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

Russian Paskha

Russian Paskha

This year all Christians celebrate Easter on the same day, which is perfect to my mind: not only because we kind of unite on this Sunday, but also because I have a few days off :) It’s unexplainable how in a country where the Orthodox tradition is second most widespread religion, none of the Orthodox holidays are officially recognized. But that’s how things are in Latvia (tolerance is not our forte). So I’m glad that at least this year I had a day off on the Great Friday and we had the time to get ready for Easter.

We spent all Saturday in the kitchen together with my Mom – whipping, beating, chilling, melting, kneading enormous lumps of heavy dough, worrying about the dough rising slowly (which is no wonder as it contains 15% of dried fruit and nuts; I would even say it’s our Easter tradition to worry about the dough – same story every year); then finally baking and topping the Easter cakes with smooth and glossy icing. Phew!

A post about the result of this great cooking day – Kulichi – is on its way; in the meantime, I will tell you about another very traditional Russian treat, an Easter table essential, which is much easier to prepare. This dessert made of fine-grained cottage cheese, whipped cream, and boiled egg yolks, is called Paskha (which actually means Easter). We also like to add in plenty of diced dried apricots, golden raisins, and walnuts. I love the sweetness and creaminess of Paskha, chilled and airy, right from the fridge, with the fruity bits of dried apricots in it. Here I’ve got to remind you that in Orthodox tradition, Easter is preceded by the Lent, which allows only a very restrictive list of products. That is why all Easter dishes are packed with calories and made with lots of eggs, milk, cream, and butter. I have to confess however, that while our family menu is mainly vegetarian all year round, we don’t feel strong enough to give up dairy products and eggs for Lent :-p

P.S. This is how we like to prepare Paskha – if you check the traditional, original recipes, Paskha is always placed into a special pyramidal mold. We prefer to keep it moist and airy!

Russian Paskha

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Apple Crumb Cake

Apple Crumb Cake

In case you were wondering, I am still alive :) I’ve had no Internet at home for over a week however (no it’s not global crisis or heavy snowfalls, it’s just… the situation). That’s the main reason why I haven’t written anything for so long again. As a kind of compensation for being offline on evenings, I’ve received my first Bon Appetit issue!! Yay! I couldn’t imagine they’d ship it to Latvia, but they did! The magazine arrived via Switzerland. I can’t wait to read every article in it!

My 26th birthday was nice. First I celebrated it at home, with family, and then we had a small birthday party with friends, also at home. I did make those Italian cookies with white wine, as well as quesadillas with sweet corn, red beans and garlic (I’m afraid I overcooked the tortillas though) for my friends, but I was stupid enough to forget my camera at my parents’ so I never took any photos. The cookies were extremely easy to make – all you have to do is combine the ingredients and form little rings of pastry. Tortillas were a little more of a challenge. The main problem was that the tortillas came out a little bit too chewy; I kept them under a wet towel as recommended, but I still had to sprinkle some water on them before baking the folded quesadillas. So this was my first experience with home-made tortillas!

And this apple cake is yet another easy recipe from our family. All you need is some patience while you chop the chilled margarine mixed with flour, turning it into tender creamy crumbles. A great alternative to apple filling is good cottage cheese blended with sugar and vanilla. This is my favourite variation of the cake. Cottage cheese slightly melts while baking, which makes the crust extremely moist, I would even say juicy.

Store the cake in a cool place, covered with a towel or baking paper, and it will be just as good even three days later.

Apple Crumb Cake
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Cabbage&Egg Pirozhki for Russian Christmas

Cabbage&Egg Pirozhki

In our family, we celebrate Russian Orthodox Christmas, which always falls on 6th/7th January. This quiet family holiday concludes the chain of season’s holidays. Yet the Christmas tree stays until 14th January – thus symbolizing the old-style New Year’s Eve which followed Christmas just as New Year follows Catholic/Protestant Christmas nowadays.

Look at our wonderful Ded Moroz (Russian Father Frost) and his granddaughter Snegurochka (Snow Maiden)! Aren’t their outfits beautiful?

