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

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

Tsarksoye Selo to the south of St Petersburg is a treasure trove of yet undiscovered Art Nouveau architecture. Here, a bit out of the eye of the St Petersburg experts and activists in architectural conservation, some of the beauties have disappeared without a trace over the years. But luckily some of them are left as is and some are even gradually renovated. In continuation to my last year’s spring-time and autumnal walks in the Art Nouveau realm of Tsarksoye Selo, here we go.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

I think spring and autumn with their rusty colours of the nature, with their true warm light (as opposed to the ‘through’ hot light of summer) just bring out the best in Art Nouveau, they are the best seasons for spotting architecture in general – not much leaves on the trees to obstruct the buildings and no (or little) snow to cover the details. We did this walk back in the surprisingly warm early April (after which there was such a setback – raining and all that). Our first stop was at the now State Museum Tsarskoye Selo Collection (apparently – of the 1930s Leningrad art). But it used to be one of those mansions for just one family built right in the center of the city by the architect from the capital (i.e. St Petersburg then) von Goli in 1909.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

Regardless of its pink painted walls, this mansion bears the signs of the so called Northern Modern style, the one which evolved in St Petersburg but was inspired by the Finnish Romantic style as well as the Scandinavian spirit in general.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

Hence all the fortress-like reminiscence, such as the windows, portals and stone.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

But the mansions’ signature details is this tower rather menacingly hanging over passers-by. To my mind they even left the entrance right underneath is in disuse because of that.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

Curious ‘lid’ above the balcony:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

There is not much known about the previous history of this cute little mansion. I will one day go inside since there’s also a workshop at the ground level. I wonder whether it sunk down quite a bit over the century or was meant to be that low.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

The wall on the other side which were in the shadow that morning are less… feminine, more laconic as there are no such doors or balconies, just a wall pierced by the windows.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)
Our next stop was not actually planned as I used to consider these buildings long gone and didn’t bother to check (I read about them in the book on the Art Nouveau architecture in St Pete). But since they were just some meters away from the pink mansion we bumped into them by chance, so to say.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

It was Sunday and Easter Sunday, so people were already gathering outside the church waiting for the priest to sprinkle that holy whatever on their traditional (and not so much) kulich and died eggs and whatnot.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

I was drawn by the pseudo-Russian style of the church which was also lit by the warm sun to its advantage. There’s something to its volumes and features that makes you think of the very old Russian churches (which was obviously meant) but there’s also something from the Art Nouveau aesthetics which is so appealing.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

This a ‘home’ church meaning that it was built into a building, actually into a charity organization for the Russian Red Cross nurses who lived here and worked in the hospitals of the city, the whole thing being backed by the emperor’s wife herself, Alexandra (i.e. the last Russian emperor Nicholas II’s wife). And it was designed by the emperor’s own architect with a charming Italian name of Silvio Danini. I’ve already investigated into some of his creations scattered all over Tsarskoye Selo but no to this one.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

As with the prototype – the first Russian churches – the rounded volumes are clearly the best:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

The history of this church during the Soviet era is pretty much similar to those churches which survived and were not taken down (this could happen not just in the 1920-30s but well into the 60s as well – sadly). They were mostly deprived of their distinguishing features (i.e. bell towers, cupolas, of course all the interior etc) and transformed into everything from cinema halls to driving schools to bread baking plants.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

This one was used – again – to the benefit of the society, as a part of the sanatorium for the TB kids. All the icons got painted over, regardless of them being designed by the famous Viktor Vasnetsov. The 1912-1914 church then got transformed into a show room in the 1990s and was handed over to the church officials back only in 2006. And the renovation started finally which can only rejoice me. What a unique show room (they say of… doors!):

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

The rest of the building has not been renovated and looks pretty sad. Though again I loved the volumes:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

Right next to the brick church is this big wooden house pretty much in the style of the very first pre-Art Nouveau English-cottage-style creations by the prolific Danini (1896-1897). It is in a poorer state than the adjacent church:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

This was originally built as the Nurses’ dormitory and clinic, but later became a Soviet kids’ TB sanatorium (the ‘new’ 1980 Brutalist style facilities are right next door). It is older than the church (1907-08) and is right next to another charity organization (which I failed to see this time) again built by the same Danini some years earlier.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

Now it’s some sort of something, no sign there but they say it will be handed over to the adjacent church some time soon.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

I hope it will be renovated. This could be a nice Sunday school or something, with its large windows. Although I doubt it will be restored as such. Real estate in Tsarskoye Selo is ridiculously overpriced…

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

It does look like a wooden dacha (summer cottage). I can imagine drinking tea from samovar sitting on the verandah:

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

I tried to capture these interplay of shadows that day with my mother’s first LOMO Smena photo camera, loaded with a black and white film. Still have some 10 shots to go before I can develop the film and find out whether it is actually still working. I adore black & white photos, its aesthetics, its graphic lines and atmosphere but still have to master it.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

The snow is already gone now but I’d love this early spring period to linger…

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

Our last stop was actually in the neaby Pavlovsk, yet another royal-park-residence environ which is just a railway station away from Tsarskoye Selo. But this dacha is stuck somewhere in between wooden houses and posh ‘villas’, not where you would normally go to in brief.

Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (spring)

This used to be a private dacha of the architect who built among others the Faberge store in St Petersburg, Karl Shmidt. Built in 1902-1903, they say it used to be painted white with green, blue and red details, but I like its current earthy colours as well. Not sure about what’s inside, they say it’s occupied by the Pavlovsk park administration.

For the autumnal part of my Art Nouveau walks see this post. For my last year’s Art Nouveau walk, see this post.

Adding this post to the St Petersburg collection.

G.

vegetarian

Egyptian Pita with Baked Falafel and Carrot Tomato Soup

Baked Falafel

Raw April has begun with its streams running across the pavement and the crazy sun blinding you after all the winter gloom and the wind blowing in your face trying to get inside your clothes. You can have got snow, rain and sun all squeezed into one hour. Those swings of weather can sometime be pretty tiresome but you won’t fool us, April dear, we know spring is here!

Aish Baladi - Egyptian Flatbread www.karenskitchenstories.com

When spring turns into summer, there’s already that joy you have in your heart that you don’t really notice it. When summer turns into autumn there’s always so much drama. When autumn turns into winter… Well here in St Petersburg there’s hardly any (even fine) line between them. But when winter turns into spring there’s no drama, there’s plain happiness.

Baked Falafel

Children playing hide-and-seek outside (well, that’ll be the least loud of all their games at the moment), there’s light until almost 8 pm (already in April!) – and that after those long winter months with barely any light at all! Although the change in the nature is gradual process, the difference is so stark here in the North that you inevitably dedicate a post or two to this spring coming every year 🙂 Oh that city of contrasts, our glorious St Petersburg.

Aish Baladi - Egyptian Flatbread www.karenskitchenstories.com

I haven’t done anything Easter-specific this year, although I am thinking of making some poppy seed roll sometime soon. It’s our family classic for the Easter time. No died eggs either. Instead I’m going to share with you an idea of a well-rounded vegetarian meal – a spicy chunky soup with a whole0wheat pita filled with baked falafel, salad and yogurt. Let’s start with the soup:

Carrot Tomato Soup

A year ago – Avant-Garde Architecture at Narvskaya Zastava

2 years ago – St Petersburg in March

3 years ago – Kaliningrad in Spring: Ships, Sea and Robots (I miss this city!)

4 years ago – Tea Muffins with Blueberry Jam

5 years ago – Crostata and Challah, United

6 years ago – Bring Some Artisan Bread to Your Life

Carrot Tomato Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium carrots – roughly chopped
  • 2 medium onions – roughly chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
  • soy sauce
  • 2-3 T tomato puree
  • a handful or two of red lentils, rinsed
  • stalks from coriander, dill and parsley – optional
  • wheat bran
  • dried thyme, basil, dill, marjoram
  • paprika, pepper, curry powder
  • salt, (brown) sugar

Procedure:

First, sautee your carrots and onions in a frying pan with some sunflower oil. I also add all the dry herbs and seasoning (except for the salt) at this stage. When the oil seem to be all gone I add a splash or two of soy sauce and continue cooking the veggies at low heat. Add your minced garlic and continue cooking. When the veggies are almost soft, I add some water (which also helps get all those dried herbs stuck to the bottom get into the soup and infuse it with their flavours while making washing up easier) and the tomato puree. As we don’t like our soups sour, I add a tablespoon of brown sugar to counterbalance the acidity of tomatoes. You’ll get sort of a ‘sauce’.

Meanwhile start heating you water for the soup – I use a medium soup pot, that’s about 2 liters. You can always add more water if you get too thick a soup. We have this thing of keeping the washed & cleaned stalks from fresh coriander, dill and parsley in a container which we put in the fridge for the next soup we’re making. As soon as the water starts boiling, we throw all these stalks in and thus make a sort of a ‘broth’, leaving the water to simmer for a while. We then remove the stalks before adding the rest of the ingredients. You can skip this step or make your broth with any other way you prefer.

Rinse the lentils and add them to the water (do not turn the heat off). Then pour in all the veggies together with the ‘sauce’ and season with salt. Continue cooking for some time. Then fish out most of the carrots, onions and anything that gets into the ladle. Blend the veggies until desired consistency and return into the pot. Reheat the soup a bit and check it for the consistency and salt. The good thing about chunky soups is that you can add more water (if needs be) and then just say you wanted a less thick soup 🙂

Carrot Tomato Soup

Remarks: I tend to leave some carrots and (mostly) onion ‘whole’ for a chunkier texture. Serve with fresh herbs and sour cream.

