Family recipe · sourdough

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

Last weekend I experimented with spelt flour which I had never used before in baking. I drew upon my basic sourdough recipe which I use most of the weekends when baking black bread for my family. I also use it for baking so-called white bread as well. So you can almost call it a family recipe now.

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

I cannot say that the whole-grain spelt flour added in rather small amounts in relation to the bulk of all purpose flour brought in some specific flavour. Also, there was my sourdough culture which is rye.

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

So in the end,  the baguettes had quite a dense crumb with a general whole-grainy look and flavour. But that flavour they had for sure!

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

1 year ago – Spring in St Petersburg. The Beginning
2 years ago – Stirato or Italian Baguettes
3 years ago – 2,800 km of Russia Seen from Above
4 years ago – What a Peach! Sunny Cake and a Zesty Cranberry Cake
5 years ago – Pane al Cioccolato… Senza Cioccolato

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes adapted from basic sourdough bread recipe originally adapted from Darnitsky bread recipe

Ingredients:

For the starter:

  • 1 Tb rye sourdough starter from the fridge
  • 100 g water
  • 100 g rye flour

For the bread:

  • 200-220 g of water
  • 150 g spelt flour
  • 200 g all purpose flour, more if needed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pumpkin seeds

Procedure:

Take a tablespoon of sourdough starter from the fridge and mix it with 100 g of water and 100 of rye flour, then leave it overnight.

In the morning when your starter has puffed up, add 200-220 g of water, 150 g spelt flour and 200 g all purpose flour, salt and pumpkin seeds. You should get quite thick though sticky dough so keep adding all purpose flour as needed. You should be able to fold the dough. Leave it covered for more than one hour, making at least one fold in between (if it’s too sticky, use either more flour or water your hands). Now you can either flour a glass bowl or a proofing basket, shape the bread into a round loaf, flour it and place it in the bowl, cover and leave to rise for an hour. Alternatively, you can make baguettes by dividing the dough in two and then folding and rolling each part to create 2 baguettes, place them on paper / baking mat, then cover and leave the shaped dough to rise for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 225 ‘C with a pan / tray on the bottom to create steam and a reversed tray in the middle (as a sort of baking stone). Reverse the loaf onto a baking mat / paper, make several slashes and slide it onto the hot tray / slash the baguettes diagonally and slide them onto the reversed tray together with the paper. Pour some water into the pan on the bottom to create steam. I usually do not change the temperature but if I see that the loaf is browning too much, I might decrease the temperature or move it to a lower rack. The baking takes from 30-35 minutes for the baguettes to 45-50 for a loaf.

Remarks: I tried hard to shape these baguettes, working the dough quite a lot by folding and rolling and re-rolling, and they puffed up nicely in the oven, also growing quite chewy crust.

Result: Flavourful and chewy. You might not tell at once that they are made with spelt flour but these baguettes are perfect for breakfast. Pumpkin seeds are good too!

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

Here pictured with the precious Piave cheese from Italy’s Veneto region:

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

It was a pretty Sunday morning and I took a lot of photos of the baguettes. I also spotted this thingy here which is a projector for silent cinema reels we have of me and my sister. My Mother is being busy converting the films into megabytes of me and my sister doing the pretty mundane things – without a sound 🙂 Yes, sometimes I do feel I was born way earlier than what my passport claims!

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

Adding this post to my Sourdough Bread collection.

G.

Family recipe · no-dough · vegetarian

Veggie Dishes, Improvised

Yellow Lentils with Bulgur and Cauliflower

Back to food for a change. Two improvised vegetarian recipes I threw in together when I got tired of the usual pasta-rice-buckwheat circle. I’m actually thoroughly enjoying this ‘throwing’ procedure, which allows you to get curious results and varied flavours. It is all very easy and creative, so join in!

A year ago – Chasing Alexander Pushkin in Tsarskoye Selo

Two years ago – Zucchini and Aubergine Whole Wheat Pizza

Three years ago – Moscow and Courgette Pies

Yellow Lentils with Bulgur and Cauliflower (improvised) will make a fiber & protein-rich vegetarian dish.

