Russian Season

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

White Bean Soup

Cannellini Soup

This simple and budget-friendly soup used to be a frequent plat du jour in our home when we were children. Of course, Mom used to make it without Parmesan cheese; we first heard about Parmigiano-Reggiano about ten to twelve years ago, I believe. Like a lot of kids or teenagers, I was not crazy over soups back then; sometimes I succeeded to talk Mom into adding some Vegeta-type-of-thing to my chicken soup, that was deliciousness!! :) It was quite impossible to sprinkle Vegeta into white bean soup that was always served with sour cream, so why would I like it as a child?

And, like a lot of adults, I enjoy a bowl of warming, filling soup these days. I like to make cannellini soup by my Mom’s recipe. And Mom has found out that a handful of grated Parmesan cheese lends this light soup some pleasant sharpness, which blends harmoniously with the aroma of garlic and the flavour of full-fat sour cream. A fresh twist on a basic dish from my childhood.

Sorry for the lame pictures by the way, I was in a hurry as always :-p
UPD: Check out our recipe for Kulich - Russian Easter bread - featured on The Hungarian Girl, the great web guide to Central and Eastern European travel, wine, and food. You might be also interested in reading about Easter traditions in Hungary, Ukraine, Poland and other countries here!
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Kapustnica - Slovak Christmas Soup

Kapustnica

Merry Christmas to everyone! We are enjoying the second day of Christmas, watching Morozko - a Russian fairytale, known as Mrazik and shown on TV every Christmas in Slovakia. We had a Slovak-style Christmas this year, with all the authentic foods and traditions. In the beginning of our Christmas meal, there was just an apple, garlic, and honey on the table, and Oblatky - very thin, lightweight Christmas waffles. We cut the apple crosswise to see if it was clean and white inside, which meant we’d be healthy during the next year, and then we rubbed our Oblatky with garlic to be even healthier, and drizzled them with honey to have a sweet life. Then we could begin our meal.

Oblatky, apple, honey, garlic

Slovak Oblatky

Kapustnica is a traditional Slovak soup made with sauerkraut, ham, spiced sausage, and dried porcini. If the sauerkraut is very sour, it can be balanced by a spoonful of raisins or prune jam. The soup  resembles Russian Shchi, but is much spicier. I love the sour, sweet and spicy Kapustnica! Last winter Stano’s Mom made a vegetarian version of this soup specially for me, but this year I tried it with ham and sausage. I have to say that it tastes great also without meat! Just add more porcini and don’t ignore the prune jam. I’m sure you would enjoy the intense, spicy flavour and the beautiful brick-red colour of Kapustnica. Serve is with Garlic Rolls, and you couldn’t think of a winter treat more comforting and warming! Read the rest of this entry »

Chanterelle Soup Revisited

Chanterelle Soup with Sour Cream

Chanterelles being one of my very very very favourite foods ever (they’re definitely in my Top5 favourite foods, even though I’m not sure what other 4 foods make the Top… I guess lemons and… what else..?), I couldn’t resist highlighting this recipe again. We wrote about Chanterelle soup as one of our first blog entries a year ago. We’ve already made it twice this summer, with a few tweaks, and I thought this lovely summer mushroom soup was worth mentioning once again.

Another super-addictive food I’ve had today was wild strawberries. I’m a wild strawberry maniac. Their scent, one of Nature’s sweetest and daintiest perfumes, makes me tremble. Unfortunately these tiny gems are quite expensive, so I don’t think I’ll have more wild strawberries this year… we’ll see. Perhaps it would be a sacrilege to, say, bake with them, but I’d love to try. I’ve had those delicious wild strawberry and cottage cheese tarts at a French bakery near my office, and they were oh so good!

