architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

Meanwhile in Kolpino

Meanwhile_in_Kolpino

Just came back from Moscow where it’s all summer already, and feeling slightly dizzy after no sleep in my overnight platzkart train I made a walk in the now almost summertime Kolpino. My hometown close to St Petersburg where I first got interested in architecture and all. Just wanted to leave this moment here.

Meanwhile_in_Kolpino

The apple trees are in blossom. We used to have quite a lot of wooden houses all across the town. Since then almost all of them are gone but the orchards still remain scattered here and there, a sort of a silent reminder of what our town used to look like in the old days.

Meanwhile_in_Kolpino

Yep, just like this.

Meanwhile_in_Kolpino

I was actually going to our island-based local park called Chukhonka (after chukhna, Finnic people that used to live there) to see how the nature’s changed since we were there last – only to find out it’s closed until December for a major renovation project.

Meanwhile_in_Kolpino

So I had to make a tour around it but not in it. Also noticed that a long-standing knizhny (a book store, used to be one of the many and until very recently was probably the very last one from the old school type in our town) is on sale. It’s funny how your memories seems to overwrite all those things that used to be with the new stuff that comes to substitute the old. And it already looks as if nothing else existed there before but then you suddenly recall some detail from the past and you realize how it’s all changed.

G.

Italian recipe · no-dough · vegetarian

Pumpkin Curry… without Curry

curry-di-zucca...-senza-curry-5

Some weeks earlier I tried making a soup from a recipe that I found in a newspaper my sister brought for me from their trip to Italy almost 2 years ago. Not the most exciting reading but in terms of keeping up with the language from time to time even a commercial can be fine. Moreover, the newspaper is about eco / bio stuff and sustainability, and it featured two recipes as well.

curry-di-zucca...-senza-curry-4

So here’s the recipe of a quick vegetarian soup which I call soup but is more like a stew actually. With obviously not the most seasonable veggie but using the ingredients you will find almost everywhere and almost anytime. It’s not an Italian recipe either, rather Asia-inspired. Although in my adaptation it had no curry as it contains dried garlic which seems to be too acidic for our oversensitive stomachs, so we’re trying to avoid any such seasoning at the moment.

curry-di-zucca...-senza-curry-3

Curry di Zucca or Pumpkin Curry adapted from infosostenibile.it

Ingredients

  • 600 g pumpkin – I used frozen Butternut pumpkin bits
  • 500 ml milk – I used 1.5% fat
  • 2 tsp curry powder – omitted, used black pepper instead
  • 15 ml extravirgin olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • salt, to taste

Procedure

Clean and peel the pumpkin (using a sturdy vegetable peeler or just cutting the skin off with a knife), discard the seeds* and the fibers. Chop it into pieces (about 1-2 cm). Peel the onion and slice it too. Saute the onion in oil, then add the curry. Continue the process for a bit and then add the milk. Bring to the boil and add the pumpkin pieces and salt. Continue cooking for about 20 minutes or until the pumpkin softens and the stew thickens sufficiently.

curry-di-zucca...-senza-curry-1

Remarks

* You can reserve the seeds, wash and dry them thoroughly and then eat them raw or use in baking. We have quite a lot of them now from all the soups and vegetable stews!

This is a sweet soup – particularly without the curry powder, I guess. Plus the milk which also adds this sweetish vanilla-ish flavour. So to some it might seem a bit too ‘weird’ as a lunch option, though if you’re used to Asian cuisine, the taste will not surprise you at all.

The soup got even thicker the next day, so we added in some water.

Result

Sweet thick soup ready in just about no time. A chance to diversify your lunch routine!

Adding this recipe to the Lunch / Dinner collection.

G.
no recipe · St Petersburg

Alexandrovsky Park before It All Begins

A somewhat traditional report of the ‘before it all begins’ stage of spring from the Alexandrovsky Park in Tsarskoye Selo (aka Pushkin). We went there just for a couple of hours in the afternoon, did some walking, fed birds from the palm of our hands and basically enjoyed that very lingering moment in the beginning of the spring season when everything is getting ready to… spring! Love the geometry of the winter-like tree branches already dotted with the subtle fragile patterns of the upcoming green lavishness. Mom, the expert, says this is an oak tree:

Alexandrovsky_Park

I wanted to take photos of the white and green carpets made with grass and anemones.  Which for some reason seem to prefer only one (!) of the two river banks – I guess the one with more sun exposure. But I failed, it’s just impossible! Maybe a black-and-white camera would do that better.

