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

Cold Beetroot Soup

Cold Beetroot Soup

At some point, I was afraid that with this ongoing Icelandic volcano eruption we wouldn’t have summer at all, but it seems like there’s still not enough ash above Europe to deprive us of summer. This week has been really warm and we’ve been enjoying cold beverages, refreshing salads, frozen desserts, and cold soups. I still haven’t bought an ice-cream machine, but I’m determined to do so by mid-June. Then I’d probably need a book with ice-cream recipes – any suggestions are very welcome as I have just enough time to order one from Amazon (again, unless the volcanic ash doesn’t come between). Oh and speaking of the volcano eruption, when I first heard about that air service collapse that had happened due to the ash cloud spread, my first thought was: how will my boyfriend get here from London?? and my second was: oh my God if this continues for more than a week, how are they going to transport fruit and vegetables from overseas? Do you think I can now be considered a true foodie? :)

Anyway, this cold beetroot soup is quite a typical Eastern European soup; different variations of this soup exist in Polish, Russian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Ukrainian cuisine. It’s healthy (as anything with beetroots is), attractive (as anything of pink colour is), and refreshing (as any cold soup is). You also have slices of fresh, crunchy cucumbers and radishes in it, and a pinch of spring onions, and little cubes of hardboiled egg. There’s a hint of sweetness and a hint of sourness in it, a bit of crunch and a bit of tenderness. There’s the vitality of fresh herbs, which you are free to experiment with. And of course there’s plenty of freshness in each bowl of cold beetroot soup.

Ingredients for cold beetroot soup
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Cheese&Onion Chicken Rolls with Vegetable&Dried Plum Salad

Cheese&Onion Chicken Rolls with Vegetable and Dried Plum Salad

I haven’t eaten meat or poultry for many years now, and even when I HAD to try some chicken recently (I really HAD to), I was surprised how different the taste and the texture were from what I had in my memory… Perhaps I had some idealistic impression about chicken meat in my mind, which didn’t match my current sensation. So I’m not going to become a carnivore in the nearest future… expect for fish, which I can’t resist. But, there’re things you can know and feel even if you can’t try them. I’m talking about these chicken rolls now. Stuffed with mild cheese and golden-brown onions, they’re so simple and appetizing – even to me. Like most chicken dishes, they’re quick to prepare and attractive. This recipe has been one of our family favourites for many years now. Mom also used to make similar rolls of beef, but nowadays my parents prefer poultry. Besides, thanks to that golden crust chicken rolls look much much more attractive than meat rolls.

While the rolls were cooking, we quickly made some a salad with fresh vegetables, apples, and dried plums. Who doesn’t love dried fruit in a salad? I’m convinced that adding a handful of chopped dried plums, dried cranberries or even figs is the easiest way to add some special twist to a mix of fresh vegetables and greens. I also love some pine nuts in this salad, but we didn’t have any at hand this time.

And hey, we have first strawberries from Spain here already. They taste almost like local summer strawberries. First strawberries are such a delicacy that you don’t even want to cook anything with them, they’re perfect alone. Weeks pass before you start thinking of some strawberry parfaits or shortcakes or crumbles… and then there’re endless possibilities… I can’t wait to cook with strawberries this summer!

Cheese&Onion Chicken Rolls with Vegetable and Dried Plum Salad

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Cheese Pancakes and Celery and Walnut Salad

Cheese Pancakes and Celery and Walnut Salad

These cheese pancakes are one of our family recipes – I loved them when I was a kid, and not just because they were quite a rare treat on our everyday menu – yes there were times when eggs and cheese were considered expensive products that couldn’t be wasted just like that.

While some magical childhood memories about certain foods die as you grow up and try those foods (my Grandmother, for example, cherished memories of beetroot leaves soup that she once had during the war, until she finally made it many years later and… the dream got ruined: the soup was not too edible), but I have to say these cheese pancakes taste just as good now as they did in my childhood. They look good, too – golden brown on the outside, fluffy and yellow on the inside. The eggs in the batter make them taste a little bit omelet-y. Well, I think there are some flavours that are just impossible to resist – the flavour of melted/fried cheese is one of them, to me.

But, obviously you will want a counterbalance to these pancakes - something green and fresh and preferably crunchy on the side. From the limited choice of fresh greens and vegetables that we have in this time of the year, celery looked like the perfect candidate. Green, fresh and crunchy. We added some chopped parsley leaves and tossed it all with some minced walnuts and garlic. The walnut-garlic-oil paste is close to what you could find inside Georgian eggplant rolls. I found out it could serve as a standalone dip for crackers/tortillas as well.

The salad came out so good that we thought we’d make it next time we have guests. As for the pancakes… isn’t it great we always have enough cheese and eggs to make them nowadays?

Celery, Parsley, and Walnut salad
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Dietary chicken broth with dumplings

In a winter like this…

Winter

Blackbird

…can there be anything more soothing and comforting than a bowl of warm soup? For me, those creamy blended vegetable soups are the best; but if you like poultry – what about some translucent chicken broth with petite dumplings and tender carrots? To make the broth as clear and healthy as possible, we quickly boiled chicken in some water first and poured off that water.

Make this soup immediately before meals and do not leave it overnight: flour from dumplings would diffuse into broth and make it cloudy.

(Below you will also find some more winter pictures that Mom took from the window today. We always feed sparrows in wintertime, and only when it gets really cold, the cautious blackbirds visit us too).

Chicken broth with dumplings

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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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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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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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