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

Banana Upside-Down Cake

Banana Upside-Down Loaf

I can’t keep getting away with it forever. Yes I squeeze in my pre-pregancy jeans, but having a cake every night… hmm… this doesn’t really encourage weight loss, you know? But I just can’t resist. My web browser is full of cooking-related bookmarks and I’m baking a new cake almost every night. I still have persimmon cake on my to-make list for this weekend, but I (kind of) promised myself to concentrate on baking with quince savoury, non-baked, and just healthier things next week. I just hope that the calories I lose while whipping up a cake batter while running back and forth from the kitchen to the room to check the baby, partly compensate for the calories I consume. I hope. Oh and I work out a few days per week. I’m a good girl :) just in an acute phase of baking obsession.

Anyway, what I made last night was so good that I needed to share the recipe. Banana Upside-down Cake by lululu at home - imagine slices of fragrant sweet bananas coated with buttery gooey caramel on top of an equally buttery cake? Sounds good and guilty, doesn’t it? Unfortunately I didn’t have brown sugar at hand, so I made this with plain white sugar, that’s why my cake is not as perfectly golden as lululu’s. I also added a generous pinch of salt to the caramel, just because I like salted caramel. And of course I made the cake twice as small. I don’t have a small flat baking form in this apartment, so I baked the cake in a deeper loaf form. There’s just me and Stano who have to deal with all the pastry I produce, after all! Fortunately my Dad came over for a cup of tea and he helped us a little bit :)

My mistake was that I used too little bananas. I thought I arranged them very densely when raw, but when the batter raised, there appeared large gaps between the slices. And the bananas somehow reduced in size. I used two bananas for twice as little batter (the original recipe called for 3 bananas), and still these were not enough. I guess I should have arranged them in two layers so that they’d overlap. But even despite all these imperfections, the cake tasted great. Thank you Fanny of Lululu at home! Next time I’ll certainly make it with brown sugar to achieve that beautiful rich colour!

Banana Upside-Down Cake: Click here for Recipe

Banana Upside-Down Loaf of Cake

Cold Pumpkin Cake

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Cold Pumpkin Cake

On the first snowy day in Riga, Mom made this cold pumpkin cake.

I’ve never seen a fall as long, warm, and sunny in Riga as this year. I believe this was done specially for Ivanka :) thanks to the fine weather, we could stay in the fresh air for hours, and those long long rains typical for Latvian autumn began only in mid-November. Or maybe that’s just a head start before a severe winter, we’ll see. Anyway, yesterday everything got covered with a thin layer of snow - and believe me I can see far from my 14th floor! In fact I can make mini-weather forecasts from here! Not to mention that it’s just nice to see nothing but the sky from the windows. I noticed some drawbacks of living on the 14th floor however, when the elevator stopped and someone remained stuck inside until the mender arrived…

Anyway, it looks like winter here now, and it’s a reason to have a piece of delicious cake, isn’t it? The pumpkin cake made by Mom is a compilation of multiple American cake recipes (including carrot cake) and it’s cold like winter, dusted with snow-like caster sugar, and comforting and filling as anything made of pumpkin is. I loved the super-dense, super moist texture, the slightly salty creamy filling and the subtle sweet flavour of baked pumpkin enhanced by ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. I’m sure it’s good with a cup of Christmas tea, although it was just as good with the delicate jasmine and peach blossom tea that my aunt brought from China. These pictures of the cake are actually taken by her (seems like everyone in my family is getting involved in this blog, hehe)!

Cold Pumpkin Cake

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Vatrushki (Russian Cottage Cheese Buns)

Vatrushka with dried apricots

Yesterday Mom came over and we had our first joint cooking session since I had the baby. I mean, we’ve been cooking regular meals together, or more often I’ve been shamelessly consuming dinners cooked entirely by Mom (somehow I still can’t juggle taking care of the baby and cooking), but we haven’t done anything for the blog.

So, yesterday we made Vatrushki. These are Russian/Ukrainian/Belorussian buns with sweetened cottage cheese in the middle. Vatrushki are normally made of bread dough, but we don’t really like the combination of plain bread dough and cottage cheese. So, we made our Vatrushki with a sour cream and margarine dough (the same we used for our Lemon Pie) and with plenty of cottage cheese filling. This type of yeast dough is my favourite. It remains soft and flavourful for days and days! We also folded in some dried apricots and sprinkled all this with cinnamon - believe me, the aroma of baking Vatrushki was so strong that Mom said she still smelt like Vatrushki on her way home… she supposes everyone on the bus thought she was a baker, hehe. I can imagine how envious those hungry people on their way from work could have been.

