and the most nostalgic - home-made sweet treats of the Soviet period. Under conditions of total deficiency*, you had to be thrifty and creative. You know what we sometimes did with chocolate sweets? We spread some butter on a piece of bread, then cut a chocolate sweet into slices and put it on top of the bread. Or sometimes it was just bread, butter, and sugar on top. These simple pleasures were not as miserable as you might have thought - as everything was organic and natural. You couldn’t store products in the fridge for weeks and weeks and weeks like now: they spoiled. Butter was extremely thick, rich and… yes, buttery: the quintessence of butter. Bread was always crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, somewhat similar to ciabatta; the crust was slightly salty and pale golden. Another thing is that sometimes you could notice dirty fingermarks on a loaf of bread, so a common practice was to quickly roast each loaf over a fire in order to disinfect it, hehe.

This morning I spread a spoonful of chocolate butter on a slice of a multigrain bun and meditated about my childhood and all the flavours that are gone for good. But back then, how could I think that I would ever try mascarpone, and wasabi, and arugula?.. And that I would discuss all that with people from all around the globe? All changes are to the good…

*A riddle I invented as a child: “It’s round, green, and grows in Moscow. What is it?” - the right answer is orange, hahaha.

Chocolate Butter

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Today’s Discovery: Oatmeal with Candied Oranges, Cranberries, and Maple Syrup

Oatmeal with candied oranges, cranberries, and maple syrup

Eureka! I’ve found out the third food on my Top5 foods/ingredients. Candied oranges! (#1 is chanterelles and #2 is lemon). I love them in cakes or cookies, I love them dipped in chocolate or dusted with powdered sugar, I love them straight. I’ve been making a lot of candied oranges recently, as it’s so easy - you just leave them simmering and do your chores or play with the baby - and then voila, you have a plate of adorable translucent all-natural candies. I’ve even frozen the excesses - I really should learn to make larger batches of foods and freeze them so that I wouldn’t have to panic about dinner every day.

This morning I realized I could add candied oranges to my oatmeal! I cut them in small pieces, mixed them with dried cranberries, and drizzled some maple syrup on top of all that. Mmmm! Those tangy and bitterish flavours of candied orange and cranberry pair perfectly with the slightly smoky aroma of dark maple syrup… in pleasant contrast to the creaminess of oatmeal! I’ve never enjoyed my bowl of oatmeal so much before, and I’m certainly going to repeat this tomorrow.

Parižske Rožky (Paris Horns)

Parižske Rožky (Paris Horns)

When I was pregnant, I often thought about how my mind would change after I’d become a mother. I wondered if I would become wiser, more patient and tolerant, more thoughtful and conscientious… more grown-up. A mother is a person you look up to, after all. So what does it take to become a mother? After I gave birth to Ivanka, I realized that nothing had changed. There certainly are external signs such as tired look or imperfect waistline, but the inner me… it hasn’t changed. It’s just like when my Mom says “I still feel like 30″ or when my Grandmother recalls anecdotes from her school years (well, Stano says she sometimes behaves as if she were 16). Because she hasn’t changed inside since she was 16. So, I’m a mother and yet I’m still the same. And for the first two months, it was as strange and hard to say “I’m a Mom” as it is to say “I love you” for the first time.

Why am I talking about this? Just because I feel like I’m still interested in my former activities like food blogging or running my other website, and sometimes it’s hard to juggle all this while staying sane. I am very attached to our daughter (to such extent that I’ve cried a few times when someone from the family went for a walk with her and I stayed home), but I’ll never become a parent obsessed with natural parenting, or any other parenting trend, or just parenting as such. It’s just a (huge and significant) part of our life, isn’t it?! I want to keep in touch with my friends, and we usually have someone to visit us on weekends, but most times I feel tired afterwards. I’ve also noticed that whenever we make a plan of watching a movie after the baby goes to bed, she won’t fall asleep for hours, so we usually end up watching the movie in bed, sharing a pair of earphones, with happy Ivanka sleeping between us.

I haven’t had the energy to bake or cook a lot of new things recently; besides, I’ve decided to eat more healthfully (seems like after 4 months of breastfeeding, I’m finally starting to lose my hair - I need vitamins badly). Thanks to Healthy Mamma, I’ve found a collection of fabulous smoothies - I want to try them all, well maybe except for those with veggies, I’m still not used to drinking vegetables. I made a Banana-Oat smoothie this morning and it rocked!! Why have I never added rolled oats to my smoothies before?!

So now I finally have the time to write about Parižske rožky (Paris Horns), which are my favourite variety of baked goodies Stano’s Mom makes for Christmas. These tiny cakes are a true masterpiece. There’s a generous triple swirl of luxuriant chocolate buttercream on top of a fragile walnut meringue, and each cake is glazed with dark, glossy chocolate. It’s a heavenly combination of three textures - the brittleness of meringue, the silkiness of buttercream, and the subtle crisp of chocolate glaze. It takes a while to make them though - bake the meringues, make the buttercream, decorate each cake and dip each one in melted chocolate - so I am not sure I’ll be able to recreate them in near future. But if you have a free evening, they’re really worth it. And here’s the recipe.

UPD We also have a brand new fan page on Facebook! Please “Like” us if you enjoy reading our blog! Thank you :)
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Are you curious to learn more about Eastern European cuisine?
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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