St Petersburg is enjoying one of its rare sunny days today, with the snow falling heavily (though nicely) this morning. Well, I’m already expecting spring actually and I hope it won’t come later this year because of the late snow. Don’t blame me for that, once you come to St Pete in winter you will get my point : )
I’ve been reading the famous Soviet-Russian ballet dancer Maya Plisetskaya‘s memoirs (1994) recently, thanks to my dear colleague who gave me the book. It’s so so moving what she writes, what she has gone through, really. I admire her, laughing and crying as I’m following her life – and our country’s – winding line. If you can get hold of this book in translation, grab it and read it! I haven’t even got to the end of the Second World War yet but I’m sure I will be emotionally moved even more as I go along with her narration.
I’ve also been looking through various photos of the past epoch – first, I re-discovered a collection of (physical) post cards from the cities my Grandparents visited (it was kind of a tradition to buy these things for the lack of your own photo camera) and then spent several hours following the links from one collection of
shocking photos to another (for example, New Year in the USSR, photos of Leningrad taken by tourists,..). And then I – inevitably – reflected upon our profoundly-post-war generation and the post-USSR era, what do we know about the past? What do we know about the tortures of that really action-packed 20th century in our country?
Just imagine, it started with Russia vs Japan war and unrest inside the country, uncertainty and political intrigues, then went on to the First World War combined with the Revolution and the Civil War, then the total destruction of the past, elimination of intelligentsia and re-building of the entire country, then the Stalin’s repressions, fear, squealing on your relatives and beloved just to stay alive, fear again and hunger, the Second World War, re-building the country again from the ashes and ruins, the Cold War and the fear of the enemy who’s everywhere, then rejecting the past and building communism, the entire country trying to GET something new / different / banned / nonexistent / at least something, also torturing the nature all over the country without any due concern for the future, living off the previous achievements, stagnation, regression and moral degradation and grab-what-is-left-before-others-do-that, drugs entering the country, finally the attempts to rebuild the country again and… the new Russia again, political instability, the craze of the free market and I-do-what-I-want principle, bandits set free all over the country, people going mad and moving abroad in batches, several money crises and what-not really. Kind of hard to fit everything in a sentence! I wonder how the whole world did not go off in a big boom after all this.
Food, anyone? : ) Here’s a traditional Caucasian cheese pie recipe from our New Year table I wanted to share with you, I’ve already tried a similar recipe before and keep wanting more! I discovered the recipe when searching for a place to eat in Yekaterinburg, where I was in October 2013. I never went to eat in that place nor is a city in the Ural mountains the best choice to eat Caucasian pies, but I liked the recipe they offer on their website:
Ualibakh (or Olibakh), Traditional Caucasian Fresh Cheese Pie from Ossetia translated and adapted from pirogi96.ru will make around three flat pies, packed with cheese and herbs and…leftover rice! Well, you can imagine I just couldn’t leave the recipe unchanged, see my remarks… ATTENTION: there are two versions of the pie dough – a quicker one with baking soda and a more slow-food one with yeast/
Two years ago – 4 White Breads and Old New Year
- 300 g flour
- 10 g fresh yeast / baking soda – I used dried yeast, less than 10 g
- 2 cups kefir / buttermilk – I used a mixture of milk and sour cream
- 300 g Ossetian cheese (fresh white cheese) – for the lack of which I used Bulgarian brynza (white cheese in brine), soaked in water beforehand to reduce the salt content + smoked Adygea cheese + leftover rice + basil leaves + sour cream
- 20 g butter to brush the top of the pie
- 5 g sugar
The dough: Sift the flour into a bowl, make a well in the center and pour in fresh kefir / buttermilk, salt, soda or yeast, sugar and mix everything. You should get very soft dough (here I usually have to add more flour but don’t overdo the dough, it should be pretty soft). Cover the bowl with clean cloth and put somewhere warm. If you’re using yeast, leave the dough rise for 2–3 hours, whereas you will need just 30–40 min for the soda dough to get ready.
Now prepare the filling: In ideal world you would use one-day fresh cheese made from fresh whole milk, strain the whey, knead it thoroughly (the mass should be buttery and all elastic), add salt, mix well and divide into as much parts as you have pies.
As you can see, I added pas mal de everything to my filling, namely Bulgarian brynza (white cheese in brine), soaked in water beforehand to reduce the salt content + smoked Adygea cheese + leftover rice + basil leaves + sour cream.
Once the dough is ready, divide it into the desired number of pies and roll each into rounds 0.5-1 cm thick. Place some filling in the center, distribute it evenly, then start gathering the edges of the dough, pulling them to the center and seal. Pressing with the palm of your hand make the surface smooth and even, flip it over, and repeat the same procedure 2-3 times so that you get an almost perfectly round pie (nothing is perfect, you know!). The trick here is that the dough should be thinner than the filling, as these pies are usually stacked in three (it’s kind of a symbolic tradition) one on top of the other and than sliced, so they are supposed to be pretty flat.
Place each pie on a warm greased / floured skillet pan. Make a hole / slit in the center of the pie so that the steam can escape through it. Bake at around 180’C for about 30 minutes. Serve hot and don’t forget to run a stick of butter over each pie!
Result: Lovely 😉 Cheesy and crunchy. But be careful with the baking time – I think my first pie got a bit overbaked, too crunchy. The dough should be, well, dough and not a crust. At the same time do not make it too thick, it should be a truly cheese-dough balanced pie!
Here’s a shot of my Sunday improvised baked vegetable meal last week – I steamed some vegetables in the oven then added some couscous which helped soak in the excess liquid and topped the entire thing with grated cheese – perfect! I like the sweetness that the carrot brings to this easy dish. Haha,by the way, I’ve recently experienced an acute desire to eat some Brussels sprouts but couldn’t find them anywhere. Who would believe that before I went to Strasbourg and re-discovered really tasty vegetarian stuff there?
See the frost-decorated window?
Some Balkan-inspired spinach pies are waiting their turn to get posted here!