pies · sweet

Red Currant Pie with Ground Oats and Peanuts

Red Currant Pie

Berries from dacha. Some of them are now frozen, some of them turned into a sort of zhivoe varenye (live confiture, consisting of berries strained with sugar, no boiling involved – the best way to preserve all the good stuff in the fruit), some of them eaten raw (gosh, they are so sour!) and some end up as a filling to numerous cakes, muffins and this time also a pie.

Red Currant Pie

This summer with June and July almost sun-less, has not given the berries enough sugar so they are eeeextra sour. Thanks God, no apples this year – I can only imagine how sour they would be…

Red Currant Pie

Red currants are traditionally extremely sour. Yet, I like baking with them, they seem to give that special ‘it’ to the cakes and pies.

Red Currant Pie

After making quick cakes and muffins, I’ve finally got over my laziness and here’s a pastry pie I baked today with the last red currants from our dacha – soft and zesty. Why peanuts in a berry pie? Well, I just had some in front of me.

Red Currant Pie

Same goes with why I decided to add this tolokno (see Remarks below) layer to the pie 0 I guess I just had it on the table at that moment too! However, it seems it was not that bad an idea after all – it has given the berries an extra soft (and sweet) layer and also prevented the juices from destroying the bottom of the pie. I think it worked in a sort of custard-y way.

Red Currant Pie

1 year ago – Lemon-Gooseberry Bars

2 years ago – Greek Olive Buns and Breadsticks

3 years ago – Spanakopita and Mediterranean Vegetable Millefeuille

4 years ago – Summer Goes On with Sourdough Mini-Rolls

5 years ago – Pommes. Pommes de Terre too

Red Currant Pie with Ground Oats and Peanuts

Ingredients (as with most of my recipes – the amounts are very approximate!)

  • 150-200 g sugar, divided
  • lemon zest, to taste
  • 90-100 g butter, cold or from freezer
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • handful of peanuts, ground into flour
  • all-purpose flour, enough for the pastry
  • 2-3 Tb oat flour (preferably tolokno or kama, see Remarks)
  • 1/2 cup warm water, or more as needed
  • fresh red currants

Procedure

First, make the pastry. Cut cold butter into small pieces, mix in about 50-70 g sugar, depending on how sweet you want your pastry, lemon zest and the egg. Working rather quickly before the butter softens too much, add a pinch of salt, ground peanuts and start adding all-purpose flour, delicately but swiftly kneading the pastry with your hand. My idea was to make it rather soft and crumbly so I did not knead it into a disk. Leave the pastry covered in the fridge for at least 30 min.

Meanwhile, prepare the oat flour layer. I used the easiest method for making kasha from tolokno (see Remarks), by mixing it gradually into a small bowl with some warm water, adjusting the amount of flour to achieve rather thick consistency. Add in about 50 g of sugar (the mixture will get more runny).

Line a round or rectangular baking dish with parchment paper. Take the pastry out of the fridge and distribute a bigger (2/3) part of it on the bottom, by gently rubbing it through your fingers. In this way you’re creating a more ‘aerated’ sort of pastry layer rather than a smooth one, so no worries if there are ‘holes’ in the bottom layer. Keep the rest of the pastry in the fridge.

Pour the oat mixture over the bottom pastry layer and scatter red currants on top, finishing with some more sugar, depending on the sweetness of your berries (ours are as usual super sour). Take the remaining pastry from the fridge and rub it through your fingers over the berries. There will be more spaces in the top layer with berries popping out as you’ll have less pastry for it but that’s exactly what you need.

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Bake for about 40-45 min. until the top layer is golden and the berries are happily bubbling away.

Red Currant Pie

Remarks

Tolokno aka kama or talkan, is a traditional grind of slightly toasted whole oats, considered to be healthier than what you get with the industrially milled oats. In Karelia they eat it with berries and it’s such a treat! You can of course use oat flour or grind some oatmeal instead.

Red Currant Pie

My pastry ‘recipe’ is not anywhere close to what you would call classic, so feel free to use your favourite recipe. Anyway, I have to confess, putting enough butter into the pastry does make a difference – it’s just what I wanted – soft and crumbly!

Red Currant Pie

Result

Sweet-n’-sour in one bite, very soft and peanut-y, with distinct flavour from the oats detected.

Red Currant Pie

This recipe goes to the Berries and Sweet collections where you will find many more recipes with red currants in particular, like Cardamom and Red Currant Cake, Coconut Red Currant Bread, Pretty Good Red Currant Coffeecake, Moelleux aux Groseilles or Redcurrant CakeRed Currant Meringue Pie, Red Currant Flan and Red Currant and Marzipan Swirls among others.

G.

architecture · on USSR / Russia · travel

Crimea in May: Ghost Soviet Sanatorium

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

In continuation of my post on Vorontsov Palace and Park in Alupka here is my second one in the Crimean series in which I indulge myself into one of my favourite pastimes – exploring decadent places, sometimes but not necessarily including running away from dogs.

Vorontsovsky Palace

When I was walking down to Alupka’s center from where the Sevastopol-Yalta bus dropped me off on the highway, I read a sign on the bus stop – Sanatory Solnechny (Sunny Health Resort), there was even a booth nearby which was supposed to be greeting guests. It was closed though.