Alexandrovsky_Park

Mom, the expert, thinks this should be lilac:

Alexandrovsky_Park

And a bit more of that leftover winter graphics which will very soon disappear underneath all the leaves:

Alexandrovsky_Park

Just wanted to leave this memory here. I’m getting reports from Moscow where it seems it’s more like early summer already. So I’m cheering myself up we’re still not there yet, we can seize the moment and enjoy this elusive natural beauty.

G.

bread · sourdough

Black Olive Sourdough Bread

black-olive-sourdough-bewitchingkitchen.com-8

I’ve been doing some baking according to the recipes recently. Not just what comes to my mind based on the ingredients we have at home. And you know what? It’s not that easy going back to following the instructions and measuring out the ingredients, so I’ve already had some semi-failed attempts, like flat and a bit soggy cakes and  super-spread-out bread (can’t master those recipes with a very wet dough and stretch & fold technique).     

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However this bread with Greek olives turned out nicely, it rose just about fine (with only a little bit of that dense layer at the bottom), and developed a crunchy crust with all those cracks that I like so much in bread. Inside it was very soft and remained so for several days (though was not that suitable for toasting as the olive bits kept falling out).

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Black Olive Sourdough Bread adapted from bewitchingkitchen.com where you will find the original recipe with all the instructions.

My changes:

I fed my sourdough rye starter with rye flower before making this recipe – hence an extra tangy taste and a more brownish colour. Also used plain flour instead of bread flour.

Used less olives and mine were sort of sun-dried, preserved in olives oil with paprika and thyme, made by the talented Irina from Yaroslavl. I also added in some of that olive oil which was not in the ingredient list. I think the olives provide quite a lot of extra salt which I only realised after baking the bread. It was a bit too salty for me as I ate this bread mostly with cheese for breakfast.

The white stuff you can spot at the bottom of the loaf is semolina which I used instead of the rice flour indicated in the original recipe.

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Forgot to use a container for the final rise (the usual thing with the recipes – just can not NOT forget something!) so my loaf was sort of free-form. However it turned out ok. I didn’t use Dutch oven / dish with a lid, baking the bread on an inverted rack instead.

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I just love those cracks!

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We’ve already made our early-spring trip to check how things are at our dacha. It’s been already some days since then so I won’t post the pictures with left-over snow here. Just this dry plant against the wall of our house (that needs painting).

dacha-in-april

Adding this recipe to the Sourdough Bread collection.

Liked the idea of using olives in baking bread? Try these Greek Olive Buns or Olive Bread Sticks.

G.

no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Experimenting with the Soviet black and white Smena 8M camera that was given to my Mother as a present when she was still at school, in 1973 – her first photo camera. That was a popular and inexpensive model for beginners manufactured at the famous LOMO factory in Leningrad – well now you would rather call it a mind-boggling challenge! First and foremost, finding a black and white film was not that very easy, I managed to find only one type and it was quite pricey for an experiment. So I knew the price of every shot 🙂 Although that was not my first encounter with film cameras (I started with Zenith back in the early 2000s), Smena really is a Soviet austerity thing. The trick with this camera is that it is so basic that you can’t focus. Nope. No zooming, nothing, just your reckoning of how far the object is from you (which I’m pretty bad at!). And you can’t even fully get an idea of what will be in your picture once it’s developed either. I mean the thing you see in the finder when making the photo is not all what you get as a result. There are also those icons for the weather conditions that you need to choose from – I think I’ve made a mess with them every time, not mentioning the shutter speed that you have to determine yourself too. Add to this absence of a cap for the lens and a very stiff cover… Also when I had my film developed (which you don’t normally do these days, do you?) it turned out that most of the 36 shots were gone… I mean most of the film was just blank. I dunno if that’s due to the camera or to some error during the developing process but the thing is, I lost all the earlier photos that I did in January, February and March… So I’m left with the shots from early April till mid May 2018. By the way, I’ve deliberately kept the borders on the scanned photos (thanks to my Dad!) so that they have a more authentic feel (read: too lazy!).

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

The first shot that was more or less full (see a black stripe above) and the next one were taken in Tsarskoye Selo on a morning in early April, during the Easter week. That’s the church (below) and the wooden dormitories that I’ve already described in one of my previous posts. I was drawn by the interplay of the shadows and the bright sun on the walls but had no idea how it would look like in a black and white version.