Anyway, if you are looking for a conventional recipe for this Eastern European pastry, you should really stop reading this, because we are going to present our fantasy on the theme of Vatrushki :) the recipe, however, has all the components of classic Vatrushki: a ring of dough with cottage cheese filling in the middle. Only… I arranged them too closely to each other on the baking pan… and as the dough baked through and raised, they nearly stuck to each other and their shape transformed to squares. Aaaaargh!! I promise I’ll make new pictures of correct Vatrushki next time I make them. I’m just posting what I have at the moment, okay? Please don’t judge too strictly. The shape is not a key factor after all - it’s much more important to mention that the cottage cheese filling was luscious and juicy and scented with melted dried apricots, and the crust was subtly crispy on the outside and moist and buttery on the inside. Even Stano said those were great - and he’s not a pastry eater. Oh by the way his parents are visiting us for Catholic Christmas, so we’re going to have some lovely Slovak Christmas recipes for the blog. In fact I should start saving for December/January family dinners, because we’re going to have a lot of special occasions - Catholic Christmas, then Ivanka’s Name day, then New Year’s Eve, and finally Russian Orthodox Christmas. Oh, and then there’re just 3 weeks left until my birthday ;-)

Vatrushka of sour cream dough

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Quick Apple Cake

Quick Apple Cake

Looking through Grandmother’s recipe notebook that I borrowed from her (although it looks more like I’ve expropriated it, muahaha), I stumbled across a recipe titled “Quick Apple Cake”.  Naturally, the word “quick” caught my eye. My first attempt at this was a fail though, because I used a baking form that was too deep so there was too much batter and too little apples. Last night I made the cake again and it was a lot better!

This is the classic combination of fragrant fall apples flavoured with cinnamon and nutmeg on top of a dense, moist sweet-scented cake. Something very basic and homely, perfect with a scoop of good sour cream or Crème fraiche. Not to mention that the smell of a baking apple cake is one of the coziest food smells in the world!! I’m now thinking of trying this as an upside-down cake - to lock all of the rich apple juices inside.

Grandmother's Quick Apple Cake
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Courgette and Chanterelle Mini Tarts

Courgette and Chanterelle Mini Tarts

Seems like I’m moving to an apartment with an induction stove and an electric oven – that’s something new for me as I’ve always cooked with gas. Maybe that’s old-fashioned, but it’s visually clear to me, and I like that you can adjust the temperature instantly. Another big pro is that gas is considerably cheaper than electricity in my country. Maybe it’s also the bad experience from our last year’s trip to Croatia that puts me off induction stoves. We were staying in a small cottage house by the sea and the cooker in our mini-kitchen was probably the cheapest you could find. You’d have to wait for 40 minutes to bring water to a boil. Oh I still remember the evening that I tried to fry eggplants. The first three or four batches looked more like steamed eggplants - pale and spongy. Then suddenly I got a pan of overcooked eggplant chips. Then I switched off the heat, the eggplants went into trash, and we had sandwiches for dinner.

But I really hope the stove and oven in the new apartment are nothing similar to the one we had in Croatia. I can’t wait to move and unpack my new baking pans and moulds and my Villeroy&Boch cutlery. Perhaps I’ll need to buy a set of nice mugs and bowls for daily use, and a million of other things. Hope I won’t go bankrupt!

These tarts were made in our good old gas oven. We had two packs of phyllo pastry in the freezer and a lot of fresh chanterelles (they seem to be our top ingredient this summer). At first we thought of a potato and mushroom pie that we’ve already made a few times (I love pastry with potatoes!), but then we thought that the winy flavour of chanterelles would also pair perfectly with the mild sweetness of courgette. I think one can also experiment with shredded and browned carrots or fried onions here, in any combination with the mushrooms. If you have prepared the ingredients in advance, it takes you just half an hour to assemble and bake the tarts!

Courgette and Chanterelle Mini Tarts

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Just To Let You Know I’m Still Here

Blueberry Raspberry Cake

You know, there are days that alter your priorities. Like, you decide to do some ironing before going to bed (because you’ve been falling asleep at 5am for the last 3 weeks and you need to find a way to relax before sleep) and get an electric shock when plugging in the iron. As they’re taking you to the hospital in an ambulance, all you can think of is that you never again want to see that expression on your relatives’ faces and that nothing really matters except for your own and your family’s health and safety. Just half an hour ago you were doing your chores, planning your tomorrow and text messaging to your friends - it’s unbelievable that your cozy and comfortable life has an evil face too, and sometimes it turns with that evil face towards you. When you finally come back from the hospital, you delete half of the bookmarks on your blogroll, because you don’t feel like reading about shopping and first date ideas. All you want is to be forever with your family, at your home, even if there’s too little space and you’ve wanted a new sofa for ages.

But, at least, this cured my insomnia and I’ve slept for 12 hours in a row :)

I’ve also received a bunch of silly questions at the hospital, like “do you have bared wires there?”… I guess every doctor and every nurse asked me if I had been messing with bared wires!

And here’re just a few shots of the birthday cake my Mom made for her own birthday (I’m afraid I made her a bad present) - it’s another variation of Strawberry Cake we made for sister’s birthday in June. This time it was made with two types of blueberries and raspberries. I liked it even better than the strawberry cake, it resembled a fluffy parfait with whipped cream and fresh berries. The large garden blueberries, which I generally find too watery compared to forest blueberries, worked out perfectly on top of the cake. I will ask Mom and post a recipe later - there’s little difference from the Strawberry Birthday Cake. Right now I’m off to bed - my own bed… home sweet home!

Blueberry Raspberry Cake

Blueberry Raspberry Cake

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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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