Ded Moroz

Ded Moroz

Snegurochka

For Christmas dinner Mom baked her specialty – super-fluffy, super-moist cabbage&egg Pirozhki (say Peeroshkee). They are perfect in their simplicity: there’s just that soft dough with a warming filling of boiled cabbage and eggs inside. Sometimes we sprinkle a couple of cilantro seeds on top. That’s it. This recipe doesn’t require anything else – just good mood, a few spare hours (because this is a time-consuming process), and fresh products.

Russian Pirozhki are always made in big batches – the minimum amount of flour for a top-quality, fluffy dough is 1kg. The recipe you’ll find below yields 32 pieces. Pirozhki can be easily microwaved or reheated in the oven (sprinkle them with water before reheating). They are great with chicken broth or vegetable soups as well as a standalone dish.

I strongly recommend not using a food processor at any stage of cooking Pirozhki. There’s that magical warmth in human hands that makes food special! Read the rest of this entry »

Tvorozhniki

Tvorozhniki

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 »

Back in the USSR: Chocolate Sausage Revisited

Chocolate Sausage

Chocolate Sausage may sound kind of gross, especially to vulnerable creatures like vegetarians or even semi-vegetarians. But, that’s how this sort of chocolate fudge candy was called when I and my sister were kids, and it was a typical Soviet home-made candy. Every time Mom would prepare this Chocolate Sausage, it was so tantalizing for us to wait until the candy would cool! Nowadays I often think of that feeling of great, unbearable impatience, a feeling that you constantly experience when you’re a kid and gradually lose as you grow up – and last night as I put the fudge into the fridge to let it sit there overnight, I proudly thought to myself: “Good, this is my fudge candy, I’m a big girl and I can wait patiently till it cools”. Later, I popped in to the kitchen to check it three times more. Because you know, it had to be controlled.

What actually made me think of Chocolate Sausage was Pegasuslegend’s lovely post about Rocky Road Fudge Candy, which I came across on FoodBuzz. This recipe made me feel so nostalgic! I tried to recall the Soviet Chocolate Sausage recipe to compare, but of course I couldn’t, so eventually Mom fished this recipe out of her culinary archives. Of course we had to revise and adapt the recipe a little bit. Where it called for very simple, basic ingredients such as raisins (alternatively, jellies – or even leftover toffees, in the most hard-core variation) and walnuts, we decided to use dried cranberries and cashew. We thought this might also work well with papaya, but for some reason all dried papaya had disappeared from the stores that day, so we bought cranberries. Cranberries lend the candy a pleasing hint of fruity sourness.

If you ever have a bizarre idea of having a Soviet-style party, you should keep this recipe in mind. The sweet does look like a sausage! Read the rest of this entry »

Stuffed Peppers a la Romaine

Stuffed Pepper

Stuffed Peppers is one of those old good recipes which we adapted from a kind of family relic – a gorgeous Romanian cookbook. It’s packed with irresistible recipes of fruit pies, berry pastes and jams, sweetcorn&cheese casseroles, and other meals I drool over. Of course it also includes a variety of poultry and meat recipes – not as exciting for me, yet useful.

While stuffed peppers are a basically simple dish to prepare, this might be pretty time-consuming as you’ve got to prepare all vegetables separately - and also spend some time seeding and stuffing the peppers, of course. But it is definitely worth the wait – also because you can store the peppers in fridge for 2-3 days no problem.

One of the key points here is to blanch the peppers before stuffing them, as a couple of minutes in boiling water makes them much more elastic. It’s also important to choose peppers that are not too thick and fleshy, otherwise you will feel like “hmm there seems to be too much sweet pepper in this dish!”. On the other hand, they should not be very thin, as thin peppers are easy to overcook, especially if you’re going to reheat them afterwards (I accept no microwaved food, just in case).

Everything else is really simple. In this post, we’ll tell you our method of cooking stuffed peppers in two variations: with and without meat. The vegetarian version is for me and it uses eggplant instead of meat.

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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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