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

A week later in April we took an evening walk in the Aleksandrovsky Park of Tsarskoye Selo. Again I was attracted by the shadows and the perspective of the tree alley. I had to consult my Mother as to what numbers / icons to choose. Absolutely no idea how people’s minds worked back then when everything was not automatically set! 🙂

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Next day at our dacha, trying to capture the warm evening sun of spring:

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Late April – some shots taken while walking along Moyka river from – roughly – the Palace Square to Tavrichesky Garden in St Petersburg. The beginning of the active tourist season… I was not sure whether the camera would focus on the river or the lamp post…

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Trying to get that graphic repetition of the (shadow) pattern:

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Here I was not sure wether the lamp would fit or not but I was more interested in the swirl:

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Early May on the Palace Square, before getting my price for a Russian language competition 🙂

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film CameraExperimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

The sky was so dramatic, the wind was tough, I couldn’t hold myself from making another shot:

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

And this is mid May when the weather suddenly turned to very autumn-like rather than spring-time. We took a very fast walk in Pavlovsk, near the Mariental Castle (aka BIP), see the very first photo of the post for yet another take on it:

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Obviously tried to get more of the reflection rather than of the castle itself:

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

And I think this is by far the best shot – a tiny bit of decadence:

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

After all, I liked the challenge. Some of the photos did remind me of those I took years ago when I borrowed Zenith camera from my parents – but that was a colour film camera and much more user-friendly. With Smena I think for a moment I did get that feeling back when with every shot you make you realize that that was probably it – or nothing. You can’t take a hundred and then choose the best one with this camera, you can’t have a preview, you can’t see the result immediately, you just – well, you just ‘fire’ that thing and wait to see! Perfectly old-fashioned.

G.

architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg · travel

Duderhof and Taytsy Estate

Duderhof

On the last day of May we explored a bit more of the region around St Petersburg, covering two spots in one go – Duderhof (aka Mozhaysky) and Taytsy Estate. Duderhof is situated right at the edge of the city, bordering with the Leningrad region, while Taytsy is already inside the region, though these two are just a few kilometers away from each other.

Duderhof

Our first stop was the 1890 railway station still called Mozhayskaya (after a Russian aviation pioneer Mozhaysky) although the settlement itself has now officially regained (one of) its previous name(s), Duderhof. We have quite a few German or pseudo-German toponyms around here, like Peterhof, Shlisselburg and even St Petersburg itself. The station building is not Art Nouveau yet but definitely very close. And then we moved a little bit further up the road to find this…

Duderhof

As part of my quest to visit all those Art Nouveau mansions scattered all over St Petersburg and its region, I had plans to see this one in particular as it seemed to fulfill not only the architectural ‘rules’ of this movement but also their aspirations towards a perfect location that would serve the purpose.

Duderhof

This is a hospital for cancer patients, built on a hill overlooking the plains below it. There’s plenty of air, so the location is perfect for convalescence and walks in the surrounding area.

Duderhof

And it was built by the maitre of Art Nouveau, Lutsedarsky, right at the start of this architectural movement, yet in its ‘romantic’ stage, in 1900-1902, for the sisters of charity. It does look like a small castle particularly when seen from the road as it sits on the hill surrounded by small houses and fields. The Russian ‘Alps’ view:

Duderhof

Love this semi-circular wooden element:

Duderhof

…and the ‘window’ on the left – not mentioning the grate and the tower!

Duderhof

Not much is known about it, probably due to its extra-muros location. It is now occupied by a skiing school for children actually. Well, at least it’s somewhat looked after, maybe not in the perfect way but it’s not in the worst state for an Art Nouveau site outside St Petersburg either. Contrary to that, all that is left from one of the nearby wooden houses for the invalids (late 19th century) is this:

Duderhof

We climbed up the hill through a sort of a forest to this place – with a view too. This is Duderhof heights, reaching up to 176 meters which makes it the highest ‘peak’ of St Petersburg. A perfect skiing location with very specific snow conditions during the winter season – as well as nice place for walking with a curious mixture of trees and plants, plus a water source.

Duderhof

Unfortunately, the highest point of St Petersburg was not always all about skiing and just had to be very heavily involved during the war. The monument on one of the slopes of the hill represent the feat by the courageous crew of the famous Aurora cruiser who were deployed here with the guns taken from the ship. They got attacked by the enemy and very few of them survived the battle, after which the heights were captured in September 1941. The Nazis used this height to their full advantage of course – the city was there right below their feet… but never was it at their feet!

Duderhof

***

Our next stop was at Taytsy, a small settlement with a long history. As with many estates after the 1917 it got turned into a sanatorium (a sort of a health resort for working people), a collective farm (!) and later a rehab center. Now it serves film crews as a filming location, and inevitably falling into disrepair.

Taytsy Estate

When we were there they were shooting something there, the main building was occupied and we could get a peep inside through a slit in the ‘shutters’. They did not say anything to us wandering about but we didn’t wander off very far either. There are other dilapidated buildings around the main ‘palace’, bearing the signs of their Soviet past on them.

