Family recipe · no-dough

Join the Soviet New Year Table

Hello everybody and welcome to the New Year,

it’s Olivie time here in Russia and here is the inevitable post on this inevitable salad and other more or less inevitable things for this season. In my – already last year! – post on the new year staples, Let Me Invite You into the New Year, I’ve talked a liiiil bit about the citrus flavour and the nuts – also being used as decorations for the New Year tree. Ah, yes, here they are, the tangeriiiines!


They say tangerines bring you joy and this automatic (and very aromatic! 🙂 feeling of holidays. Of course there’s a very down-to-earth explanation of their appearing on our tables right before Christmas and New Year, simply because this is the time when they ripen in those warm countries… But we’d rather stick to an inexplicable childish / childhood feeling of a holiday they bring, right?

And now let’s move straight to the table. My father who grew up in a family with two boys in the Caucasus (as his father moved there to work in the mines) remembers lots of dishes on their festive table although the food (choice) was especially poor in their region (he says it was even easier to get clothes there than food). It’s just that his mother was a very inventive and practical cook, making all those savoury pies and sweet cakes when the ingredients were scarce and hard-to-come-by… Mom lived in the North-West of the country, in a town near St Petersburg, in a region definitely better supplied and less rigid in all aspects, although perhaps lacking in truly traditional food culture. She says they had more choice in St. Petersburg, for sure, and that all depended on the cook in the family. But they both recalled some of the staples which still appear on the New Year table year after year after year… It seems that we welcome the NEW year into our homes with something very OLD and stubbornly repeated. Can it be a part of a ritual? Like a symbol of all those things we care for and carry into the new year with us? These dishes might as well have disappeared if not for the New Year. We still have Olivie occasionally throughout the year for some – usually – family occasions, but we tend to remember about all those mayonnaise-loaded dishes only around the New Year’s eve. Each family has been making the same things over and over again, (new) year into (new) year…

I will not tell you about the main dishes this time as they are normally all about meat or fish and that’s not my cup of tea. Let’s delve into (or better take a snack of) the zakuski (or appetizers) part of the table, the things that are supposed to trigger your appetite and also be the accompaniment of the first toasts (this is when vodka enters the stage, of course!). Zakuski are there on the table along with such ‘must’ things as Olivie and Seledka pod shuboj loaded in heavy glass bowls, a bread basket etc.

SÖDER LIGHT RYE + pickled cucumbers

{this very nice sourdough rye bread will surely appear in one of my next posts}

Now that I have at least some photos from our family reunion, I can even show you some of the stages these dishes go through. All the cooking usually starts in the morning with the first Soviet comedies shown on the TV. When the first part of Ironia Sudby begins, the time is up, you’d better be frantically chopping your boiled vegetables for Olivie! Which we decided to omit for the new year’s eve this year and opted for a scrumptious (and a bit too rye-ish as I overloaded the crust with rye flour…) khachapuri po-mengrelski instead (it’s a double crust cheese pie which also has cheese on top, see other versions of khachapuri here, here and an Ossetian version here; I said we’re addicted to everything khachapuri in my family – puri meaning bread and khacho cottage cheese or tvorog in Georgian).

Back to Olivie – Mom eventually made it for our family reunion, but lacking any sausage she put some tuna in it… making it even less edible to me as there was already mayonnaise in it too:

boiled vegetables for Olivie

The early stage of a long Olivie making process – the vegetables which have been boiled in their skins + eggs are ready to be pealed and chopped up. Chop-chop-chop!

ingredients for Olivie

{the old-school device on the right is an egg-chopper, used exclusively for Olivie in my family}

Then there are the chopped pickled cucumbers, green peas / sweet corn, meat / in this case fish added and finally comes the time of mayonnaise (which kills the whole thing, to my mind) mixed with some sour cream. Season the salad and voilà!

