Greek Zucchini Pie plus Galatopita for Dessert

Kolokithoboureko or Greek Zucchini Cheese Pie from www.greek.ru

It’s weird how you sometimes get your recipes. I found this Greek Zucchini and Cheese pie at a Russian website dedicated to all things Greek. The recipe comes from a Cretan woman so that you could also try a traditional Greek pie at home. And getting the recipe from various sources and through other languages makes it even more exciting. So, yes, Greece again cause you can never get enough of the tasty and colourful Greek cuisine – this time I’m sharing with you a main (vegetarian) dish + a dessert idea for a Greek meal:

Kolokithoboureko or Greek Zucchini Cheese Pie from www.greek.ru

A year ago – A Red And White Post: Red Currant Meringue Pie (made a red currant vatrushka today!)

Two years ago – Moscow and Courgette Pies (it’s courgette season again!)

Kolokithoboureko or Greek Zucchini Cheese Pie translated and adapted from www.greek.ru will make a huge pie with chewy filling and a crunchy crust. The recipe comes from Crete, its author is Anzhelika Hatzimanolaki. I actually halved the recipe and lightened it up a bit – and still got a huge pie. See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients:

For the filling:

  • 1.5 kg zucchini
  • 1 kg potatoes – I was too lazy to peel them and so I just omitted them!
  • 1 kg Mizithra cheese (or low fat cottage cheese) – I used Adygea cheese
  • 1 glass olive oil – I skipped even this… or rather – forgot!
  • salt, pepper, mint – I put in lots of a Georgian seasoning called Khmeli-Suneli, plus salt, pepper, fresh basil and parsley

For the pastry: 

  • 0.5 kg flour
  • 1 glass water
  • 1 glass olive oil – this time I  did not skip it!
  • a shot of grape vodka - I used Greek kumquat liquor
  • 1 tsp salt
  • sesame seeds to decorate the top crust

Procedure:

Mix all the pastry ingredients together and knead them. Peel the potatoes (see? Just skip them and be free : ) and clean the zucchini, then slice them thinly. Grease an ovenproof dish. Roll half of the pastry out and place the filling in layers: potatoes, cheese with mint, zucchini, cheese again – until all the ingredients are out (here’s where I forgot to put in the olive oil – and in my opinion the pie did not lose anything from that!). Place the second half of the rolled out pastry on top of the filling, pinch the edges and sprinkle with sesame seeds (before sprinkling I brushed the crust with … oil : ) BEFORE placing the pie in the oven cut it in portions. Bake at 180-200′C until it’s getting browned (my pie took me about 35 min at 200 ‘C including 2 short periods at 150′C with the fan on).

Kolokithoboureko or Greek Zucchini Cheese Pie from www.greek.ru

Remarks: With all these zucchini their juices tend to gather at the bottom. I just removed the excess liquid and the pie was ok. I guess I was too enthusiastic while loading this pie with that Georgian spicy mix so the pie really got a taste! So just be careful in your quest of adding the taste to the zucchini : ) And yes, I did forget to pre-cut the pie in potions but remembered it just a couple of minutes after I put the dish in the oven, so I could just quickly cut the pie.

Result:  I was somewhat in a hurry when baking the pie so the zucchini in the filling were really crunchy! I just guess that with the potatoes you will surely have to bake this pie for an hour or so. But with the zucchini which are now in their young and crunchy season, there’s no problem if the filling is a bit under-baked. The crusty pastry makes a nice combination with the juicy although chewy cheesy filling. All in all, μια χαρά!

 ***

Galatopita from cookmegreek.blogspot.com

What shall we make for the dessert? Something Greek, βέβαια!

Galatopita or Greek Milk Pie adapted from cookmegreek.blogspot.com will make an easy sweet, pudding-like dessert. Follow the link for the recipe.

The recipe is really easy although you will first have to heat a part of the milk and cook the mixture before baking it. This is when I realized my milk had gone off, oooops… It curdled but in the end nothing bad happened as it all just turned out right when baked. I baked my Galatopita a bit longer and I also used a square silicone pan.

