Italian recipe · no-dough · vegetarian

Pumpkin Curry… without Curry

curry-di-zucca...-senza-curry-5

Some weeks earlier I tried making a soup from a recipe that I found in a newspaper my sister brought for me from their trip to Italy almost 2 years ago. Not the most exciting reading but in terms of keeping up with the language from time to time even a commercial can be fine. Moreover, the newspaper is about eco / bio stuff and sustainability, and it featured two recipes as well.

curry-di-zucca...-senza-curry-4

So here’s the recipe of a quick vegetarian soup which I call soup but is more like a stew actually. With obviously not the most seasonable veggie but using the ingredients you will find almost everywhere and almost anytime. It’s not an Italian recipe either, rather Asia-inspired. Although in my adaptation it had no curry as it contains dried garlic which seems to be too acidic for our oversensitive stomachs, so we’re trying to avoid any such seasoning at the moment.

curry-di-zucca...-senza-curry-3

Curry di Zucca or Pumpkin Curry adapted from infosostenibile.it

Ingredients

  • 600 g pumpkin – I used frozen Butternut pumpkin bits
  • 500 ml milk – I used 1.5% fat
  • 2 tsp curry powder – omitted, used black pepper instead
  • 15 ml extravirgin olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • salt, to taste

Procedure

Clean and peel the pumpkin (using a sturdy vegetable peeler or just cutting the skin off with a knife), discard the seeds* and the fibers. Chop it into pieces (about 1-2 cm). Peel the onion and slice it too. Saute the onion in oil, then add the curry. Continue the process for a bit and then add the milk. Bring to the boil and add the pumpkin pieces and salt. Continue cooking for about 20 minutes or until the pumpkin softens and the stew thickens sufficiently.

curry-di-zucca...-senza-curry-1

Remarks

* You can reserve the seeds, wash and dry them thoroughly and then eat them raw or use in baking. We have quite a lot of them now from all the soups and vegetable stews!

This is a sweet soup – particularly without the curry powder, I guess. Plus the milk which also adds this sweetish vanilla-ish flavour. So to some it might seem a bit too ‘weird’ as a lunch option, though if you’re used to Asian cuisine, the taste will not surprise you at all.

The soup got even thicker the next day, so we added in some water.

Result

Sweet thick soup ready in just about no time. A chance to diversify your lunch routine!

Adding this recipe to the Lunch / Dinner collection.

G.
Family recipe · no-dough · vegetarian

Pureed Pumpkin Cauliflower Soup

Pumpkin Cauliflower Soup

Well, we all prefer summer but then autumn gives us so much colour and… so many vegetables! So much more joy to be using fresh veggies instead of those frozen bits… My friend offered me a 4th of a pumpkin she bought on the way from her Granny’s village and so the idea of some sort of a hearty soup was born. I should have called it Cauliflower Pumpkin soup though, because there’s more of cauliflower there than of anything else, really. But the colour is that of pumpkin (plus carrots), so here it is:

Pumpkin Cauliflower Soup

Pumpkin Cauliflower Soup with Carrots and Potatoes, Pureed

Ingredients:

  • 800 g cauliflower head, broken into florets
  • about 450 g pumpkin, minus the seeds and the outer skin, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 3 T salt, or to taste
  • water to fill up a big pot, about 3.5 liters (for a 4 L pot)
  • stalks from fresh parsley, dill and coriander, optional
  • curry powder or seasoning of your choice
  • paprika
  • dried marjoram
  • dried basil
  • dried rosemary
  • freshly ground pepper
  • a splash of olive oil
  • sour cream and herbs, to serve

Procedure

We usually make some sort of a stock using leftover stalks from fresh parsley, dill and coriander – we wash and clean them thoroughly and then just boil with the water that we’re going to use for the soup, discarding them after they start loosing colour. You can skip this stage or use your stock / broth instead, just do not forget to reserve some of it (several ladlefuls).

Chop all the vegetables roughly to the same size. It will be actually easier to dish them out once they soften, when you are ready to process them in your blender. Carefully drop them in the stock / water and if there’s not enough space in the pot, take out some ladles of liquid and reserve. You can add your seasoning, salt, pepper, herbs and a splash of olive oil already at this stage. The veggies will reduce in volume as they soften and also the water will boil down, so the reserved liquid will come handy later on. When your veggies are soft enough (not too soft or you’ll have trouble dishing them out), reduce the heat to low and start processing them in your blender in batches (mine is just 500 ml, so I have to do quite a lot of batches). Pour back the puree, stir well and proceed with the rest of the veggies. You can leave some as is just for fun. When you’re finished with pureeing, add in the reserved liquid – or just any liquid – to get the desired consistency and reheat the soup to boiling point. Don’t forget to check the soup for salt.

