Russian Season


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

Italian Style Haddock with Zucchini and Tomatoes

Italian Style Haddock with Zucchini and Tomatoes

Perhaps cooking will someday become just a part of the boring daily routine for me, but right now there’s nothing more relaxing than spending a couple of hours tinkering with a fascinating recipe, taking photos, and tasting the result of our culinary adventures. I couldn’t go to the seaside today because I had to work on a website design (it started to rain in the afternoon anyway), but the time I spent cooking dinner with my Mom was a perfect break from work. We tried Italian-style fish from a book titled “Fast, Fresh and Delicious: 150 Quick and Healthy Family Favorites”. The directions given in the book were very straightforward and correct – we just substituted fresh basil leaves for dried and added one extra tomato for a “tomatier” version. If you use haddock fillets, this flavourful, rich dinner can be made in no time – the slices of zucchini turn tender in 10 minutes and the small pieces of fish cook in another 10-15 minutes. I loved the strong and bold smell of basil leaves and garlic in the sauce, and of course the mild taste and texture of haddock. Haddock is definitely a type of fish where quality exceeds price; I can’t wait to try it in a Russian Ukha!

Oh and guess what we have? Rhubarb! Finally! It’s here! Something tells me we’re going to have a rhubarb dessert tomorrow ;-)

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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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Mimosa Layered Salad

Mimosa Layered Salad

Doesn’t this salad look like a work of abstract art?

The name Mimosa (wattle) comes from the colour and texture of this salad. Bright orange carrots and egg whites with mayonnaise are topped with small yellow grains of egg yolk, which look exactly like fluffy mimosa flowers. Yes, yes, I know mayo would put off many of you. But, there are solutions. Use light mayonnaise that is low in fat, or make your own! I haven’t tried preparing my own mayonnaise yet, but I’ve seen the process of making it and that didn’t look like anything too complicated!

We also like our Mimosa salad with canned saury fish instead of tuna. It’s not as fancy as tuna, but it has a richer, smoky flavour and it’s more salty.

Oh and I am already thinking of a menu for my birthday, which is at the end of the month (I wonder how many Aquarians are reading me by the way?!). I’ve found these Italian White Wine cookies which I might try – they look very simple and light and airy. I don’t feel like baking any great pies or cakes (like we did for New Year’s), rather something petite and feminine. But I really don’t know what… I mean I can’t choose. I have so many bookmarks of fantastic recipes I’ve found online, that I guess I’ll have to close my eyes and click on two or three random recipes!

Speaking about bookmarking recipes, how do you manage your online culinary archives/discoveries? Do you use your RSS reader, or your browser bookmarking system, or an external social bookmarking service? I’m curious as it’s been only half a year and I’m already desperate to keep my favourites in order…

Mimosa Salad with Tuna fish and carrots
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Anchovy Stuffed Eggs

Anchovy Stuffed Eggs

Eggs stuffed with cream of anchovies is a dish my Grandmother always makes for her birthday. This year she also made these for Russian Christmas, although I’d certainly relate this dish to Soviet traditions. Personally I don’t like boiled eggs, but I took step-by-step notes and photos as Granny prepared the eggs today. I thought that those of you who eat hard-boiled eggs, might like the combination of spicy anchovies, egg yolk, onions, and mustard on an egg. Besides, this is one of the key dishes in the Soviet cuisine, so in case you’re interested in cooking traditions of the former USSR, here’s the recipe!

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Are you curious to learn more about Eastern European cuisine? 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!
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Priyatnovo appetita! (Bon appetit!)

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