Galatopita from cookmegreek.blogspot.com

Result: A melt-in-your-mouth pudding which is better than pudding. =)

This milk pie can be found in Greece under a variety of versions, I tried it with phillo pastry (then it’d be rather called Bougatsa) cut in pieces and dusted with lots of sugar+cinnamon. The author also suggests adding zest instead of vanilla, it’s up to you!

And καλή όρεξη to all of you!

More Greek recipes can be found under Greece here.

G.

Two Sourdough Bread Recipes

Sourdough 2 from sarahfromscratch.com

Welcome even more bread in this post! This time – two nice recipes of my favorite type of bread (and sometimes just food in general) – sourdough bread. As my American friend currently living in St Petersburg puts it, as long as there’s bread, you can survive. And I do agree with it completely! So here are two sourdough bread recipes that I made recently – two breads to keep you away from being hungry!

I had a surplus of refreshed sourdough from White, Whole Rye, and Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread, a recent recipe from a pretty much-used source of inspiration, www.karenskitchenstories.com. So I used it for this first recipe I’m sharing with you here – which actually was more successful than the former.

Sourdough 2 from sarahfromscratch.com

A year ago – Greek Briam with Danish Rye Rolls

Two years ago – Moscow and Courgette Pies

Sourdough 2 adapted from sarahfromscratch.com website which – unfortunately – seems to be not working any more. So I guess with reproducing the recipe here I will preserve it online and make it available – which is worth it because the bread is just great! See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients:

  • Firm Starter: I made less so that I won’t have leftovers
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 2 cups sourdough starter
  • Dough
  • half of the batch firm starter
  • 3 cups bread flour – I mixed in some rye too as my sourdough culture is from rye flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon malt or sugar – I used rye malt
  • 1 cup water

Procedure:

To make the firm starter, mix the sourdough starter you keep in the fridge with the flour. Add a little water if necessary to make into a cohesive mass. Let rise for several hours, or overnight in a cool environment (Overnight rise will get you a more sour flavor).

To make the loaf, measure out the amount of firm starter, and mix with the water, flour, sugar and salt. Because the starter has such little moisture, it is a bit harder to blend into the other ingredients. Turn it out onto the counter and knead it a few times to get everything come together.

Next, lightly oil the bowl your dough will rise in, place the dough in there and cover with a plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature for several hours until it has doubled in size. At this point you can either take it out and knead the dough, or you can just give it several turns within the bowl.

Let it rise for an hour or two more. Once the dough has risen again, turn it out onto a floured work surface. Let the dough rest for about 30 minutes (this step helps the gluten develop and relax, so don’t skip it!). Press the dough down with your fingertips, to create almost a rectangle. Then fold the dough down the top 1/3, followed by the sides and then fold the bottom remaining portion up over the other folds. Flip the dough seam side down and gently cup well floured hands underneath the dough. Start pulling the dough towards you slowly but firmly to create a tight skin on the outside. Transfer the dough into a proofing basket that is generously dusted with rice flour (I used a glass bowl dusted with plain flour). Cover with a dish towel and let rise for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 250 ‘C with a Dutch oven inside (including the lid) for at least 30 minutes. (Here I decided to bake this loaf without a pan, just on baking paper but covered it with aluminum foil.) Take the Dutch over out of the oven, and carefully flip the loaf into the pan. Cut a slit or two across the top of the loaf and cover the dutch oven with the lid and place it back inside the oven. Turn the oven down to 225 ‘C and bake the loaf covered for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking for approximately 25 minutes. Take the loaf out of the oven and let cool completely before cutting.

Sourdough 2 from sarahfromscratch.com

Result: This bread is quite neutral in taste (even though I added some rye malt – but without scalding it) and will make wonderful sandwiches with some cheese and herbs. The bread rose well in the oven and looked pretty with all the cracks on top.