Pumpkin Cauliflower Soup

Results

Spicy and filling, almost puree! This pureed soup loaded with all sort of vegetables will please even carnivorous men (I mean, males) who, it turns out, tend to prefer their veggies all blended to such a degree so that they forget they are there at all. This soup will not probably give you the smoothest texture but we enjoyed it anyway (occasional bits of tiny cauliflower florets and that specific lumps from the pumpkin flesh).

Pumpkin Cauliflower Soup

Remarks

Reserving some of the initial stock / broth for later is a good idea. My soup turned out really thick so I used up almost all the reserved stock / broth which helped fill up the entire pot after the thing has boiled down a bit. Also this might help if you put too much salt before pureeing…

Be careful when stirring this soup – due to its texture it attempts to splutter and spill all over. So the bigger the pot – the better (and also the taller the better too).

You can adjust this soup ingredients to your preferences but pumpkin for this time of the year is really good – and it also somehow overruns the cauliflower in its flavour!

My mother asked me to keep the pumpkin seeds. Well, her idea is to plant them. Mine is to bake some nice bread with them 🙂

Pumpkin Cauliflower Soup

And then you can add a little bit of a Russian touch to it – with some smetana, dill and dark rye bread:

Pumpkin Cauliflower Soup

My second batch came in less than a week with a little bit different set-up – more of cauliflower and a different variety of pumpkin, less potatoes and carrots, a red onion, and somehow more pepper. I used an even bigger pot this time and all of the reserved broth – and yet got a thicker soup!

Pumpkin Cauliflower Soup
Adding this recipe to the Lunch / Dinner collection.

G.

no-dough · sweet · vegetarian

Tasty but Tricky Experiments with Agar-Agar

Agar-Agar

Agar-Agar or simply agar is a vegetarian alternative to gelatin, made from a certain species of algae. Algae – for dessert?! Exactly. Agar is neutral in flavour and is considered to be pretty wholesome as it is 0% fat and 80% fiber. Although I’m not a big fan of these jelly things, I was surprised at how flexible they are and how creative they allow you to be.

Agar-Agar

Making desserts with agar-agar turns out to be very easy – though a bit tricky at times. For instance, if you try to cheat on the amount of the agar-agar powder you’re using you might end up with a sort of tasty compote instead of jelly… You see, with my third jelly experiment I was having my Scrooge moment, which was a very bad timing. Well, two successful attempts out of three is a pretty good result.

Agar-Agar

Be careful when selecting your agar-agar powder: 10 g of seemingly same substance can have a very different effect. I bought two different brands and found out one was twice (if not thrice) more powerful than the other. So do read the instructions on the packaging – if it says 10 g per 400 ml, do not try to increase the amount of liquid.

Agar-Agar

1 year ago – Ryazan and a Bit of Moscow

2 years ago – Orange Coloured Post: Glazed Orange Cake and Persimmons

3 years ago – Sugary Knots from My Babushka’s Recipe

4 years ago – Winter Light and Lemon Cake

5 years ago – Those Were the Days or 90s in Russia Continued

6 years ago – Birthday Mega Torte and Lots of Flowers

Fruit Jelly will make quite a few portions of sunny jelly with chewy fruit bites.

Ingredients

  • 800 ml of liquid – or half water half orange juice plus a splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 tsp agar-agar powder (read the instructions on the packaging!)
  • 100 g sugar
  • 2 tangerines, peeled
  • 1 small apple, diced

Procedure

Pour your liquid into a large non-reactive pot, put it on medium heat, and add the agar-agar powder teaspoon by teaspoon, whisking well after each addition. Add your sugar and whisk well. Add your fruit.

When the mixture starts boiling, whisk regularly for 5 minutes. You should notice how really thick it gets. Leave the mixture in the pot for a bit and then pour it into desired forms like cocktail glasses, shots or small glass bowls. Leave to set completely and then store in the fridge (just in case).