Ingredients:

  • cauliflower, broken in florets, if frozen no need to defrost
  • yellow lentils, rinsed
  • bulgur
  • olive oil
  • turmeric
  • chopped herbs such as dill or parsley
  • toasted pumpkin & sesame seeds, optional

Procedure:

Start with heating a deep pan, then throwing in bulgur and adding a splash of olive oil so that the bulgur is ‘moistened’. Don’t let it burn! Then add the cauliflower (frozen is fine), and the yellow lentils. Cover them with water. The moment the water starts simmering, season with salt and add some turmeric. You can either throw in the chopped herbs now or add them later. I usually cover the pan with a lid and add more water if it boils off. Don’t overcook the lot, cause both cauliflower and yellow lentils are quick-cooking buddies! Check the bulgur and if it’s cooked, than the dish is ready. Serve with some toasted pumpkin & sesame seeds, a splash of soya sauce and some white cheese, to taste.

Yellow Lentils with Bulgur and Cauliflower

Remarks: You can adapt this recipe to your own taste buds and hunger. You can adjust the amount of each ingredient according to your preferences. The yellow lentils I was using for this recipe cook very fast and if slightly overcooked become quite mashy. You might want to add them later! Also make sure to add enough salt, this dish might get a bit bland without the extra soy sauce. Next time I would add some chopped onion as well.

Result: Yellow and quite unusual! The turmeric adds just a tiny bit of spiciness (try curry instead), the bulgur remains crunchy while the cauliflower and lentils are soft.

By the way, if you’re not sure what bulgur is (I learnt about it for the first time in Strasbourg and since then it has entered our family cooking) and what benefits it might have, here’s what you read on Wikipedia: ‘Compared to unenriched white rice, bulgur has more fiber and protein, a lower glycemic index, and higher levels of most vitamins and minerals’. Sounds pretty impressive!

***

When I think of aubergines I most often immediately think of garlic. This is such a traditional combination for our family that it just comes naturally. Mom used to fry aubergines with crushed garlic and this fragrant duet is solidly engraved in my mind. As these superbly coloured eggplants or aubergines are in season now, I’m carpe-diem-ing them a lot in my cooking 🙂

Garlicky Aubergine Rolls with Cheese and Olives

Garlicky Aubergine Rolls with Cheese and Olives (improvised) will make salty and zesty rolls with melt-in-your-mouth cheese inside. The preparation requires some time.

Ingredients:

  • aubergines, preferably long
  • soft white cheese such as Adygea, Feta or farmer’s cheese, sliced
  • olives, sliced
  • some hard cheese
  • garlic, minced or crushed, to taste
  • olive oil
  • dried oregano (or any other herb)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • sesame seeds

Procedure:

Preheat the oven to 180 ‘C. Grease a large baking sheet. Wash, clean and slice the aubergines – you will need long slices for the rolls but the short bits are ok too – these will also go in. In a small bowl combine some olive oil, dried oregano, coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, plus minced or crushed garlic (if you’re not sure about the amounts for this mixture, make it small for starters, you can always make more!). Rub this mixture (or brush it over) into the aubergine slices – I left one side clean and so placed the aubergines clean side down onto the baking sheet. Bake the aubergines until they get quite soft but not burning! Just peep in from time to time. Meanwhile you can slice your cheese and olives. When the veggies are ready, take them out of the oven and cool slightly. Places cheese and then olive slices on each aubergine slice, season (if your cheese is not very salty already) and roll from the short side (the bits too small to roll can just be made into ‘towers’ of cheese and olives). Don’t worry if they naughtily unroll – just tuck the ends under the rolls and push the rolls close together. This will also facilitate the next step: grating some hard cheese over, sprinkling with oregano and sesame seeds. You now need to reheat them and make the cheese melt, that’s all – so you can place the sheet back into the oven onto the highest rack. Be careful not to burn them!

Garlicky Aubergine Rolls with Cheese and Olives

Remarks: I’ve repeated this recipe without rubbing in / brushing with the oil + herb mixture, just splashing some oil over the sliced aubergines and then baking them. The result was less interesting from the first super-garlicky variant. Also the second time the quality of the cheese was better and I also grated it on top but I was quite careless to let the rolls overcook and the smallest of them became hard. 

Result: Garlicky! And cheesy. The aubergine flesh is very soft while the skin is crunchy (sounds pretty carnivorous, doesn’t it?). Perfect as appetizers – I can imagine piercing them with a toothpick to make them into snacks.

Enjoy!

Adding these to my lunch / dinner recipe collection.

G.