Sourdough 2 from sarahfromscratch.com

And here’s a ‘sandwich view’ with home-grown basil:

Sourdough 2 from sarahfromscratch.com

***

And now here’s the second sourdough bread recipe for today:

Sourdough 2 from sarahfromscratch.com

Sunflower Seed Batard made with Sourdough adapted from thebakersguide.com will make tasty chewy and really crusty black bread. Follow the link to see the original recipe.

My changes:

I turned the bread into a more rye-ish bread, adding more rye flour than bread flour + mixing in rye and wheat brans. Apart from sunflower seeds I also added some milled flax seeds.

The procedure will take time but this is sourdough bread so the time makes difference. I did not use baker’s couche or linen, I just floured two glass bowls and placed my round loaves in them to rise. I have to bake my loaves longer.

Sourdough 2 from sarahfromscratch.com Sunflower Seed Batard made with Sourdough from thebakersguide.com

I like how the sunflower seeds peep through the cracks in the top crust:

Sourdough 2 from sarahfromscratch.com Sunflower Seed Batard made with Sourdough from thebakersguide.com

The other loaf came out with this huge crack on the side:

Sourdough 2 from sarahfromscratch.com Sunflower Seed Batard made with Sourdough from thebakersguide.com

Here, take a closer look inside:

Sourdough 2 from sarahfromscratch.com Sunflower Seed Batard made with Sourdough from thebakersguide.com

Result: These loaves will rise wonderfully in the oven, making small but nice-looking crusty loaves. The crumb is medium-dense and definitely chewy with those sunflower seeds! I liked the texture of this bread more than of the first loaf of my post today.

Sourdough 2 from sarahfromscratch.com

For a different sourdough loaf using sunflower seeds see this Sunflower seed rye sourdough that I tried this winter.

G.

Petits pains sans pétrissage and Stand-By Bread

I promised bread, right? Before I forget about it, here are two bread recipes for your breakfast. Both of these were intended as pure white bread but I just could not keep myself from adding some wholewheat flour or wheat bran to them. Both recipes are here to save your time and effort and however they will result in artisan-like bread. It’s up to you which recipe to try!

Petits pains sans petrissage from from multinationalcook.blogspot.com

A year ago – Midsummer Berry Smoothie and

Two years ago - Midsummer’s Black Currant Rhubarb Cake

Petits pains sans pétrissage or No-Knead Buns adapted and translated for you from multinationalcook.blogspot.com will make a plenty of small no-knead no-fuss chewy buns. Merci pour la recette, Nada! See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients:

  • 750 g unbleached flour + some flour for kneading – as I had only all-purpose flour I also added some wholewheat flour + flax seeds
  • 1 Tbs dried yeast or 25 g fresh yeast - I used instant dried yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 500 ml water
  • 100 ml milk
  • 1 Tbs honey or sugar – I used honey
  • 1 Tbs olive oil

Procedure:

Warm up milk, water, oil and honey (sugar) together.

Mix flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl, then add the liquids and work quickly so that the dough comes together but do NOT knead. The dough should be very soft, almost runny. Dust the dough with 2 Tbs of flour and leave covered for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 240 ‘C. Grease 2 baking trays.

Dust your working surface and carefully invert the risen dough onto the surface. Dust your fingers and shape the dough carefully. Do NOT knead the dough. Cut the dough in tangerine-like pieces and fold them quickly  onto themselves. Place them carefully on the trays seam side down.

Place a small pan with water at the bottom of the oven for the extra steam. Bake the pains for 20 minutes and leave to cool on a rack.

Petits pains sans petrissage from from multinationalcook.blogspot.com

Remarks: Nada, the author of the recipe, suggests adding herbs or mixing various flours in which case you will have to adjust the amount of water you add to the dough. Nada also uses oat flakes to these buns.

Petits pains sans petrissage from from multinationalcook.blogspot.com

Result: Pretty artisan-like buns with soft crumb, crunchy crust and no need to knead! These buns will make small crumbly sandwiches.

