Russian Season

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

Heart-shaped Cookies and Happy Orthodox Christmas

Heart-shaped cookies with pearl sugar

I really wanted to bake something Russian for Orthodox Christmas, but I couldn’t think of anything simple enough. I knew I’d be alone with Ivanka all day and I just couldn’t make yeast dough AND make dinner AND then bake. Mom is making her traditional cabbage Pirozhki for our family dinner, while I had no other choice than think Scandinavian. Why Scandinavian? Because their recipes are always simple and precise, focused on convenience, time-saving, and often thrifty. Lagom är bäst. This cookie recipe can be found on any Dansukker pearl sugar package. I only altered the cookie shape - I had absolutely no time to make four baking sheets of pretzels, so I armed myself with a heart-shaped cookie cutter and soon I had 200 crispy hearts sprinkled with beautiful snow-white sugar. They’re lightweight, they’re flaky inside, they’re lagom sweet and they’re utterly easy to make! Margarine, flour, sugar, and some whipping cream are four ingredients that are always at hand. In fact these are shortbread cookies with margarine in place of butter.

Now I’m wondering why I had never visited Dansukker page before to see their recipes?! Just have a look at their collection of citrus marmalades for example. They’re minimalist and economic, and they’re all about pure, bright, basic flavours - flavours of our childhood, of a sunny winter morning, of a grandmother’s pantry. They’re inspiring!

Last but not least, I would like to wish a happy Christmas to anyone Orthodox who’s reading our blog, and I will also try my best to finally write about those Slovak cookies soon. I couldn’t have a more supportive baby than Ivanka, but still - a baby is a baby :)

Heart-shaped cookies with pearl sugar

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Sour Cream and Summer Berry Jelly for RS’s 1st Anniversary

the Piglet

Meet the Piglet – he’s a part of our team as well. He really supports me when I’m upset or tired. He loves wild strawberries, thick cream, and cottage cheese

 

Today RussianSeason turned 1.

A year ago, on a hot and sunny summer day, my Mom and I took the plunge and started a blog on foods that we were grown with and that were hardly well-known abroad: Russian, Soviet and Eastern European. We felt like we had to tell the world more about Blinis, Kulichi, Ukha and other basic dishes of traditional Russian cuisine. We also needed to share some good old Soviet recipes such as Vinegret, Anchovy Stuffed Eggs, and Custard with Kisel. We thought you’d be surprised to hear that one of the most delicious Latvian desserts is made with rye breadcrumbs and cranberries, that Filini pasta can be eaten with milk and sugar, and that you can make jam-filled buns in a steamer.

Our first post was about a mushroom soup. Why mushroom soup? Maybe because I love chanterelles and could have them every day. Or maybe because mushrooms are an essential ingredient of Russian cuisine. Later, Stano (my husband-to-be, hehe) joined us and translated his favourite recipes into Slovak, so we have a Slovak version too (okay it’s a little bit out-of-date but that’s because the Chief Translator is currently very busy).

As we moved on, we couldn’t resist the temptation to cook and write about foods from other corners of the world, so the blog became more “international”. And the more we cook, the longer our huge to-do and to-try list grows. In fact we still haven’t even made very basic Eastern European foods such as Pelmeni and Vareniki, but I’m sure we will. It’s just Foodgawker, Tastespotting, and our blogroll that are too distracting! :) We discovered hundreds of inspiring blogs and made a lot of wonderful virtual friends. I never knew that foodie world was *that* huge and friendly.

To celebrate out first anniversary, we made a festive jelly/panna cotta type of thing. We’ve already made this with yogurt, grapes, and canned peaches before and it looked (and tasted) very pretty. This time, we tried to stick to the most natural, seasonal ingredients: thick sour cream and local strawberries, wild blueberries, and raspberries. I really liked the sour cream jelly for its very milky taste and its soft, silky texture (I’m not sure if Panna Cotta can be made with sour cream, so in order not to hurt anybody’s feelings, I’ll call this just sour cream jelly). And the assorted fresh berries scattered in the jelly just scream summer, don’t they? It’s such a shame strawberry season is almost over though; it was untypically short this year, perhaps due to the heat. But, there’re still blueberries, currants, plums, and all the gorgeous summer recipes we’ve yet to try.