British recipe · Family recipe · pies · sweet

My Friend’s Granny’s Grated Pie and Apple Pudding

My Friend's Granny's "Grated" Pie

My friend’s Granny’s “Grated” Pie was what I was thinking of for quite some time. It’s one of those recipes that travelled from my friend’s family to my own. I do not make it often these days, though. But this recipe is hand-written in my thick recipe book, the one I started long before I became obsessed with baking. And you know well that you can trust those hand-written recipes passed on to you from Grannies!

My Friend's Granny's "Grated" Pie

I remember when we first made it at our dacha (the friend I’m talking about is my childhood friend whose family had their summer house across the road). We couldn’t wait for the pies to be ready! : ) Well, time passes (how many years since then? 9? more?) but I still can’t wait!

My Friend's Granny's "Grated" Pie

I’m not sure about the origin of this recipe (as is with so many family recipes) but it was dictated to us from memory. So I suppose that this pie was enjoyed during the Soviet times as well as it is now. Let’s make this recipe live!

A year agoCaucasian Cheese Pie and Some Winter Reflections

Two years agoPetite Alsace and Petits Pains

Three years ago2 Breads with Poolish

My Friend’s Granny’s “Grated” Pie adapted from a family recipe and translated for you. It will make that very pie which can only result from a hand-written recipe (and even better – known by heart!). Although the recipe uses Soviet glasses, you can use cups with no problem. See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 glass of sugar – add less if your filling is very sweet
  • 250 g of margarine – this never happens with me these days : ) I used much less butter mixed with sunflower seed oil
  • 3-5 glasses of flour
  • 1/2 tsp of baking soda
  • some vinegar – a true Soviet housewife would use plain vinegar, but you can try milder variants
  • jam, fruit, … for the filling – the most typical would be jam, though. Mine was chunky apple jam + cinnamon

Procedure:

  1. First, beat eggs with sugar until white foam creates (yes, with your hand only!) then add softened margarine (butter) and mix well. Add a glass of flour. Then ‘extinguish’ the soda with vinegar by carefully pouring a very small amount of vinegar over a tablespoon with soda. The thing – not the tablespoon of course! – will make lots of pshhhhh noises, drop it directly into the pastry. This procedure is still used in Russia and a baking person would understand ‘extinguish the soda’ without explanation. Mix everything together. Add 2 to 4 glasses of flour (this time I needed just 2 more as I added much less butter) and mix well until the dough doesn’t stick to the tablespoon.
  2. Turn the pastry onto a surface and divide in two equal parts (although if you’re making a super-huge pie, you should work with the entire amount of the pastry). Shape each part as a thick log and then flatten it into a rectangle. Divide each rectangle into three equal parts. Join together two parts. Now you’ll have a big piece of pastry and a smaller one. Repeat with the second rectangle. Wrap the smaller pieces separately in plastic foil and put in the freezer for one hour. Chill the two bigger pieces in the fridge (wrap them too).
  3. Roll out the big pieces to the size of your pan – they will make the base for the pie (as I decreased the amount of butter, my pastry wouldn’t roll out nicely, so I just pressed it into the pan). You can use a round pan or a medium rectangular baking sheet (for a bigger and flatter pie). Grease the pan and transfer the pastry to the bottom, making borders so that the filling won’t escape. Place the filling on to the pastry. Take a smaller piece of pastry that has now become quite solid in the freezer and grate it on top of the filling, distributing the pastry all over the top (and that’s why it’s called grated!).
  4. Bake at 180’C for about 30 minutes until crust is created.

My Friend's Granny's "Grated" Pie

Remarks: This is after all a Soviet recipe and a family recipe – it is flexible and… makes 2 large pies. If you are not necessarily planning to have a family reunion soon, you might prefer to make just half of the pastry recipe. Use any jam leftovers, raw fruit with sugar and spices or virtually any sweet filling. I think it will survive even a rather runny filling!

My Friend's Granny's "Grated" Pie

Result: Time-proved, family-loved and tasty. And they do not stick to the pan as it’s with many jam pies I’ve tried! Be careful with the sugar (try to balance the filling and the amount of sugar you add to the pastry) and the rest will work out swimmingly! And do make two pies, cause these Granny’s treats tend to disappear much quicker than you might think…

My Friend's Granny's "Grated" Pie

You will be absolutely right if you think we’re not yet done with our apple harvest. ABSOLUTELY right! But we’re making our way towards it. Yes, in late January of the consequent year! O_o The first recipe I shared with you did not help us much with the boxes and piles and bags of raw apples but it did finish a large jar of apple jam that was in great need of using up. And here is yet another of those recipes that helped us with that 🙂 A British one.