Petits pains sans petrissage from from multinationalcook.blogspot.com

 ***

The second recipe won’t even require a two-hour rising for the dough. Moreover, it will be done in just about no time! And the result is a soft baguette for your breakfast sandwiches. More baguette-like bread here and here.

Stand-By Bread from blog.ezdoh.com

Stand-By Bread blog.ezdoh.com will make two well-shaped baguettes without much effort! Check the website for the original recipe.

My changes: I used active dried yeast and added some water left from boiling potatoes. I used less sugar. Again, as I had only all-purpose flour (instead of unbleached flour) I added some wheat bran to the dough.

Stand-By Bread from blog.ezdoh.com

Remarks: The procedure is easy and will not take much time. Although I made two loaves (you can also make a larger singular loaf), I had to increase the baking time (well, I also increased the second rising time which was just 10-15 minutes!).

Stand-By Bread from blog.ezdoh.com

Result: Nice baguettes with soft airy crumb and medium crust. They might not be of an ideal baguette shape – but then who cares if they make wonderful morning meal! I like the way the slashes look on these baguettes:

Stand-By Bread from blog.ezdoh.com

More bread coming soon!

Stand-By Bread from blog.ezdoh.com

G.

Midsummer Roses in Pavlovsk and Almond Puff

Rose

It’s already sort of a tradition to celebrate mid-summer with a post here on my blog: Midsummer’s Black Currant Rhubarb Cake in 2012 and Midsummer Berry Smoothie last year. St Pete has been enjoying glorious summer days for almost a week now, hot and windy and sometimes super-hot and super-windy. This is what I call July in St Petersburg! I bet the city comes across as a completely different place from what one could infer during those never-ending rainy days (weeks). Even the rainy storm yesterday was just OK after a hot and humid day. Everything is relative…

Let’s plunge into rose & white colours of this time of the year.

Rose

This rose is from our dacha, actually, as is this lupin flower:

Lupin

Strawberries this summer enjoyed a week-ful of sun so they were surprisingly sweet!

Strawberry

The same rose several days later:

Rose

And here we’re again in Pavlovsk – while my dad was again taking photos of girls in traditional Russian dresses (see photos here) I was enjoying sun and beautiful nature. The rose garden there is just splendid!

Rose

Cannot choose the best photos so here are all of them:

Rose

I cannot say that I’m particularly into roses but…

IMG_0060

When they are just there on the flower bed and not in a bouquet – I love them!

Rose

Rose roses:

Roses

And then I moved closer to the Palace to take some pics while waltzing to Johan Strauss music coming from a crossroads where (as I heard) a bunch of couples (mostly Grannies) were dancing and apparently did not mind the cars and buses circling around. I went closer to see them dance but then a police car arrived and the music ceased playing : (

Alexander Palace, Pavlovsk

Maria Fedorovna’s BIG initials on top of the Alexander Palace in Pavlovsk (she was the wife of Pavel)

Alexander Palace, Pavlovsk

A flower… bath? =)

Pavlovsk Park

And here’s how to turn an ugly outside cafe into a pretty one:

Pavlovsk Park

Jasmin is still in blossom:

IMG_0049

Here:

Jasmin

Pavlovsk is a place for long strolls in romantically (and actually deliberately) decadent entourage:

Pavlovsk Park

    ***

Although I promised some bread in my next post (and I still do!), here is a sweet treat to celebrate the mid summer day-2014 and the great weather we’re having here:

Almond Puff Loaf from www.kingarthurflour.com

And its second version:

Almond Puff Loaf from www.kingarthurflour.com

A year ago – Midsummer Berry Smoothie

Two years ago - Midsummer’s Black Currant Rhubarb Cake

Almond Puff Loaf adapted from www.kingarthurflour.com will make a real puffed up huge éclair (if you’re lucky) topped with jam – ad there’s even a third layer which is kind of shortcrust-like. Sounds weird? Well, try it! Follow the link to get detailed instructions.