Agar-Agar

Remarks

I can imagine you can add spices and virtually anything to the mixture, depending on your idea of a perfect jelly. If you want your fruit chunks really crunchy, put them into the pot closer to the end of cooking – or add them when the mixture starts boiling for a more ‘mushy’ result. The fruit jelly was somewhat nicer in texture than my previous (first) attempt with mixed frozen berries – I added them before the mixture started boiling which increased the amount of liquid and reduced the jellying power of agar-agar. So frozen fruit might be that tricky ingredient which spoils the whole thing, who knows. However, berries add that tang and a nice deep red wine colour to your jelly.

Agar-Agar

Result

Sweet, soft in texture with chewy fruit chunks. Can also be used as an extra sweetener for your piece of cake (spreads well) or even your oatmeal / muesli. A flexible recipe that you can adapt to anything you have on hand at the moment.

Agar-Agar
Adding this post to the Apples and the Sweet recipe collection.

G.

Family recipe · no-dough · on USSR / Russia · vegetarian

Stove-Baked Potatoes

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

This summer feels like a lingering spring. Though most of June it looked like autumn – isn’t it a bit early to sit in front of the stove yet?! Thanks God, we are having pretty warm days now and are already dying from ‘heat’ (22 ‘C) :). And the White Nights period is still on:

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

Since I’m (again) searching for a job and can move around freely, I’ve spent several days at our dacha, unfortunately dressed in many clothes and trying to warm myself and the house up by feeding the stove with all that paper junk. Among which I found this Geography notebook from 1997:

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

Yes, back then we learnt that Pluto was a full-fledged 9th planet in the Solar system (what a loss!). I remember the teacher gave each pupil a planet’s name and we had to quickly rearrange in the planets’ order. We did the same with the months of the year and I can vividly recall my fear because I didn’t really study the months at home for that lesson! However, nostalgia did not prevent me from eventually throwing this school memorabilia into the dacha stove as well.

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

Heating pechka (brick stove) is almost obligatory even in summer because our house is wooden and poorly isolated. It feels pretty cool inside during hot days which is nice but it cools down a bit too much once the heat is gone (in our case the heat has not been here at all). We used to heat soup or other things using the metal ‘plate’ on top of the stove but you can also cook things inside the stove too.

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

The ‘recipe’ I’m going to share with you today is actually a no recipe at all, it’s just a way of making up a lunch or dinner which requires two main ‘ingredients’: a stove and potatoes 🙂 Ah yes, the third ingredient is that grainy salty salt!

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

My grandparents would bake us some potatoes in the residual heat left over from heating the stove when we spent our school holidays at our dacha. By the way, they constructed the stove themselves back in the 1970s when they were allotted a plot near Sinyavino in the Leningrad region. The dacha era was on!

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

So, backing potatoes in the stove goes like this: you wait till you get burning coal in your stove and then place some potatoes with the skins on (no need to clean them) right inside that coal & cinder mess. Shut the stove door and wait for about 40 minutes to 1 hour. You can check the doneness from time to time (it depends on the amount of heat left and the size of your potatoes) by fishing one of the potatoes out and touching them with your fingers (ouch!). If it feels soft and you can almost squash the potato through with your fingers – the potatoes are done.

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

So grab some salt and peel the potatoes with your fingers, creating mess all around (your face included), gobble them down while they are still hot! The best part is this burnt crispy layer which lies right beneath the skin. The rest is tender and almost sweet. New (baby) potatoes work best here – they are small and so will bake through in less time.

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

If you’re afraid your potatoes will burn too much or in case you prefer a cleaner type of meal, wrap the potatoes in aluminum foil before placing them in the stove. But this won’t be the authentic rough old-school way, you know.

P.S. I’ve tried baking potatoes in a bochka, a metal barrel traditionally placed outside the dacha plot (so that all your neighbors can enjoy the smell), used to burn down all that cannot decompose naturally (according to my Granddad). So I guess anything goes here!

Adding this recipe to Lunch/Dinner collection.

G.

no recipe · no-dough · on USSR / Russia · vegetarian

Two Foodie Projects from Yaroslavl

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

In this post I would like to tell you about two food(ie) projects I came across at a local food market in Yaroslavl earlier this year. Our gourmet order arrived recently and now we are savouring some zesty Greek sun-dried olives with thyme and paprika and artisanal goat & sheep milk cheese from… Russia! Never did our fridge emanate such flavours 🙂

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

Chalet na Cherdake (Chalet in the Attic) is a delicatessen project by an enthusiastic foodie based in Yaroslavl, Irina Baryshnikova and her husband Evgeny. Foodies and travellers, they first started making delicatessen for their friends and then in 2015 opened an online gourmet store, or a ‘shop of home delicatessen’ as Irina calls it. Or better still, a lavochka, an old Russian name for both a bench and a shop :).