Wild Strawberries

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Cold Beetroot Soup

Cold Beetroot Soup

At some point, I was afraid that with this ongoing Icelandic volcano eruption we wouldn’t have summer at all, but it seems like there’s still not enough ash above Europe to deprive us of summer. This week has been really warm and we’ve been enjoying cold beverages, refreshing salads, frozen desserts, and cold soups. I still haven’t bought an ice-cream machine, but I’m determined to do so by mid-June. Then I’d probably need a book with ice-cream recipes – any suggestions are very welcome as I have just enough time to order one from Amazon (again, unless the volcanic ash doesn’t come between). Oh and speaking of the volcano eruption, when I first heard about that air service collapse that had happened due to the ash cloud spread, my first thought was: how will my boyfriend get here from London?? and my second was: oh my God if this continues for more than a week, how are they going to transport fruit and vegetables from overseas? Do you think I can now be considered a true foodie? :)

Anyway, this cold beetroot soup is quite a typical Eastern European soup; different variations of this soup exist in Polish, Russian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Ukrainian cuisine. It’s healthy (as anything with beetroots is), attractive (as anything of pink colour is), and refreshing (as any cold soup is). You also have slices of fresh, crunchy cucumbers and radishes in it, and a pinch of spring onions, and little cubes of hardboiled egg. There’s a hint of sweetness and a hint of sourness in it, a bit of crunch and a bit of tenderness. There’s the vitality of fresh herbs, which you are free to experiment with. And of course there’s plenty of freshness in each bowl of cold beetroot soup.

Ingredients for cold beetroot soup
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Red&White Ukha (Russian Fish Soup)

Ukha (Russian Fish Soup)

Ukha (pronounced ooo-h’a!) is a clear Russian fish soup made with the minimum of vegetables and the maximum of different varieties of fish. To learn more about ukha, we referred to a reprint of a 1890 book from Saint Petersburg, the so called Northern capital of Russia. The book suggests almost 230 kinds of soups and around 80 soup “accessories” such as meatballs and fishballs, pelmeni, croutons, noodles, dumplings, and flavoured butters. I was surprised to find out that ingredients like Brussels sprouts, olives, and capers, as well as French wines, were widely used in Russian cuisine already in the 19th century (somehow I used to believe capers were first imported to Russia 100 years later).

We studied 23 different recipes for fish soup and compiled a method that seemed conventional enough yet applicable to modern reality. Most of the recipes called for loads of pike, sturgeon, starlet, and other kinds of fish you cannot find in an ordinary Latvian supermarket (well sometimes you cannot even buy tomatoes here – like it happened to my Mom today; if some places on Earth sound like foodie paradise, this country’s food market is rather a foodie purgatory – monotonous, limited, and pathetic). Moreover, most of the recipes suggested that you start with small and cheap fish and, when the broth was ready, you throw away that fish and add large pieces of more expensive fish. Which I think is just unfair towards the ingredients. The key point is to use several varieties of fish, so we thought of a red&white ukha with salmon and cod. The cod, which I was pretty skeptical about in the beginning, came out surprisingly tender, and I have to say that its mild flavour was even better than that of salmon! We tried to stick to all directions regarding the broth, so it came out clear and transparent.

Just one note: don’t ignore the parsley root! It’s one of the secret ingredients (like it is in a lot of soups). As soon as we decided we would be making an ukha, I ran to the market to buy a parsley root. The parsley root season has not yet started in fact, but I was lucky to find a stand where they still had some. I guess I looked pretty silly trotting from one market stall to another and asking for a single parsley root! :D

Salmon and Cod Ukha (Russian Fish Soup)
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Dietary chicken broth with dumplings

In a winter like this…

Winter

Blackbird

…can there be anything more soothing and comforting than a bowl of warm soup? For me, those creamy blended vegetable soups are the best; but if you like poultry – what about some translucent chicken broth with petite dumplings and tender carrots? To make the broth as clear and healthy as possible, we quickly boiled chicken in some water first and poured off that water.

Make this soup immediately before meals and do not leave it overnight: flour from dumplings would diffuse into broth and make it cloudy.

(Below you will also find some more winter pictures that Mom took from the window today. We always feed sparrows in wintertime, and only when it gets really cold, the cautious blackbirds visit us too).

Chicken broth with dumplings

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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

Priyatnovo appetita! (Bon appetit!)

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