My changes:

I  didn’t add salt although was using unsalted butter. And even though the recipe is called Almond Puff Loaf, I used vanilla instead of almond extract.

As for the topping I chose two different jams -sea-buckthorn and cherry jam. My almonds (sorry, I’m too lazy!) were just toasted and kind of sliced with a knife.

I didn’t use vanilla for the glaze which I made with water and not milk.

Almond Puff Loaf from www.kingarthurflour.com

Remarks: My advice is to better make them thinner – don’t hesitate to really spread both the layers as thin as the recipe says, and also spend as much time on the procedure as is necessary – it’s worth it! The procedure looks really complicated but you’ll see that it’s not – you just need to go through the stages as neatly as possible and the result will be rewarding! And yes, the puffing up in the oven is impressive – but unfortunately the layer will sink as soon as you take it out to cool down.

Almond Puff Loaf from www.kingarthurflour.com

Result: This jam topping on this éclair-like + a shortcrust-like hmmmm cake is quite a discovery! I was thinking of making éclairs recently but was too lazy. So this recipe just turned out to be a huge éclair – I found it out only when I was actually cooking the batter on the stove! Although I spread my puff layer too thick on top of the shortcrust for them to … puff up nicely without sinking into a creamy-like layer, I think the Puffs were a success. Father said they reminded him of some childhood treats. Anyway, this is not your muffin or pound cake (although I do love them), this is something special for you midsummer days.

Almond Puff Loaf from www.kingarthurflour.com

And this is a crazy summer rain a couple of days ago – with a typical 1960s Soviet house as a background:

Crazy rain

Bread. Next post. Promise.

G.

Two Ways To Make Russian Carrot Patties

Here are some pics from our dacha after a quick rain which is this summer 2014 a very ‘frequent guest’, as we put it in Russian. The photos are from mid June though, when there were all these flowers around. The same applies to the recipes I wanted to share with you all this time, Russian carrot patties inspired by a dish I once ate at a vegetarian cafe in St Petersburg. There the patties were called rather un-vegetarian-like Zajka Moya, My Bunny : ) Both recipes I’m sharing here with you do not contain flour, butter or eggs and were listed under ‘Lenten’ food on the original websites.

But first let’s enjoy some more nature:

peony

Those peonies were huge!

Thyme

This is thyme in blossom and oh so fragrant. I like to put some in my tea, whether fresh or dried, it’s lovely.

Camomile

Love the pattern of the ‘sun’ part (the yellow)

Rose

A rose is just a… beautiful rose!

***

And here come the carrot patties! Get the best and the most out of fresh carrots with these two recipes I found on the Russian food sites. №1 The first variant requires boiling carrots before making the patties which makes them super-soft:

Carrot Patties from pojrem.ru

A year ago – Seeds and Grains

Two years ago – Sourdough Bread with Dates and Flaxseeds

Carrot Patties adapted and translated for you from pojrem.ru (website’s name can be decently translated as ‘let’s eat away’) will make neat almost melt-in-the-mouth patties. My remarks are in italics. I actually halved the amount of the ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 700 g carrots, unpeeled
  • 1/2 cups semolina – I used semolina for the batter and wheat bran to roll the patties in
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • salt, to taste – I accidentally put in too much of salt… + added curry and premixed seasoning for salads

Procedure:

Cook the unpeeled carrots in salted water till they are done. Let cool a bit, peel and finely grate them. – This is the trick of these patties – they are so soft because the carrots have been boiled first! I forgot that the carrots had to be unpeeled, btw… But there was no problem with that.

Add half of the semolina and the sugar to the carrots and mix well. Form patties (make them rather small = easier to handle!) and coat them with the remaining semolina (here I ran out of semolina so I used wheat bran instead which was actually quite nice!). Fry on both sides in vegetable oil (when my were done I also let them cool down a bit on a paper towel so that the excess oil is eliminated : ). Serve the patties with sour cream (smetana) or jam (yes, the recipe says so and indeed, these might turn out quite sweet if you do not overload them with salt and seasoning!).