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

Why Chalet na Cherdake? Irina’s family lives just under the roof of a 5-storey house with windows looking over a forest. There they’ve created their own small chalet and this is how they call their home since. No more explanation is needed 🙂

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

Irina’s a true foodie who loves travelling and sharing, as well as a true magician who knows how to make delicate and at the same time daring combinations of flavours. Irina’s idea is to sell only those things she and her family enjoy eating: ‘we make what we really love’, says Irina. Her recipes are inspired by the ingredients from all over the world: Italy, Israel, Britain, Ireland, Greece…

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

In Chalet na Cherdake shop you will find a selection of high-quality delicatessen (no preservatives!) from sun-dried pears and apples to exquisite strawberry confiture with basil (!).

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

Irina also willingly shares the recipes she uses herself in her kitchen – from a spicy pumpkin cake with dried fruits to the Russian all-time favourite salad recipe, vinegret (vinaigrette). You can find these recipes on Chalet na Cherdake website (in Russian).

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

Jars of delicious olives, tomatoes, jams and curds can be ordered online and delivered to major Russian cities (and at really affordable prices!) or purchased in Yaroslavl, Kostroma and Rybinsk. And one more thing I like about this project – each returned glass jars gives you a 10 RUB discount on your next purchase 🙂

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

Our order arrived really fast – imagine our impatience to open the parcel as we had to wait till Monday as the pick up point was closed over the weekend. We were not concerned with the olives – they can last for quite enough time – but with these curious rounds.

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

Along with 4 jars of olives (who can resist some giant olives from Greece?) we also ordered some goat & sheep cheese made by Irina’s fellow foodie and a talented cheese-maker and master of affinage, Irina Vyrupaeva.

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

Irina has an entire website dedicated to everything cheese-making with advice, recipes and an online store of cheese-making tools and stuff.  It’s called Pro Syr (About Cheese) and there you will find most amazing things, from molds for Caciotta cheese to … mould  for  blue cheese :), as well as recipes for homemade tvorog (cottage cheese), advice how to verify the quality of milk and other cheese-making secrets.

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

The cheese we received in the parcel from Yaroslavl is fragrant and different in texture. As I’m a complete dummy in these things (with all my adoration for cheese), I can only say that it looks and tastes, well, as a real cheese should. And it goes perfectly well with olives by Irina and bread (by me:).

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

Irina Vyrupaeva takes part in various cheese events and organizes workshops on cheese making. Irina is not your amateur cheese-maker, by the way, she is a certified professional who advises cheese-makers and restaurants on the technological side of the thing. Irina doesn’t just make cheese from goat, sheep and cow milk following the formulas but she also creates her own recipes, like the Cosa-Nostra cheese in the photos (cosa sounds like koza, a she-goat in Russian). One of Irina’s recent projects she started with a chocolatier from Moscow is, yes, cheese chocolates – I can only imagine what crazy a melange might be if you combine Camembert and dark chocolate!

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

You can find Irina’s creations in her recently launched cheese shop in the center of Yaroslavl, called Khleb-Syr (Bread-Cheese). There you will also find the other Irina’s delicatessen 🙂 And I admire both women for their courage, energy and mastery! These two projects has made me proud of the Russian creativity and skill. I wish both Irinas lots of inspiring ideas and enough time to make them real!

Chalet na Cherdake, Delicatessen from Yaroslavl

Find out more:

Visit the Chalet na Cherdake project’s website to find out more about Irina’s foodie magic or join her group on FB.

Irina Vyrupaeva‘s cheese-making advice and video can be found on her Pro Syr website (you can also join her FB group).

And I guess… I guess there will be at least two things in the nearest future: I’ll have to order more and I’ll have to start a new page to collect the foodie projects from Russia 🙂

G.

no-dough · vegetarian

Carrot Soup Puree

Carrot Soup Puree

I recently had a sudden inspiration which resulted in a big pot of Carrot Soup Puree. A bright and spicy comfort food soup for these frosty March days.

Carrot Soup Puree

Year ago – Chestnut Coffee Cake and St Petersburg in February
2 years ago – Italian Sourdough Bread with Potatoes and Herbs
3 years ago – No-Fuss Russian Blini from Old Recipe Book
4 years ago – Sprouted Grains and Welcome Spring!
5 years ago – Sourdough Pancakes, as Promised

Carrot Soup Puree – spicy and creamy soup from carrots and the secret ingredients – cauliflower and potatoes.