Sour Cream and Summer Berry Jelly
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Rhubarb Meringue Tartelettes

Rhubarb Meringue Tartelettes

Rhubarb… it’s finally here. I’ve been drooling over all the gorgeous rhubarb desserts in your blogs and magazines since late April I guess, but it was only last weekend when I first saw rhubarb on the market. Of course I grabbed a large bunch of crunchy rhubarb stalks, and the next day we were already baking these tartelettes. Mom first came up with the idea of a rhubarb pie, but then we thought we’d try our new individual baking forms, so we decided on shortcrust tartelettes with rhubarb filling topped with soft meringue. This is actually a mini-version of the Raspberry Meringue Pie that we made last summer - my favourite pie ever. It’s super-versatile – you can use strawberries, blackberries or any other berries for the filling, or rhubarb, in our case. The tart rhubarb center hidden between a sweet shortcrust base and a sweet whipped meringue brings you a pleasant surprise. This is a fool-proof recipe; the hardest part is to prevent the cracks on top of meringue, which is achieved by first cooling the meringues in the oven with oven door open, and then gradually transferring them to a cooler place. I skipped this step because the sun was setting and I was in a hurry to take the photos. So, our tartelettes look pretty rustic with these cracks on top… but there’s certain charm in this, don’t you think?

The sad thing is that I don’t have that sweet tooth any longer, and while I really like the combination of sour/sweet flavours and soft/brittle textures in these tartelettes, I can’t have more than one at a time. You should know that ONE tartelette (cupcake, piece of cake, whatever sweet) used to be NOTHING for me. I could live on sweets for days. So I’m really surprised by this change and still can’t get used to it.

Another problem that seriously irritates me lately, is that there’s no decent street food in Riga. No take-away pizzas, no hot/grilled sandwiches, very poor choice of take-away drinks. I’m fed up with store-bought croissants and muesli bars, also because I’d prefer something savoury for lunch. It’s really a problem to have quick lunch in Riga, even if you work in the historical centre of the city, like I do. I recently discovered a place where you can have sushi or hot bento lunch in less than 15 minutes – that’s the only place in the Old Town which is fast, affordable and good-quality at the same time. Arghhh.
And, last but not least, I would like to say huge thanks to Barbara Rolek of Eastern European Food @ About.com, for listing our blog on her Eastern European blogroll. Check out Barbara’s latest Eastern European Beet Recipes!

Rhubarb Meringue Tartelettes

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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 »

Potato and Mushroom Pie with fresh parsley

Potato&Mushroom Pie

One of the distinctive features of traditional Russian cuisine is that it was very filling. It involved a lot of pastry, dairy products, cereals, bread, and so on. Fruit were mostly represented by apples, plums, cherries, sweet cherries, cherry plums and the likes. As for vegetables, mostly root vegetables like potatoes, turnips, and beetroots were used for cooking. There’re also strong traditions of fasting in the Russian Orthodox Church - you were not allowed to eat meat or fish under several periods of the year, including the very restrictive Lent. My Grandmother also says that in the countryside, meat hardly appeared on the table in summertime.

So, good substitutes for meat were pies. And the fillings for those pies were… quite filling:) Potatoes, eggs, rice, or buckwheat in a pie?! This definitely does seem too heavy nowadays, but people did a lot of physical work back then and they needed heavy meals. Besides, they didn’t have all those addictive snacks that we nibble throughout the day.

I’m convinced that a lot of those recipes can be adapted to modern tastes and lifestyles. And I’m sure they are worth it. For example, I love the Potato and Mushroom pie which we made this weekend. It’s comforting and rustic in a nice way. It has a layer of sliced jacket potatoes, fried onions, and champignons, all topped with sour cream and egg. Finally, add some fresh parsley, which brings you the essential daily dose of vitamins. Mm?

Potato&Mushroom Pie
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Super Healthy Root Vegetable Cream Soup

Root Veggie Cream Soup

Cream soup is a balsam to the palate – soothingly soft and silky, it’s usually packed with well-preserved vitamins – be it made of spinach, root vegetables or seafood. One of my favourite kinds of cream soup is sweetcorn soup with crabs. It’s sweet and very, very creamy.

But the soup we are going to talk about today is no less delicious or healthy than that made of sweetcorn. Just take that beta-carotene-loaded pumpkin and carrot, the vitamin K-packed white turnip and parsley root, kick in some vitamin C from the red paprika, finally add some iron and vitamin B6 from the potato, and potassium from the zucchini. Doesn’t this sound wonderful?

Another thing we love about root vegetable soup is that it’s very versatile ingredient-wise. You can actually use any kind of your favourite root vegetables: for example, why not try sweet potatoes in place of plain potatoes? Or experiment with the garnish: this time we served the soup with croutons, thyme and fresh chili, but it can be just as good with black olives, fresh dill, grated Parmesan, or even pine nuts.

I wouldn’t have said cream soups are very typical for Russian/Slavic cuisine, but vegetables like potatoes, white turnip, carrots and parsley definitely are very popular ingredients in Eastern European cooking.


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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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