Carrot Patties from pojrem.ru

Result: These patties cook through perfectly and yet remain really soft and tasty. What I also like about them is that you don’t get those soaked-in-the-oil fried things. The recipe can be easily halved. Be careful with the salt though – if you put too much you can try to ‘extinguish’ the salt with plain yogurt, which I did, or if you put too little than serve these with some salty sauce as the patties might be a tad too sweet!

Carrot Patties from pojrem.ru

№2 The second recipe does not require par-boiled carrots but you will have to cook the veggies first anyway. This recipe did not make nice-looking patties though as they were quite not willing to keep their shape when I cooked them:

IMG_0036

Lenten Carrot Patties with Semolina adapted and translated from webspoon.ru will make spicy patties (paprika is good!) though rather oily and somewhat falling apart.) My remarks are in italics.

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbs water
  • 60 g semolina
  • 2 onions – I took 1 big onion
  • 20 ml sunflower oil
  • 500 g carrots
  • 6 Tbs breadcrumbs – I used whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • a pinch of ground black pepper
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic – I took 1 big clove

Procedure:

Dice the onions and sautée in the oil. Add salt, pepper and paprika.

Peel the carrots and shred it with a kitchen aid or just finely grate it. Add the carrots to the onions. Incorporate the semolina and add water. Cook the mixture for 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly. The mixture should thicken. Finally add minced garlic.

Form small patties (which was quite tricky!) and coat them in breadcrumbs. Cook the patties on both sides in oil. Serve them hot!

Result: Though these patties tend to fall apart when you try to cook them and also take more time to get cooked, the taste is nice, spicy and rich thanks to the par-cooked vegetables.

Lenten Carrot Patties with Semolina from webspoon.ru

Verdict: So, I would vote for the first recipe: although it is less tasteful (forgive me for this phrase), there’s less oil and they are so soft! Probably I just did not eat enough dietary food at the kindergarten (which I skipped) =) The second recipe is more for those who do not like carrots when they are sweet – and paprika makes them really spicy!

For more lunch / dinner ideas (mostly vegetarian), check this page.

Will come back with some bread!

G.

Girls in Kokoshnik and Russian Bird Cherry Cake

A short walk in Pavlovsk Park (see how it looked like in spring) with my parents yesterdayturned out to be a prolonged photo session with some easy-going Russian girls all dressed up in traditional Russian costumes and some of them wearing kokoshnik – when I was just a little girl, I would die for one! A kokoshnik is a traditional head decoration piece worn by young women. And I craved for one! Especially after visiting the Russian Museum and getting all those Vasnetsov‘s and alike fairy tale pictures in my head (like this one – I wanted to become a tsarevna, apparently). My favorite one was this one of the Swan Lady by another Russian artist Vrubel. With a kokoshnik of course. More on that further on.

Pavlovsk Park

Yesterday was almost the only day over the last weeks when there was actually NO rain (guess what? It’s raining today after some nice sunny weather…). And we jumped at the occasion, heading on to Pavlovsk, a place we know almost by heart. Each walk there is revisiting the same places and yet each time getting this satisfying feeling of having stayed a bit with nature. Ha, what nature with all these tourists and pavilions, you might ask? Well, there is some nature!

Pavlovsk Park

Here is a bit of nature for you – a lovely docile black horse with its acrobatic ‘owner’, gathering hay. The guy would mount the hay and tread it with his legs – to the amusement of the crowd standing on top of the royal palace’s stairs. The Italian tourists were sighing, che splendore! I would call it a pastoral. Just like travelling back in time to some dvoryanskoye imeniye (a Russian nobleman’s estate), with a mixture of rural life and some classical pavilions built to amaze guests (ah those eccentric and usually so inefficient in managing their money Russian noblemen, comprehensively portrayed by Chekhov for example).

