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

Bryndzove Halušky

Bryndzove Halušky with Chives and Bacon
So our summer vacation is coming to its end. Someone whose name starts with S took only two weeks off work, although he could have taken more, and tomorrow we’ve got to start packing our bags to go back to Riga. We’ve spent two wonderful weeks in Slovakia with Stano’s family and friends. I had expected a sunnier weather though; it’s been raining since the beginning of the week, so Ivanka could hardly play in the garden. Last week, she spent hours and hours in the garden playing, picking currants and learning to walk - something she’s deprived of in the city.

Trenčiancky hrad - the Trenčin Castle

Trenčiancky hrad - the Trenčin Castle

As always in Slovakia, I’ve been eating like crazy. Fruit, sweets, cakes, and megatons of delicious and fluffy multigrain-sprinkled bread. I’ve tried Žinčica - a fermented sheep milk drink that is left from making Bryndza cheese, and Parenica - rolls of mild string cheese, and Oštiepok - formed smoked sheep cheese that has been steeped in salted water. I’ve drunk fresh, full-fat milk that can be turned into creamy, rich home-made cottage cheese. And of course we’ve had Bryndzove Halušky by Stano’s Mom. Fianlly I had the time to take photos and to write down the recipe. Now I think it’s time to update our blog author info in the right sidebar of the site :)

Me by Krater - a mini lake of mineral water in Eastern Slovakia

Me by Krater - a mini lake of mineral water in Eastern Slovakia

Bryndzove Halušky is a staple of Slovak cuisine. That’s a food it might take you some time to get used to, because it’s very heavy. Halušky are small potato dumplings mixed with Bryndza cheese sauce and flavoured with bits of fried bacon. Something you need before a physically exhausting day in the field or on the farm. Halušky are traditionally served with Žinčica, Kefir or any other fermented milk drink.

To make Halušky, you will need a special perforated tool called Haluškaren. Now we’ve got one too, but before Stano has used a sheet of perforated cardboard that he had prepared himself :) Using some kind of a colander with large holes is a possible alternative.
Haluškaren - a perforated tool for making Halušky
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Russian Vinegret

Russian Vinegret

Russian Vinegret is a type of salad made with beets, potatoes, carrots, pickles and onions. The word derives from the French vinaigrette. This might be because a typical Russian salad dressing is made with sour cream, while for Vinegret you use vegetable oil (which relates to vinaigrette). This is just my guess, however.

Like anything containing beets and root vegetables in general, Vinegret is a healthy salad. It’s also very easy to prepare, but of course you’ll have to be patient about boiling beets. Or, you can find packaged boiled beets in the supermarket.

Vinegret goes along perfectly with salted or smoked salmon.

An important note is to combine the vegetables right before you serve your Vinegret, and toss the beets with oil first. This will prevent beets from staining the other veggies. Potatoes turn red almost immediately anyway, but at least carrots, onions, and pickles will be saved. So be sure to cool your vegetables well before you dice and mix them together.

Russian Vinegret
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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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Draniki (Potato Pancakes Belorussian style)

Draniki

We haven’t posted any new recipes for a long while – not because we’ve been starving our family as you might have presumed, but because I’ve been ill and absolutely unwilling to approach the PC. This also meant I didn’t really have any cooking sessions with my Mum. However, being ill and staying at home gave me the time to do some relaxed cooking in the mornings, which was so good! During those three weeks I cooked record-breaking quantities of French toasts and omelets!

Alright, but we do have some Eastern European recipes in stock, and I’d like to start with a very simple one: Draniki. This Belorussian method of making potato pancakes is also very typical for Russian and Ukrainian cuisine. Actually, I guess you can find these in nearly every European cuisine (starting with German) and beyond, because everybody loves crispy golden potatoes!

Draniki are usually served with smetana (sour cream) or with garlic sauce, which can be made with minced garlic and herbs stirred into smetana or vegetable oil.

Draniki, Potato Pancakes
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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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