Cinnamon apple pecan pudding from www.bbcgoodfood.com

Cinnamon Apple Pecan Hazelnut Pudding adapted from www.bbcgoodfood.com will make not much of a pudding but rather and apple cake with toasted nuts on top. And surprisingly for BBC Good Food, there’s not that much butter in it! Here are just my changes:

  – instead of xylitol I used plain sugar

 – added lots of small apples instead of using one (mysterious to me) 280g Bramley apple

 – topped the cake with whole hazelnuts instead of pecans

Result: A very quick and easy recipe (minus the time spent on dicing and grating the apple, omit the peeling part!), just what I needed. The apple pile got a bit smaller with a tasty cake! Whole nuts on top are a nice idea – they get super-toasted that way.

Adding these two to both my Apple and Sweet recipe collections. And to Leftovers!

G.

Family recipe · sweet · sweet bread

Sugary Knots from My Babushka’s Recipe

Sugary Knots by My Babushka

Let me share with you a perfect winter recipe from our family kitchen! This melting sugar in the oven and the aroma of the rich yeast dough baking in the oven reminds me of the days during winter holidays when we went on skiing with my Granddad. Coming back tired but excited, we would always find our babushka (Granny) making something tasty for us – most of all we enjoyed the warm sugary buns, served with tea in the dim lit kitchen.

Sugary Knots by My Babushka

These buns have also played their role in my baking ‘career’ – they were that very recipe which turned me into an almost non-stop baker in January 2009. We actually call them figushki in my family as these rolls remind us of a the figa gesture (try sticking your thumb between the index and the third finger, bending them over) which is actually used when you want to communicate ‘never in this life’ or ‘nothing’. Not a very polite gesture after all =)

Sugary Knots by My Babushka

A year ago – Winter Light and Lemon Cake

Two years ago – Apples and Looking Back over My Shoulder

Three years ago – Birthday Mega Torte and Lots of Flowers

My Babushka’s Sugary Knots – recipe translated and adapted from the family recipe. Will make a dozen of moderately to over-sweet rich dough rolls with cinnamon, if you wish! See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients

For the dough – for lots of buns (make half of the recipe for one baking sheet)

  • 0.5 ml milk – I made a mixture of hot water and milk
  • about 70 g margarine – I used butter
  • 50 g fresh yeast
  • about 1 kg of flour – I tried adding some oat bran and cardamom for a change
  • 3 Tbs sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • salt

For the filling

  • melted butter
  • sugar – the amount depends on your sweet tooth =) You can also try brown sugar
  • cinnamon – this is my addition, the original recipe has only butter and sugar

Procedure

Make the dough: Boil the milk and melt margarine (butter) in the milk and leave to cool down. Then melt the fresh yeast in the mixture. Add sugar, eggs and salt. (I usually take some hot water, melt their the butter, then add milk and yeast. After some minutes I add the rest of the ingredients). Start adding flour (Soviet recipes never give you the exact amount, so beware!) till you get a rather soft dough. Leave it to rise in a warm place, covered. When it rises, knock it down. Repeat one more time (with this amount of yeast, the dough will rise quickly. I usually decrease the amount of yeast but the dough still rises fast.).

Make the buns: Prepare your working surface: A surface dusted with flour, a rolling pin, a bowl with melted butter and a brush, a bowl with cinnamon + sugar (or just sugar). Take a small amount of dough, about the size of a tangerine, and roll out it rather thinly into an oval. Brush the oval with melted butter, sprinkle with cinnamon + sugar (about a tablespoon per bun but adjust the amount to your liking) and start rolling the bun from the shorter edge. When you get a rope-like roll, twist it into a knot and place on the baking sheet (I line it with paper as the sugar oozes out and creates puddles of caramel quite hard to remove). Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Bake in the preheated to 180 ‘C oven for about 17 minutes. If you want your buns crusty, brush them with milk before baking and also move them to the upper rack for a minute or so.