Olivie with tuna salad

What else is on the table? Instead of a British or French-style cheese board there is usually a kolbasa (sausage) plate with some herbs to decorate it=) There were not so many cheese varieties in the USSR and good cheese was hard to come by. Sausage, on the contrary, was a part of the Prazdnichny Nabor (Festive Set) and there was a possibility of getting some un-cheeeeewable sausage for the holiday. And, wait, the best buterbrod (sandwich, we use the German word in Russia) is with caviar, of course! (but not to me, sorry! I will make a very frugal kind of wife, haha):

caviar on rye bread

The classic version is caviar on a well buttered slice of white bread of course, but we had only this (BTW very good!) 80/20 Rye Sourdough bread from You might guess how fast these sandwiches disappear… I guess such staples united not only the two different family tables in different corners of the USSR, because it was an almost number one goal each year to get some caviar for your table. Ok, so the family sits together around the table (usually enlarged with the extra board and covered with a heavy white table cloth, see the next picture), gobbles down all the buterbrody s ikroy… And what are these?

deviled eggs

Farshirovannye yaytsa or Deviled eggs (stuffed eggs), made from hard-boiled eggs. So the process is the following:

Boil the eggs, peel, cut them in half, take the yolk out…

ready to be stuffed

… and mix it with fried (they should be really crunchy) minced mushrooms (might be champignons from a tin) and onion, season and place back in the halves! Garnish with mayonnaise (yuk!). You will have some yolk leftovers, so grate some over the eggs and scatter some chopped herbs to finish. Some stuffing versions contain fish but we prefer the mushroom one. Just as Olivie and Seledka pod Shuboj, the leftover farshirovannye yaytsa are consumed on the morning after the celebrations, cold, just out of the fridge, along with the remaining vodka if your hangover is especially strong (not recommended ;).

IMG_0011 (2)

And if we talk about vodka, here’s the most famous zakuska for it – because you actually zakusivayete (oooh, Russian, I love you for your untranslatability! The word literally means ‘bite after’) your shot of vodka – marinovannye ogurtsy (pickled cucumbers)! You take a jar or two of them from your attic and finally put them to use. And for those who are going through an excruciating hangover, it’s thought to be helpful to sagaciously save the ogurechny rassol (the brine from the cucumbers) and ddddddrink it the next morning! (this is hardly recommended, as you can imagine!).

Other non-represented here zakuski include studen’ or kholodets (=jellied meat, whatever you call it, well, for me it’s disgusting!), various pickled things such as mushrooms (accompanied by the long stories of how you picked them yourself oooh already last summer in that forest near your dacha), sauerkraut with a couple of cranberries on top, sprats right in a tin, herring in oil, cod liver…  Well, as you can see, mostly the things that keep well and were actually meant to survive for the festive table (all those tins appear in the pantry several months in advance but there’s always a good chance of sending your tired hubby for a packet of this and a kilo of that right before the midnight of the year!).

And of course as for the drinks… If you’re not much into vodka or have already had enough of it, there’s a possibility of getting some kompot or home-made juice – we always have our apple juice on the table (tea will come later). There are so many Soviet movies shown on the TV during these days (that even our old TV couldn’t stand it anymore and decided to die temporarily over the course of The Twelfth Night 🙂 and they all seem to have some references to vodka. Consider this (in these episode a real criminal talks to a pseudo-criminal, actually a kindergarten director in disguise):

– So, budem (an invitation to drink). Sour stuff. It’s boring without vodka.

– But is it really necessary to get hog-drunk?

– But what else’s there to do?

– Just sit, have a heart to heart talk [this is what happens when you drink vodka…].

– I’m not a prosecutor to have a heart to heart with you.

(from the 1972 Soviet comedy Dzhentlmeny Udachi, Gentlemen of Fortune).

The most appropriate topic to finish my first post this New Year 😉
P.S. Will soon be off traaaaaavelling! I adore planning trips but then… what can be better the travelling itself?

See you!


2 thoughts on “Join the Soviet New Year Table

  1. Симпатичный салатик получился! И огурчики весьма соблазнительны! 🙂 А салат можно и без майонеза есть вообще-то, если он слишком острый…

Say something...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s