I’ve just returned from my first ever business trip – to Syktyvkar in the North-North of Russia and then to Kirov – more to the South but still quite in the North. The job involves travelling to the North-West of Russia, so I will finally see my region… And TASTE my region, cause there are so many delicious and yet undiscovered things scattered all over the region =)
Remember that huge Novgorod Borkannik or Carrot Pie from the city of Novgorod (also in the North-West!)? Yes, those are the things we eat here in the North – with dough, vegetables / meat and served with dollops of sour cream or melted butter (the latter being the most classic topping for blini in Russia, by the way!).
By the way, my next trip will be first to Vologda (a sister city with Strasbourg!) and to Arkhangelsk, that city where Sochni come from. Both are in the North, especially Arkhangelsk. Gonna try some traditional food, I promise =)
Shangi are originally from the North of Russia but also from the Urals region. I saw some very small and thin but also a variety of puffy and large shangi in Syktyvkar. The first were apparently non-yeast and with rye flour and the latter were much more common to my eyes. They say that shangi come from the culture of the komi people, so Syktyvkar, the capital of the Komi Republic, should be really the place to eat them.
Traditionally, these flat pies (they are veeery old!) were made just with smetana (sour cream), or a variety of kasha (porridge) and flour. But once the potatoes had made their way into the country, shangi with mashed potatoes appeared. During the Soviet period there were even ‘shanezhnye’ just as there were ‘blinnye’ (serving blini, crepes) and ‘pelmennye’ (pelmeni, raviolli) places where they served shangi with a variety of fillings (actually – toppings). What characterizes these pies is that the filling is not placed in some sort of a hole inside the dough, but spread onto the top – hence topping. The dough is either leavened or not, either with white flour or rye or a combination.
they reminded me of pirozhki with potatoes but in their appearance they’re more like vatrushka or even… pizza =) Because actually both shangi and pizza have the same underlying principle – you make some dough and you top it with your leftover food! Yes, this pie also comes under the category ‘leftovers’ as you can spread on top of it just about anything left from your lunch!
Shangi with Potatoes (Шаньги с картошкой, Shangi s Kartoshkoy) adapted from vkusno-i-prosto.ru (be careful opening this site, it has those nasty ads on the side) will make more than six pies which will not only provide you with a dinner but also use your leftovers!
For the dough:
- 400 – 500 g flour – I added some 120 g or so of rye flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 Tb spoon sugar
- half the package of instant dry yeast (about a teaspoon)
- 200 g milk (I heated it a bit to lukewarm)
- 2 Tb spoons vegetable oil
- 1 egg
for the topping:
- 200-300 g of potato puree (mashed potatoes) made with milk and butter – as I had just two already boiled potatoes I also added some grated cheese, dried basil and potato seasoning mix. HERE is our family recipe for mashed potatoes.
- about 100 g smetana (you can use 20% fat sour cream)
The first thing you have to do is the dough for pirozhki – the basic leavened dough. This dough is very tasty and if you happen to have leftovers (which I did), try making some pizza! Why not?
So, in a large bowl combine all the dough ingredients except for the flour. Add 2/3 of the flour, mix and then gradually add the remaining flour – just do not make a very stiff dough. Here I added about a cup of rye flour as I wanted to make them more authentic. Leave the dough in a warm place for hour to hour and a half. The recipe says sprinkling flour on top and covering with a clean towel but I just oiled the surface of the dough and covered it with a shower cap=)
The original recipe also suggests adding much more butter to the mashed potatoes as you would usually do, I dunno how much I added, but surely a lot for just two small potatoes.
Now that you have your dough and the topping, let’s form the pies:
Using a rolling pin and a floured surface, roll out about 10-12 cm disks of dough, rather thin. Transfer them to a paper lined baking sheet. Now you can spread the topping – don’t leave large margins, the thing that characterizes shangi also is that they are almost entirely topped. But this potato layer should be quite thin as you will also have to spread sour cream on top. Leave the pies to rise (no visible difference with my pies) for 15-20 minutes. Bake at 220 ‘C for about 10-15 mins (I opted for 15). Then move the shelf to the top and lower the temp to 160 ‘C (switch on the top heat if your oven has such an option) so that the topping can get this brownish pattern (which I did not get that much). Be careful, watch over you shangi as they can burn quickly!
The pies are traditionally served with melted butter, salted fish and… sour cream of course!
My addition of cheese, I guess, was just to the point, as it added some extra taste to the potatoes. If you skip the cheese, make sure to season the mashed potatoes well. The result is amazing. Believe me – if you don’t, just try making some yourself! =)
The leftover dough was used for rather weird meat pies – we brushed the base with crushed tomatoes, sprinkled some diced onion then spread minced meat (no idea which kind of meat it was, sorry;) which was already seasoned and mixed with onion and milk, I guess, and then I added some completely unorthodox thing like… mozzarella slices! and to make the pies even more odd, I topped the whole thing with sour cream=) Actually, the pies got alright, and although the juices escaped while baking, they somehow came back to where they belong while cooling down =) And I guess my Dad will be satisfied with the amount of meat (finally!) on those pies. Poor Dad, hard living with a daughter always baking but baking without meat!
Anyway, you see, you can use whatever topping you like – the dough is just so nice! Try making some traditional Russian toppings like already cooked porridge (how about buckwheat?) or even mashed carrots with sugar to make a sweat version!
BTW, got hold of some sesame flour today (!!) – now have to find a pretty recipe with it!
Tomorrow – back to work in the office but very soon I’ll hit the road again.