Sugary Knots by My Babushka

Remarks: Try making just a half of the dough first, which will make enough buns to fit on one baking sheet (about a dozen). As well as the sweetness and the type of spices in the filling, you can also adjust the size of these buns, increasing the baking time accordingly.  I tried baking these at my Granny’s place recently in her Soviet oven. The buns turned out really crusty with a sugary top (I brushed the top with buttermilk and sprinkled some sugar)!

Sugary Knots by My Babushka

Results: The trick of these knots is in the sugar melting in the oven… The ultimate comforting aroma for the long winter evenings! Try not to overbake these buns and they will make you love your winter!

Adding these knots to Russian/Soviet recipes.

G.

Family recipe · traditional Russian recipe

No-Fuss Russian Blini from Old Recipe Book

Although a bit late for Maslenitsa (Carnival period in Russia), here is a recipe of easy Russian blini we’ve been using in my family for quite a while. Russian blini are larger and thinner than American pancakes, rather like French crepes. They are baked at the end of winter to welcome spring because blin is as round and shiny as the sun. Also blini are quite a greasy job, so this is what we gorge on all through the last week before the Lent (haha, and way beyond that for those who prefer to follow their own ‘diet’). People bake blini and invite each other to drink tea and eat blini with lots of various condiments. Blini vary from house to house, some of us prefer them thick and fluffy, some thin and sour, some medium. A lot relies on the ingredients: the type of grain and flour quality, the use of milk or buttermilk, the amount of eggs and sugar which make the batter richer, as well as on the procedure, cause some of the traditional Russian recipes require yeast with a poolish or sourdough (like these sourdough blini), mind you!

I know that pancakes can be found anywhere on Earth and are claimed by lots of nations to be their invention, so I’m sure you’ll enjoy these Blini na skoruyu ruku (Quick Blini, literary Blini with a Quick Hand), from a book most of women used to have and probably still have at home in Russia – Vegeterianskaya Kuhnya (Vegetarian Cuisine, 1993). This post-Soviet book is actually a compilation of early 20th century recipes (!) collected by Zelenkova, also known as Vegeterianka, populist of vegetarian cuisine in tsarist Russia, which were published in 1906 under the ‘Ya Nikogo ne Yem‘ title (‘I Don’t Eat Anyone‘). So this blini recipe might as well be titled Easy Russian Old-Recipe Blini!

IMG_0008

These no-fuss blini are just what I think proper blini should be – not over thick, not over sweet, perfect for smetana (sour cream), honey or berry jams:

IMG_0021

…but just plain butter as well:

IMG_0004

Also my Mom (who actually uses her own recipe for thin sour blini) used the leftover blini the next day to make blini s tvorogomblini with cottage cheese. The ‘recipe’ is simple – take a blin and  add some cottage cheese in the middle (you can mix in some sugar if you want), than fold the blin as you would a letter (creating an envelope around the filling) and then reheat the ‘parcels’ on a pan. This creates a sort of a caramelized crust as the cottage cheese tends to ooze a bit (be careful not to urn your blini!) and the fillings stays soft as long as the blin is warm. Nice way to reuse the leftovers!

IMG_0015

Did you know that leftover blini can also be used in a more elaborate dishes, like a blinnij tort –  a sort of multi-layer cake from blini with really just about any filling between them (savoury as well)? Blini can be rolled into a tube with the filling or just plunged into smetana, they can be folded in a triangle…

IMG_0012

Two years ago – a more sophisticated way to bale your blini: Sourdough Pancakes, as Promised

One year ago – experimenting with sprouted grains in bread: Sprouted Grains and Welcome Spring! and baking some Sourdough Bread for Maslenitsa

But before you get to know if there is ANYTHING left for tomorrow, let’s bake the batch and mount up a hole stack of warm shiny blini buttering each one:

No-Fuss Quick Russian Blini from Vegeterianskaya Kuhnya (but most likely from a 1906 Ya Nikogo ne Yem vegeterian recipe book by O. Zelenkova) – will make a large stash of multi-purpose blini that you can eat with your favourite jam / honey / sour cream / or just plain butter (caviar is too trivial, haha). ATTENTION: The recipe uses the most common measure in Russia – a stakan (glass) which contains 200 ml of water or 250 g of flour.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 glasses of warm milk
  • 2 glasses of warm water
  • 2 glasses of all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs of oil
  • some sugar and salt, to taste
  • butter, to brush blini

 Procedure:

Beat 2 eggs, add warm milk and warm water, oil, salt and sugar. Gradually mix in the flour. Mix well. Pour a thin layer on a hot greased pan and bake on each side. Brush with butter.

