We’ve been running this blog for a year and a half and still haven’t posted anything on such a staple of Eastern European cuisine as Vareniki. Strange, isn’t it? One of the reasons for this might be that Vareniki are pretty laborious to make (to my mind, that is). I guess both me and my Mom are bad at repeating the same thing for 50-60 times. The success of our favourite dishes relies on generous quantities of soul-warming ingredients like eggs, whipping cream, or butter (alternatively, mushrooms, cheese… butter again) , and on the simplicity at which these components can be merged into something yummy. Rolling out several batches of dough, cutting it into uniform shapes, filling and sealing each item? That’s something we are incapable of doing more often than once in a month. Preferably two months.
But on the other hand, who doesn’t like Vareniki? Slippery from melted butter, dipped into thick sour cream, hot filling oozing out of the centre… unhealthy? Come on, they’re not fried at least! (although that can be done too).
There’re various ways of making dough for Vareniki, I would like to try the one with Kefir next time. This time we used a variation which I think is pretty classic. And of course I chose sour cherries as a filling - my favourite! I added a pinch of ground nutmeg, just because I love it with cherries. And a pinch of cinnamon to jazz them up even more. Everything else is very simple. Flour, warm water, milk, an egg. A dash of vegetable oil to make the dough more plastic. Half a teaspoon salt to pull out the flavour of the dough. Sugar to sweeten the sour cherries. And of course some patience. Here we go!
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I already wrote about Borsch, but we had very few readers at that time, so I thought it would be nice to highlight this awesome soup once again. It’s one of the pillars of Russian/Ukrainian cuisine, so you can never have too much Borsch! Made with juicy and colourful sauteed vegetables, complemented with freshly squeezed garlic and fresh chilli, and tinted with tomato paste, Borsch is such a universal kind of soup - I don’t associate it with a certain time of the year, for example. It’s equally good in summertime, when all you need for dinner is fresh vegetables, and in winter, when a bowl of comfortingly warm soup can bring you out of hibernation. This time vegetarian Borsch served as a detox meal to me - remember I was going to eat healthier after all the cakes I had been baking? I also made a polenta, and of course I’m still the terror of chickens as I’m still going on with my increased protein consumption.
Do you think I have deserved the right to bake a batch of pumpkin muffins tonight?.. :)
Borsch: Click here for our recipe with step-by-step photos (check out the secret ingredient of Borsch and the trick to intensify the colour of beets!)
In the pictures: serve Borsch with a spoonful of sour cream and a slice of rye bread with hot Russian mustard!
First of all, I would like to say huge thanks for all your nice comments on our First Anniversary post! As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve been on a small break from blogging – that’s because I’ve been living in another place where I had absolutely no free space to take photos. Now I’m back and trying to catch up on your updates. My mailbox is bursting with Foodbuzz newsletters and Twitter notifications… so much to read there! I’ve unsubscribed from about ten newsletters recently in order to clear out my mailboxes, but there are still a few I can’t live without!
The heat and sultriness are still here. I hardly know anyone who has air conditioning at home, summer has always been very mild in Latvia. Air conditioners are bad for the environment, after all. So, there are air conditioners in offices and public places like malls etc, but not in people’s homes. I had grand baking plans for this summer – really wanted to learn to make pizza from scratch, for example – but it’s absolutely unbearable to mess with the oven in this weather. I’ve been making tons of blackcurrant cordial instead. We drink it with ice sparkling water as a refreshing fizzy drink. Stano has been freezing cherry and blueberry ice popsicles and making berry and peach smoothies. Looks like his favourite kitchen appliance is hand blender – he always wants to turn all fruit and berries we get into purée, lol. So he is the master of smoothies in our kitchen.
Today, Mom and I decided to make Lazy Vareniki. These are called “lazy” because in contrast to classic Vareniki (which you might also know as Pierogi), cottage cheese is mixed directly into dough, which is shaped into small dumplings. They are much easier and quicker to make than standard Vareniki. Served with melted butter, sour cream, sprinkled with sugar or accompanied by jam, Lazy Vareniki make a very filling homey breakfast! I had some overripe apricots that I cut into quarters and cooked with sugar and ground cinnamon for some 15 minutes until they turned tender and translucent. I served our Lazy Vareniki with this fresh apricot jam. Mmmm!
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Although fresh eggplant season hasn’t yet started and we still get these perfectly shaped, smooth supermarket-style eggplants, I decided to fry some for Saturday’s dinner – they’re so good with local baby potatoes and a sour cream&garlic dip! I like to have something garlicky on a weekend, when I’m not going out, hehe. Oh why do all the best things in the world have side effects? Mascarpone and whipped cream are not good for your waistline, garlic makes you unsociable, and too many mojitos make you way too sociable :) Life is complicated!
But anyway. I thinly sliced the eggplants and fried them without any extra condiments salt apart, to keep them as natural and plain as possible. Then I whisked some thick sour cream with mashed garlic – and voila, a simple snack with a slight Ukrainian accent is ready! Add some tender and waxy baby potatoes roasted with fresh dill, some fresh radishes, baby cucumbers and other seasonal vegetables, and enjoy the simple, basic flavours of summer!
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Tvorozhniki, aka Syrniki, is a very typical Russian/Ukrainian dish. It’s great for breakfast or evening meal, quick, healthy, warm and sweet. And I’m sure you will love the homely and cosy smell of cooking Tvorozhniki!!
The name of this dish derives from Tvorog, which means curd/quark/cottage cheese, or alternatively from Syr – which simply means cheese. Cottage cheese is the key ingredient here – and the most problematic one, as its texture and taste varies SO greatly from country to country! Whenever I go abroad, I always know that it’s going to be difficult to find the right sort of cottage cheese there. In this post we provide some pictures of what OUR cottage /quark cheese looks like, so please try to find something as close as possible to it. The basic rule is to opt for the largest grains and the minimum of salt added (or else this might turn to a savoury treat). The larger the grains, the more fluffy and thick your Tvorozhniki will be.
I think we can now go to the recipe itself, as it is just so simple and quick! Read the rest of this entry »