Ingredients:

  • 5 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 400 g frozen / fresh cauliflower
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 boiled potatoes
  • stalks from fresh parsley, dill and coriander
  • chopped dried celery and parsley roots (traditionally used in soups in Russia)
  • soy sauce
  • olive and sunflower oil
  • pepper, salt, turmeric, paprika, dried basil and other herbs and spices
  • 4 l water
  • fresh herbs and smetana (sour cream), optional

Procedure:

With my mother we usually first make the (vegetarian) broth by heating plain water in the pot together with stalks leftover from the fresh parsley, dill and coriander we use for salads (we keep those in the fridge for the ‘soup day’). We discard them once they loose colour. Then we also add chopped dried celery and parsley roots (traditionally used in soups in Russia) and we do not discard these. My mother also adds whole black pepper but I don’t – since I was a child I just hate the moment when you get it in between your teeth, brrrr.

Meanwhile, heat a large cast-iron pan on medium to low heat and add your roughly chopped carrots. I usually first ‘roast’ the carrots without oil and then when they start getting a bit too brown, I add a mixture of olive and sunflower oil. Add chopped onions (again, the chinks can be pretty big and rough, you will puree them anyway), herbs and spices and keep cooking the veggies stirring from time to time. At some point I also add soy sauce and then I throw in the garlic, chopped.

When your broth is ready, discard the stalks and add the cooked veggies. Don’t forget to pour some water from the pot into the pan, stir a bit and pour the water back into the pot so that you get all the juices and flavours from the veggies. Add you frozen / fresh cauliflower into the pot (you can leave large florets whole), adjust salt and pepper, lower the heat and keep cooking until the carrots and the cauliflower are verging on becoming soft. Puree two boiled potatoes in your blender and add them to the pot – stir well cause the starch can create lumps. Then fish out carrots, onion chunks and cauliflower and puree those too, adding them back to the pot and stirring well. You can leave your pot at low heat while doing this. At this point you can adjust the amount of water and the salt / spices. No need to keep cooking the soup, it should be ready.

Carrot Soup Puree

Remarks: I guess you can use any ‘secret ingredient’ such as pumpkin, zucchini or other member of the cabbage family. And of course you don’t have to have pre-boiled potatoes, you can cook them with the rest of the ingredients. As I was quite generous with the black and red pepper, my soup was pretty hot. Adjust the amount of spices and herbs to your taste buds. Also, add as much water as you wish (to create a thicker / thinner soup) and feel free to leave some veggie chunks too.

Result: Colourful comfort food for early days of spring. Serve it with sour cream and fresh herbs and a slice of good rye bread.

Carrot Soup Puree

Adding this recipe to the Lunch/ Dinner collection.

G.

no recipe · no-dough · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

Pavlovsk Is Beautiful

Pavlovsk

Pavlovsk Park close to St Petersburg is beautiful any time of the year. In winter on sunny day like this it is majestic.

Pavlovsk

For the lack of time and for the laziness I rarely get out of the city to meet with the nature not just on the pages of Michail Prishvin’s diaries (I’m reading his 1948-1949 diary now).

Pavlovsk

We came back with pink cheeks and too much fresh air in our brains and blood. Feels like we’ve been to a forest … with a 100 RUB entrance fee 🙂

Pavlovsk

While I was (swiftly) walking along the park lanes my Dad was making his magic with the camera: there was yet another photoshooting of girls in traditional Russian costumes designed by the enthusiastic promoter of all things Russian Marina Shadenkova. Spot the curious squirrel!

 Photo courtesy of Vasily Mulyukin
Model Marina. Costume by Marina Shadenkova. Photograph courtesy of Vasily Mulyukin
 Photo courtesy of Vasily Mulyukin
Model Marina. Costume by Marina Shadenkova. Photograph courtesy of Vasily Mulyukin
Photo courtesy of Vasily Mulyukin
Model Olga. Costume by Marina Shadenkova. Photograph courtesy of Vasily Mulyukin

What I particularly love about his photos is when he captures and reveals the beauty of the person he’s photographing. I guess that should be the ultimate goal of it all.

And this was one of the paraphernalia used for the shooting which still serves its owner so good we could only marvel at how great this old hand-made wooden sledge can keep the balance!

Pavlovsk

You can see some of my Father’s new photos here. Soon to appear on his website too.

Pavlovsk in summer, Pavlovsk in spring. I’m now missing a post on Pavlovsk Park in autumn.

G.