Yesterday I received the longest letter ever, it’s just amazing how a written piece can convey so much of the person, bring back the memories and on the whole make you happy! Even though it takes about a
month (3 weeks, if you’re lucky!) for a priority letter to get from Paris to St. Petersburg and the whole life can pass in a month, it’s such a joy to get a very long message from your friend! Mengchao, merci ma chérie pour cette lettre extraordinaire, cela m’a fait tant de plaisir ! Je te dédie ce post avec une recette très russe, parce que je voudrais te faire transmettre quelque chose de ma culture, de mon pays natal, tout comme tu m’as écrit sur les tiens!
By the way, we’re having our Orthodox Easter (we call it Paskha) today, as we’re special and have all those religious holidays about a week after the “rest” of the world =) I would try to share some traditional Easter recipes with you as well, but a bit later. We also have traditional coloured eggs which we then exchange with our friends and make break-an-egg competitions =) , along with something like hot cross buns (but larger) and my Mom usually bakes (well, used to bake when we were children) the loveliest part of the Paskha table – poppy seed & walnut roll (with leavened dough) which has no recipe =) Well, it’s normal for the true Soviet domokhozyajka (= housewife) to keep all the recipes in her mind. So does my Mom, she has some staples which she remembers and moreover there’s this thing called ‘na glazok‘ which means by the eye, a skill which you acquire after some practice, so that you just take the ingredients and DO the thing =)
The pie came to life actually because of my sister who left for another city leaving some food in her flat… Which ended with me taking it all to our home, loaded with dying carrots, onions and beets. I also left some other inspirational ingredients there, so will perhaps make more unusual recipes in the future =)
So, finally, here is a traditional Russian recipe from the city of Veliky Novgorod located in the North-West of Russia, not that far from where I live. It’s called Novgorodsky Borkannik (Novgorod Carrot Pie), ‘borkan’ meaning ‘carrot’ in the Novgorod, Tver and Pskov regions. This is a NOT Lenten version (the dough and the filling contains eggs and butter), but as it has no meat inside, my Father has already called it Lenten (that’s what it means for him).
Novgorod Borkannik or Carrot Pie adapted from dya-kulinara.ru (in Russian) will make a huge pie with sweet & savoury filling. ATTENTION: requires time for the dough. .
for the dough called kisloye skoromnoye (= sour non-lenten), the recipe adapted from www.shaleni.net (in Russian)
- 500 g all purpose flour
- 20 g fresh yeast (or use this Yeast Conversion Table)
- 200 ml milk or water, lukewarm – I made a mix of two
- 150 g butter, softened – I barely used 80 g I guess
- 1 Tbs white sugar
- 0,5 tsp salt – I used table salt
for the filling
- 3-4 medium carrots
- 2 medium onions
- 2 eggs
- a bunch of fresh dill – I had only some spring onions, so I added them along with dried dill & Herbes de Provence
- 3 Tbs of melted butter – I used regular sunflower oil
- salt, ground black pepper to taste – as my Father doesn’t enjoy the sweetness of carrots, I had to add enough salt & pepper and powdered garlic to make up for it
- 1 egg yolk for brushing – I used the whole yolk for this pie
First, prepare the dough well in advance (I cut the time of rising, but you can go for the original timing, which I’m giving here):
1. Dissolve yeast in warm milk / water. Add half of the flour (250 g) and mix well. Leave covered for 30-60 mins for the opara (poolish?) to rise.
2. Add to the opara softened butter, sugar and salt. Mix until an even constituency is achieved and then add the remaining flour. Knead the dough and leave to rise for 1,5-2 hours (I made a 1.5 h first rise).
3. Knock the dough back (but do not knead!) and leave for another 1,5-2 hours (I left it for 1 h).
4. Repeat the procedure (3) – here I cheated once again and left the dough just for 1 h.
Now, on to the filling:
1. Dice the carrots finely, transfer to a pan, pour over some boiling water, bring to boil and keep cooking on medium heat for 2-3 mins.
2. Finely chop the onions and sauté until golden on medium heat for 7-10 mins. Add carrots to the onions and cook until the carrots soften, another 7-10 mins.
3. Boil eggs for 10 mins, crush them all around and cool under running cold water, then remove the shells and chop finely. Mix carrots and onions with the eggs, season to taste and add chopped dill (here I also added lots of other seasoning stuff, see above).
4. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet (I greased it) and pull / roll it out to about 1 cm thickness, in a shape of an oval. Put the filling on 1/2 of the dough and cover with the remaining 1/2. Seal the borders and pinch them. Make several holes on the surface so that the steam can escape. Brush with egg yolk and bake in the preheated to 200 ‘С oven about 30-50 mins. (My pie took just about 20 mins!)
There are other variations of such traditional Northern pies, such as repnyak (filled with ‘repa’ = turnip) and brukovnik (with brukva = swede). They say, you can as well make a mixed filling with half carrot, half turnip, for a change.
The dough came out very much different from what I’m used to in the pies, it was not soggy and yet rather soft and fluffy. The filling was not sweet as I feared and everybody enjoyed the pie =)
P.S. Got another amazing letter today (or better a parcel!!!), will tell you later. It’s just what you need for a rainy day!