Result: Hearty, chunky and spicy. Also a tad sweet with all the carrots inside! By the way, the soup does not feel too carrot-y as it is pretty spicy.

And now on to the first Egyptian recipe on my blog – the traditional flatbread Aish Baladi that is made with 100% whole wheat flour. I was looking for a different recipe for pita bread and this seemed to be a nice one. Which it is!

Aish Baladi - Egyptian Flatbread www.karenskitchenstories.com

Aish means ‘life’ and Baladi is anything ‘of the country’, traditional, rural etc etc. (By the way, a Wikipedia page leads to this very recipe shared by Karen, I found it out when googling what Baladi means 🙂 ). So you can imagine that this is going to be quite a hearty bread indeed!

Aish Baladi - Egyptian Flatbread www.karenskitchenstories.com

Aish Baladi or Egyptian Flatbread from www.karenskitchenstories.com will make chewy flavourful pita-like bread. Follow the link to get the full recipe with all the instructions.

My changes: Did not make these 100% wholewheat – mixed in some plain all-purpose flour too. I didn’t bake both batches one by one, as the oven was occupied in between, so the other 4 balls of dough were waiting much longer for their turn. Interestingly they were much more pocket-like (not that flat as the first batch) and with a more developed flavour as well. I baked both batches for a bit longer than 8 minutes, flipping them upside down somewhere near the end of the baking time.

Remarks: I bet you won’t make pita out of just plain flour after this recipe anymore! There’s just so much flavour to it, that even if you eat it as part of a composite dish (as in falafel), you cannot miss it, you do pause for a while to contemplate this pita’s taste.  Were pretty fine when I reheated them in the turned down oven (after I baked falafel there) the next day – there was those extra crusty parts to it as well.

Result: Sheer wholewheat joy. These flatbreads have a taste of their own. Can be used for falafels or gyros (I can imagine) or just enjoyed plain. The wheat bran really does make a difference!

Baked Falafel

As for the falafel part of it, I was using a recipe which is no longer online, although it did go wrong at the moment of frying (that’s why I rarely fry anything, I so much prefer baking!) – it just disintegrated into bits of chickpea puree and onions 😉 So instead I added an egg (which was optional) and more wheat bran and baked the lot instead. Today I used up the leftover chickpea puree and made more falafel straight in the oven, without even trying to fry them. I guess for me it’s just the best option. So here’s the baked falafel recipe:

Baked Falafel

Baked Falafel

Ingredients:

  • 250-300 g chickpeas
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • dried oregano, thyme, basil, dill
  • curry powder, paprika
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T tomato puree
  • 2 T wheat bran and / or buckwheat flakes (aka instant buckwheat)
  • wheat bran for rolling in

Procedure:

Soak your chickpeas in water overnight or about 8 hours (I did it during the day, removing their skins all the while). Drain them, add fresh water to cover them and cook over medium heat. Remove all the foam that forms with a spoon and continue cooking until the chickpeas soften. This might take more than an hour and the water might disappear almost entirely. I forgot to add salt but you can add it towards the end. Drain (I retained some of the water) and then blend the chickpeas to the desired consistency. Finely chop the onions and add to the chickpeas. Add the rest of the ingredients and enough wheat bran to get a soft but pretty thick mixture. Place some wheat bran on a plate, take a tablespoon of the mixture and shape it into a sort of a patty, then roll it in the wheat bran. Place your patties apart on a greased baking dish (can use parchment paper instead). Bake in the oven preheated to 190-200 ‘C for about 15 minutes, then flip them over and bake for several minutes more.

Remarks: Baking falafels instead of frying them has several advantages, like using much less oil, being free while the falafels are in the oven, and also making sure they do not disintegrate while cooking in the oil 🙂 I didn’t make all the falafel at once, leaving some chickpea puree for the next day. I guess any bran and flakes will do as long as they soak in some of the juices and help you for the falafels. You can also use flour instead.

Result: Crispy and flavourful, a tad on the dry side (typical for falafel) which can be aided by some yogurt.

To assemble falafel in pita: My version is to cut the pita ‘pocket’ leaving an edge uncut (if you know what I mean), put some yogurt on the bottom, then in any order – falafel, cucumbers, bell pepper, salad leaves and more yogurt.

Baked Falafel

Try other variants of pita and tomato / carrot soup. You might want to try chickpea soup.

These recipes go to the Yeast Bread, Lunch/ Dinner and Country-specific collections.

G.