Taytsy Estate

But I wanted to go to Taytsy mostly for the sake of its park which promised to be just as decadent in late spring as it is in late autumn. The lilac was in full blossom and the other trees were preparing for the summer as well.

Taytsy Estate

You can study the way a park which was so carefully planned and then so much cared for for many years, got completely out of hand when left to its own that the nature has got it all back. Particularly obvious with this bridge which was made to look ‘natural’ and now has such a natural look that you can’t get any better than this! (my father’s picture of the same view is here)

Taytsy Estate

The trees looked happy with their now all-natural style.

Taytsy Estate

It reminded me of the abandoned Soviet sanatorium I saw a year ago in Alupka, Crimea.

Taytsy Estate

It was actually built in the late 18th century by a prolific classicist architect Ivan Starov to adorn the 110 ha park. The estate has changed many hands, from Pushkin’s relatives to one of the Demindov family, the noble and super rich family who made their fortune thanks to mining and metal.

Taytsy Estate

Now the estate is abandoned even by those tired workers who used to regain their health here. There were some weird sort of construction going on nearby but we couldn’t see as the territory was behind a fence. I just hope they won’t turn it into a dacha for the rich and powerful.

Adding this post to the collection about the Environs of St Petersburg.

G.

no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

Spring Memories 2018

Spring Memories 2018

I’ve spent quite a lot of time at our dacha this spring – and later summer. And I guess I have to be pay my dues to the job I’ve been doing for almost a year now which allows me to work from any location and almost any point during the day. Thanks to that I’ve also travelled to new places since I don’t necessarily have to stay at home.

Spring Memories 2018

But at the same time too much is done on the computer which leaves me with no desire to use it any more after I’m done with the task for the day. So even if I have a desire to write to my blog, it’s not enough to actually do it. Which also made me ponder on the whole idea itself – whether I really need this blog etc etc. Ok, no more of this, let’s just leave some spring 2018 memories here.

Spring Memories 2018

The first photos are from April when there’s such an awakening around you, such a joy inside you that cannot compare with any other season I guess. I love the interplay of the seemingly dead / sleeping nature and the subtle but obviously very sturdy and vigorous new life.

Spring Memories 2018

It’s so fast this in-between season – I mean, between the winter and the full-on summer that you’d better open your eyes before it’s all gone.

Spring Memories 2018

This spring gave us a marvelous May which was in a way warmer and nicer than most of the previous summers. And it was also made pretty clear to us that we were to face yet another apple year, a very prolific one though the apples I’m afraid were record sour which made them almost inedible for those with a weak stomach.

Spring Memories 2018

We’re still dealing with the apple harvest and I can only occasionally make something non-apple in terms of desserts since we have so many of them and everyone around seem to be having the same problem so there’s just no way of getting rid of them by giving away.

Spring Memories 2018

During winter I had some thoughts of going back to Crimea to get some proper spring experience just like I did in 2016 but then I realized I’d be better off at our dacha just enjoying life and nature in a sort of a seclusion that a 0.6 ha plot can give you. While making my strolls along and across the multiple dacha cooperatives that stretch for kilometers along the New Ladoga Canal (which in its turn runs along the Ladoga Lake shore), I met quite a few people who were also enjoying their dacha life in many ways though not all of their lifestyles were so to speak healthy. I guess that the relative remoteness from the city (about 50 km) and a more relaxed and village-like atmosphere means vodka will never lose its popularity in these places.

Spring Memories 2018

I’m definitely not a village person, I mean if I were to choose, I would definitely love to live in the country but then I’m absolutely hopeless with all the hard work it entails. And I can only drink my milk already pasteurized and devoid of all the (too) natural aromas, if you know what I mean. But I’m not a city person either which makes dacha a nice sort of compromise in between. Russians love their dacha for a variety of reasons, mine is very personal cause I’ve been spending there most of my summers since my very first one. I’m grateful for those Soviets who had the idea of granting plots to their people. And I’m really thankful for my grandparents who courageously undertook such a hard task to develop a plot from virtually nothing (ex-forest) to such a cozy place. Even a 9’C day somewhere in the middle of July can’t spoil it.

Spring Memories 2018

I can brag on for ages, you know. Need to save my enthusiasm for the rest of the backlog of various posts that I keep postponing for ages.

P.S. Pictured above is the famous Cobalt Net tea pot from a porcelain set very popular in the 1960s. The pattern itself was created even before the end of the war by an artist working at the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory during the Siege of Leningrad.  I’m no fan of porcelain but this one is such an iconic pattern that it’s somehow ‘by default’ included in our inner cultural canon.

G.