IMG_0016

Remarks: I usually pre-mix hot water with milk cause I’m lazy enough to heat the milk separately. I also adjust the amount of flour so that the mixture is more like thin sour cream (I’m lazy to use the stakan measure and use the cups instead). As the batter already contains oil my teflon pancake pan works just fine without any additional greasing. Just wait till the unbaked layer on top gets bubbly, flip the blin over and wait some more. Lift the blin, brush with butter and place each blin you bake on top. Thus they will keep the heat and also will easily separate from each other because of the butter.

IMG_0017

Result: Crispy on the edges, moderately thick and almost neutral in taste, these traditional Russian blini are easy and fast! Best eaten while hot / warm but can be easily re-heated or reused later. The recipe is very simple to remember as everything here is 2-2-2-2! I’m quite reluctant to fry things and prefer to bake things (oven seems to me much much easier than using the stove!) but blini is at least something I can ‘fry’ thanks to this recipe.

Enjoy your sunny blini!

P.S. Will see Siberia already this week!

G.

Family recipe · no-dough · sweet

Midsummer Berry Smoothie

lily

Just as last year I’m in a hurry to make this post a mid-summer one. Don’t ask me if I believe that it’s already mid July, please, no I don’t : ) This post is just a contemplation of the life going on, plus an easy recipe for a berry smoothie. Berries are always so abundant here at this time of the year that you just need a couple of good berry recipes! I’m already running out of them as I just don’t like baking the same thing over and over again. Here’s a nice berry cake recipe that I posted…

A year ago – Midsummer’s Black Currant Rhubarb Cake

on the balcony

The plant looks much better now, it has delicate flowers and it’s own little summer of life is in full swing. we’re rediscovering our balcony this summer – thanks to my Mom who is suddenly so green-thumbly 🙂 This year with her help the salad grew amazingly nice. I just hope, Mom, that you won’t suddenly find yourself building a new greenhouse next year!

salad leaves

And here are the tartest cherries on Earth:

sour cherry

My favourite berries are definitely not the most prolific black currants that are invading our dacha and my baking each year (I’d rather eat red currants). Blueberries are much more to my liking, I wish they were growing at our dacha… We bought some couple of weeks ago and I made a reeeeeeaaaal blueberry cake (usually every blueberry cake/ muffin/ etc turns into blueblackberry something) and also some kind of a berry smoothie, which we are more used to call mousse in my family.

blueberries and sweet cherries

There are various solutions to cope with the berry harvest, of course, like freezing them in a way of a sorbet, for example. But – luckily – for the lazy ones there’s always something which requires only a blender bowl to wash later. The recipe for the berry smoothie comes from the mere need to use the berries which sometimes (most of the times) are just too acidic to eat as it is. So we blend them with something sweet, mixing several kinds of berries together. Usually the strawberries are the most acidic berries at our dacha, so these are more likely to end up as a smoothie combined with the first black currants (they are everywhere!).

berry smoothie

This time I took strawberries + blueberries for a change (I was too lazy to pit the sweet cherries so they went as decoration). Plus added a sweetener – honey. The recipe is easy (the shortest recipe ever on my blog!):

Berry Mousse (Smoothie) – can be changed in a myriads of ways and adapted to your taste

Ingredients

  • berries of your choice
  • honey / sugar

Directions

Blend the berries (with a hand mixer or blender), adding enough sweetener. Eat with ice cream or in my case – the ever present prostokvasha.

berry smoothie

Result? All depends on you and your berries in this case!

berry smoothie

Normally, the all-berry smoothie is quite thick but you can still manage to drink it with a straw. Just don’t forget to brush your teeth as these Northern berries may as well be sweet and oh so nice but they are acidic as hell : )

strawberries

The basil looks cool. It tastes weird though, as this one is with the cloves flavour (next year – regular basil, Mom!):

basil

and these are vetches:

vetches

and a bee in glamour ‘sun glasses’:

bee on a flour

jasmine (already over its blossom period now):

jasmine

an addition to my previous St Petersburg Sky and All That Bread post – the evening sky

sky

and that brings me to the end of the mid summer reportage…

lily leaves

Rain drops on the leaves of the tiger lily from the first picture. After a hot start of the day, there was rain today too. Reminded me of that rainy song by Planet Funk – just realized it’s more than 10 years old already (do you believe it, sister?!)! Love the rain sequence – and rain in real life too, occasionally, haha. Hope it was not ‘last summer day’ today!