Pavlovsk Park

The stairs, lions and flowers of the nobleman’s part of the park

Pavlovsk Park

Zoom on the flowers:

Pavlovsk Park

And back to the most typical Russian tree – the birch, always compared to a young beautiful girl in Russian folklore and traditional songs.

Pavlovsk Park

And here are some Russian girls in person! In full attire. There’s this talented woman, Marina Shadenkova, who once created a traditional Russian costume for herself just for fun – and then she just couldn’t stop and has some 20 (or was it more?) of them at home. This was an outing with some easy-going Russian girls and my father got a chance to make some great photos. And so our walk got suddenly prolonged : ) I was particularly admiring the astonishing painstaking bead decorations on the kokoshnik and the way the girls looked so natural in these long forgotten women dresses. It’s funny that just a day earlier I was looking at the photos of me wearing a traditional sarafan (kind of long sleeveless dress) at a school theme party back in 1998!

Pavlovsk Park

The traditional Russian costumes from left to right: ‘Love’, then there’s ‘Cranberry’, ‘Scarlet Flower’ (named after a fairy tale, which is a Russian interpretation of the more famous Beauty and the Beast) and finally ‘Summer’. Even the boots are tailor-made. The girls have this white handkerchief attached to a ring (and when you dance traditional Russian dances you wave the hand with the handkerchief according to the music). The braids are also decorated and there is usually a lot attached to its tail. The pink dress has loooong sleeves (which is actually a blouse), worn in the days of leisure (you can’t work wearing such long sleeves, hence a Russian saying – to work with sleeves down, which means, well, work really bad). Underneath the dress (!) there are two skirts and the slimmer the girl the more skirts she will need to wear. The forehead used to be covered, either with a shawl or this elaborate bead decoration. The Summer costume is that of a village girl with a wreath (venok) instead of a kokoshnik. And you will be right if you think all these colours and patterns of the dresses could tell a lot for those who lived some 3-5 centuries ago!

***

At first I wanted to include a recipe of a very successful sheep-shape sourdough recipe in this post but then I remembered there was this traditional Russian multilayer cake I nearly forgot about with all the rest of the recipes and other events of my life. The cake goes well with some Russian nature and who else would serve it to you on a large plate with a traditional embroidered linen towel rather than a Russian beauty in kokoshnik?

Cheryomushka Cake

No, this is not chocolate or cocoa or coffee. No, there are no nuts inside. I made this recipe back in April when I returned from my icy trip to Siberia. It was in Novosibirsk in a posh gourmet supermarket that I found ground bird cherry and thought of this cake which my Mom once told me about – she ate it when she was little, somewhere in the Southern part of Russia. The cake is called Cheryomushka (a diminutive for bird cherry).

The bird cherry bird cherry blossom usually brings cold weather in spring (it’s one of our traditional primeta – weather token) and this was almost all I knew about it. But actually you can grind the dried fruits and use the powder when making dough, pie filling, Siberian small pies and beverages. They say the fruits contain a lot of phytoncides too. We call the tree cheryomukha and it rarely brought any food images to my mind when I pronounced the word. But now it does.

Cheryomushka Cake

A year ago – Coffee Cheesecake and Cinnamon Cake from Asia Minor

Two years ago – Patatopita, Hortopita and… Kolokithotiropita!

Bird Cherry Cake or Tort Cheryomushka adapted and translated from www.trapeza.su (the producer of ground bird cherry I bought) will make a traditional Russian sweet treat which is exotic even for a Russian : ) ATTENTION: you will definitely find it hard getting ground bird cherry outside Russia – and in Russian either. My remarks are in italics.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup ground bird cherry – good luck with getting it, though…
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 100 g butter, melted
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1.5 cups sour cream (smetana) – I guess you could try cream cheese instead
  • 3 Tbs sugar (or to taste, also powdered sugar might work better)

Procedure:

Pour boiling milk over the ground bird cherry and leave for several hours (or boil it in milk and let cool – which I did). Add the egg mixed well with the sugar, then add the melted butter and the baking powder. While stirring, add the flour until the mixture resembles pancake batter (the Russian measure for this is to compare the dough with the batter for oladyi – small thick Russian pancakes, paradoxically known in France, for example, as blini, which is a different product : ), mix everything well. Line a pan with baking paper and grease it. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 200 °С. Let cool, cut in two layers.

