Russian Season

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

Persimmon Tarts

Persimmon Tart

Men are strange.
I can spend hours in the kitchen, whisking, mixing, melting, decorating, and when I finally enter the living-room bearing a plate of delicious cookies or cakes, Stano will murmur something like “yes of course, thank you, I’ll try them later, I’m not hungry now” - all this barely raising his eyes from the laptop, by the way. Aaaargh. Seems like he doesn’t share my cake love at all. Then one day, I grab a few sheets of frozen puff pastry, top them with sliced persimmons, brush them with whisked egg and throw the pastry into oven for 10 minutes. And he loves that! He asks me to make persimmon tarts again and again. I agree, they are nice and they can really come to a rescue when you need to bake something very quickly. Slices of persimmon look great on a crispy golden puff pastry, and cinnamon and nutmeg add a spicy twist to the mild sweet flavour of persimmon. But… Stano… what about all the other cakes I’ve baked?!

Persimmons
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Quince Butter

Quince Butter

I had never seen quince in our supermarkets until this year. Now I’m thinking that all of our supermarket chains buy in foods from the same wholesaler, because quince suddenly appeared in ALL major supermarkets. Okay… Quince jam is quite a classical feature of Russian cooking, yet I have never had it before. I’ve always been curious what it tastes like!! I still haven’t made quince jam however, because this fruit is very expensive here, and I’ve been feeling stingy:) In fact when I bought quinces for the first time, the lady at the checkout asked what this was… yeah seems like it’s still too rare here!

Therefore, I made some quince butter - just for dessert. I baked two quinces with a lot of butter and then pureed them. Because I baked them, the butter had a subtle nutty flavour and was opaque and thick. The colour was very interesting too - I couldn’t tell whether it was beige or rose or milky yellow. I really liked the mild, warm flavour that resembled baked apples with a hint of pineapple and citrus. I’m not sure if I can eat a lot of quince now as I breastfeed, so I just tested the butter and gave it to my sister. In fact I’d love to make some yummy preserves or desserts in small pretty jars and give them as Christmas presents, but I doubt that this is possible with a 2 1/2-month-old. Even though she is getting more and more independent! Yes, she now seems really independent compared to what she was a month ago, when I just couldn’t leave her alone for a single minute. Now she can play on her own for half an hour for example and I can do my chores… or blog! And then, we have a fantastic family and a brilliant Daddy who spends really a lot of time with the baby!

Baked Quince Butter

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Moving To a New Apartment!

I was so mistaken about how much time moving house would take! It took us an entire day just to transfer my kitchen utensils and tableware and arrange them in the new kitchen so that I would know at least approximately where each item could be found. Then, I made some unpleasant discoveries. For example, sorting my clothes left me totally traumatized. I must do something about my wardrobe – I don’t have a clue why all my clothes look like they’re 5 years old after I’ve worn them for 5 times. Next, my library. Our family collection of books is rather large, but I found out that the number of books I personally own was ridiculous. With just two tiny bookshelves, our new place doesn’t look like an intellectual’s place at all. At least we don’t have a TV and not planning to get one. Internet connection is up and running, and I’ve only got to buy curtains for the living-room. After that, I hope I’ll finally have some time to test that stove and oven. I’ve only used the stove to re-heat food so far, and it gave me no idea of what it’s going to be like when really cooking things. I’m hoping to experiment with it on Saturday.

Why am I even writing all this? Just to let you know again that I’m still here and going to come back, even though we haven’t been posting a lot of new recipes lately. And, the news of the week is that our Latvian Layered Dessert recipe will be published in the Foodista Best of Food Blogs Cookbook!!! I’m SO happy, and of course honoured to have our recipe published alongside such gems as Chanterelle Mushrooms With Blue Cheese Pie, Vegetarian Scotch Eggs, or Lime S’more Tartlets, as well as many others. I can’t wait for the book to be published and I’m going to pre-order a copy tomorrow. So I’ll have something new to put on my bookshelf :)

Photo: in the meantime, we’ve made some good old prune jam

Prune Jam

Strawberry Apricot Semolina Pudding

Strawberry Apricot Semolina Pudding

I never count calories, so be warned: when I make something light and low-calorie, it is by pure accident. Because if I want something, I will have it. Be it healthy or guilty. But I think this pudding with fresh fruit counts as a low-calorie dessert… doesn’t it? It includes no cream, eggs or soft cheese, just milk. The percentage of milk fat can be adjusted to individual taste. I believe it’s also a fun and healthy way for kids to have their semolina. Food tastes so much better when it’s bright-coloured!

The pudding is very similar to Cranberry Semolina Mousse, but its obvious benefit is that it’s made with fresh berries and fruit – no heat treatment this time. The bright fragrance of apricot blends nicely with the classic flavour of strawberries, and semolina adds a pleasant grainy texture. All you really have to do is cook semolina and wash your blender after you puree the ingredients. Couldn’t be any easier!

Strawberry Apricot Pudding
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Mango Yogurt, Peach and Grape Jelly

Mango Yogurt, Peach and Grape Jelly

As far as I remember, Mom first learned this recipe from one of those promotional brochures that arrive with Tupperware equipment. She has experimented with different kinds of yogurt and fruit ever since, so I am not sure how close this is to the original recipe. Anyway, this jelly makes a perfect summer dessert – light, fruity and extremely versatile as you have two layers to play with: one is made with yogurt or sour cream, and another with fresh or canned fruit or berries. Whatever your choice, this dessert will always look neat, glossy, and colourful. You might be surprised how little ingredients it requires – for example, to make this jelly we used only 2 canned peaches, 10 grapes, 500ml yogurt – which yields 7-8 servings. And, if you choose to freeze the jelly instead of refrigerating it, this can be a real time-saver. In a word, I’m happy I have now learned how to make this jelly too!

Mango Yogurt, Peach and Grape Jelly

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Spiced Poached Pears

Spiced Poached Pears with Syrup

I’ve done a little study on poached pears last night and found out there were so many ways to make this dessert that I could easily try one recipe per day for a whole week and still the desserts would be very different. The one I had in mind for a long time was Blushing Pears as posted on Foododelmundo, but then I realized I didn’t have any cranberries or raspberries for the juice, so I decided to try a very basic recipe for a start. I combined several recipes for pears poached in sugar syrup, added some honey and a splash of wine (I’m trying to avoid taking alcohol at the moment so just a little splash was good for me), plus some spice that I thought would go along well (it might sound bizarre but I really wanted some cilantro seeds in the syrup!!). I also added a few strips of orange peel and let them boil in the syrup for some 10-15 minutes until they turned translucent. Then I left them to cool and used as a decoration for the dessert.

I also have to note that while most recipes direct to poach pears for 10 to 20 minutes, I kept them simmering for almost 30 minutes. The South African pears I had were not too tender, but I wanted to have them as tender as possible without them losing their shape or becoming mushy of course. I was extremely careful to control their readiness, and about 27 minutes was just the perfect cooking time for me.

The poached pears had a pleasant yellow, translucent colour, a mild flavour with a subtle hint of spice, and tasted wonderful with syrup and vanilla ice cream. I also thought a pinch of diced nuts such as pistachios would be good to add, but unfortunately I didn’t have any at hand.

Spiced Poached Pear in Syrup

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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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