G.

Family recipe

Russian Cold Summer Soup Okroshka

preparing okroshka

I’m sure that with the heat we’re having now here in Russia, okroshka should be one of the most popular search words – because this is ΤΗΕ cold dish we traditionally make in the hot weather and then forget about it until the next warm season (whenever it comes). In my family we start making okroshka somewhere around late June when the first cucumbers start popping up in the greenhouse at our dacha and more significantly, when the weather gets hot. Yes, it’s true we are much into drinking hot tea even when it’s boiling hot outside (and even in our NW parts it happens), but we do like something cold and refreshing at times.

So, okroshka. It’s a traditional dish in Russia and Ukraine, and there are so many of its modifications in various parts of the ex-USSR which are either considered a version or a separate dish. Okroshka is more like a salad which is then mixed with a liquid – most commonly it’s kvas but I prefer kefir (which is a more … Asian option). Kvas is a traditional beverage made from fermented sourdough bread, we even used to make it at our dacha but perhaps since then I just cannot stand it, too weird for me. Well, now we buy bottled kvas which is usually sparkling (horrendous!), and as for getting it outside Russia I’d suggest searching for a Russian store near you. The preparation of okroshka at first looks just like you would make a regular or a ‘festive’ salad (Olivye for example), but of course you wouldn’t pour so much liquid on a salad, would you.

okroshka before adding kvas

{chopping, chopping, chopping…}

The name itself is a derivative from ‘kroshit‘ which means ‘to chop’. So the trick here is the combination of all the ingredients. The ingredients here are really important – they should be so to say neutral but the aromatic herbs and the tangy kvas / kefir add the missing flavour. They say there’s even a fish version of okroshka, but we usually make a ‘meat one with sausage (and I just leave it out for my vegetarian version). Brr, sorry, but I just cannot imagine such type of cold soup with fish…

This is one of those oral family recipes that you will hardly ever find in a written form in Russia. This is how we usually make okroshka every summer in my family:

Okroshka, Russian Cold Summer Soup. A family recipe

A year agoSourdough Bread with Dates and Flaxseeds, would go just right with this soup!

Ingredients:

each measured according to the number of eaters (roughly, one potato & 1 egg & several small cucumbers per person)

  • cucumbers
  • potatoes
  • eggs
  • boiled sausage / frankfruter (omit for a vegetarian version)
  • lots of fresh herbs – dill, spring onion, coriander, parsley, even salad leaves
  • kvas / kefir
  • salt, pepper
  • optional: radish

Instructions:

First, boil potatoes (skins on or off, either way), eggs and sausage (or use ready sausage types). You then have to chop everything in a more or less similar way, making rather small bits so that the chewing process gets easier =) You will need a huge bowl if you’re making this soup for your family (like a very old one in the first picture, the legacy of the Soviet times). We usually use lots of fresh herbs from our garden as this is the time when we just don’t know what to do with them. Place a desired amount of ‘salad’ into each plate and pour kvas / kefir over. Season the soup to your liking and eat it with a good slice of sourdough rye bread. You can decorate the soup with a half of a boiled egg too. And don’t forget to add smetana (sour cream) on top!

okroshka with kvas

It doesn’t look pretty in the photo but the kvas-addicts will assure you this is just the best refreshing dish for the summer. When you pour kvas over the chopped ingredients, it goes like pshhhhhhhhh (see photo). No, thanks, I would vote for kefir, well, you know me. If you dare try this soup either way, consider yourself a true Russian, really, because the combination of cucumbers and kefir, well, isn’t at all less weird .)

The procedure seems easy but it is actually quite time consuming. You can surely boil potatoes and eggs beforehand, although I wouldn’t recommend chopping everything in advance. If you have lots of leftovers, just keep them refrigerated and have your refreshing okroshka the next day. The dish is quite nutritious with all the eggs and potatoes (and meat), so you might not want anything else for your lunch.

Good luck with Russian cooking!

Will come back with more international recipes next time.

G.