Beat sour cream with sugar and spread over the first layer. Top with the second layer. Decorate with fresh or preserved berries.

Result: The taste is weird, almost almond-like but really hard to distinguish and explain unless you try it yourself. You can tell those were hard dried fruits the bird cherry ‘flour’ was made from cause if the ‘flour’ contains larger grains than you will immediately taste it between your teeth. At the same time the cake is super soft, sweet and almondy-tangy at once. With the sour cream filling the cake gets even softer with time. Already with the first bite you realize there’s nothing you could compare it from your previous your food experience. THE thing to surprise your guests! (and don’t forget the kokoshnik : )

And this is how ground bird cherry looks like – in case you were wondering:

Cheryomushka Cake

Remarks: Bird cherry flour is almost like flaxseed meal but grainier. And the flavour is different and very distinct I should say! Also when you boil it for the recipe the mixture gets almost velvety. Try ordering such a cake at a touristy restaurant in Russia or at a bakery – no way will you find it easily… Although you can try a large pharmacy as bird cherry is also an anti-inflamatory and antiseptic. But then you will have to grind it! And yes, there are still some Russians who grind their bird cherry flour themselves! And no, you cannot substitute it with flaxseed meal or almond meal, because this weird exotic bird cherry taste is the IT of the cake. Period.

It’s a pity the light was poor back in April and I have just several photos of the cake. But that was an experiment and a discovery in itself – from opening the package through boiling this velvety powder in white milk to actually tasting the cake!

G.

St Petersburg Summer Sky in 7 Hours and the Heart of the City

Here is a series of St Petersburg summer sky views in 7 hours as seen from the 23rd floor of my to say the least unpretentiously looking block of flats (or rather a tower). It seems I’ve been talking about weather a lot here recently – and this because we’re having a somewhat typical early June weather in St Petersburg… all through June : ( So each time we get clear sky an sun here, we start a little party : ) And yes, I really enjoyed taking photos of the same view during those seven hours at home! My favorite shot is at 23.07 – the-not-so-White-Nights!

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The next day we went for a walk to the very heart of St Petersburg – St Peter and Paul Fortress, the first to be built by the order of Petr the Great in the brand new Russian capital back in 1703. The place is also known in St Pete as Petropavlovka (a sort of a contracted nickname). This is where the city started its glorious story. This is also the place where the ‘seals’ of St Pete enjoy sun bathing in winter (against the wall of the fortress) and also swim in the cold water of the Neva river (don’t ask me in what months of the year!). And this is also where each day a canon is fired at noon pill for a rather strong surprise of those tourists who happen to be around : )

St Peter and Paul Fortress, St Petersburg

The ship in the photo is the one used for the Scarlet Sails (Alye Parusa) party taking part each year as a celebration for St Pete school graduates. Actually after the only time I attended this all-night (drinking) party, I prefer the film and the novel that gave the name for this tradition! The Fortress houses the delicate St Peter and Paul Cathedral with tombs of the Russian emperors inside, including the remains of Nikolay II and his family. The angel holding a cross on top of the cathedral is one of the easily recognized symbols of St Pete.

St Peter and Paul Cathedral, St Petersburg

The Fortress has a certain feeling about it, each time I go there I get this strong feeling which I cannot actually define. I guess the place is so history-laden and definitely haunted (surely densely populated with all sorts of spirits – the Fortress used to be a political prison for so many years!).

***

More of St Petersburg sky this summer:

Sun at 23.01

So the best time to spot the sun here is at… 23.01 : )

Sun at 23.01

G.

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