Vorontsovsky Palace

On the same day I spotted this mansion with this gate and a fountain behind it. The sign however read Vkhoda Net, no entrance… There were apparently several more of such mansions around with some signs and numbers on them. I realized these were the remains of that very sanatorium. So next evening I decided to go and see if I could actually take a better look at the place.

Vorontsovsky Palace

Sanatoriums were massively introduced in the Soviet Union driven by the idea that even the sole vicinity to the sea, fresh air and sun is capable of making people healthier and more productive. For instance, the Gulf of Finland coastline is stuffed with sanatoriums and children’s camps, all meant to let the sun-deprived citizens of Leningrad benefit from the pine forests and sandy beaches.

Vorontsovsky Palace

People would get heavily discounted putevka (vouchers) to such health resorts from their work places – or from a medical organization. And although a sanatorium is now mostly considered to be a place for elderly people lazily moving from one medical procedure to another throughout the day and enjoying their dietary restricted meals (adapted to the patient’s ailment), that was a way for many people to get some rest with the benefit for their health – at least once in a while.

Vorontsovsky Palace

This sanatorium in Alupka was treating people with TB and nervous system-related health issues – with the view over the mountains, rest in the beautiful park and walks along the sea included. Sign me up! Too late though – seems like it was shut down just recently, its website merely saying that ‘the distribution of vouchers has been suspended’.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

I don’t have any blood-curdling story to go with this ghost sanatorium, there’s just this sad but seemingly inevitable fact that most of the unprofitable Soviet heritage in Crimea – as in many other places across Russia – goes wasted, abandoned, looted and burnt down.

Vorontsovsky Palace

I’ve googled this sanatorium and they say it was established in 1917 (rings a bell?) out of various nationalized mansions and dacha that were unfortunate enough to be built by rich people in Alupka before the revolution.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Little did they know back then that thousands of Soviets willing to recover from illnesses or to regain some health would flood into their leisure houses and their private rooms would be turned into common bathrooms, dining halls and massage cabinets.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Hence, this place in Alupka is double decadence – first it was abandoned by its owners and then it was (very recently) left by the people who ran the sanatorium. Some of the buildings however seem to be used as apartments (that’s where I got driven away by the dogs) – although the ‘medical service’ car parked outside manifests that those who occupy this place are probably its former employees.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Looks like the door to this mansion got a little bit … blocked:

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

This building is way below the ground:

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Now nature is taking its own back, turning these places into a sort of savage woods.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

One of the mansions got particularly unlucky as it was turned into a dump …. with a few cats really loving it there. Meanwhile, how do you find this balcony?

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Govorit Moskva…’ (This is Moscow speaking):

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

This blue house was on the ‘beach’ (there’s not one there, everything is either cemented or full of rocks), I was there in May and someone already wrote ‘Alupka Summer 2017’ in red paint on one of its sides (the hammer and sickle sign from the photo above was spotted near the ‘children’s beach’):

Vorontsovsky Palace

One of the mansions belonging to the sanatorium is just below the hotel I was staying at – it is already in a half-burnt state and the hotel’s owner has the intention to expand his premises incorporating it too. I hope at least one of them will get a proper – and delicate – facelift.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

… They say Abkhazia is the place to go if you’re interested in decadence overtaken by nature. Will go there one day.

This post goes to my Travel series.

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.

architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · travel

Dunino, Zvenigorod and Moscow

Moscow

This time Moscow has shown to me its private side. First, though, we had to ride next to the outrageously high fences rising along the posh Rublevskoye highway where all those who have money and an urge to make everyone know about it have their dacha or home.

Moscow
And then all of a sudden you get to this tiny road with low fences, out-of-use phone booths and cars growing into the soil. By the way, the spot with the phone booth out-of-use and a new one in-use, seems to be also the one either with a better mobile reception or with too many phone-calling memories attached as we spotted 2 people simultaneously talking on their phones right there.

Moscow

But we were actually after the place where one of my favourite personalities of the 20th century lived, the Russian writer Mikhail Prishvin. He bought a house here in Dunino in Podmoskovye (the Moscow region) after the war and settled here with his wife and dog(s).

Moscow

Here, who would believe this is the same Moscow river as that wide highway running through the capital, near the Red Square and the Stalin’s skyscrapers?

Moscow

Life is so calm and unpretentious in Dunino. It’s obvious why Prishvin with his love for nature and simple life would move here and come to Moscow only when his car would break down 🙂

Moscow

Mikhail Prishvin lived here with his second wife who was his real soulmate, although 26 years younger than him. They found each other when Prishvin was 67, just before the war. This cozy house is just impregnated with the love they shared.

Moscow

I’ve been reading his diaries recently, not in the chronological order though. I started with the torturous 1930-31 and now moved on to the after-war 1948-49.

Moscow

Reading his daily musings and piercing thoughts about his country, about life and just about everything, makes you understand the very truth of his saying that for every line of his diary he could as well have got 10 years of execution.

Moscow

The house and the garden with beehives and many trees are very peaceful and as if waiting for their master to come back from the usual hours-long walks in the forest.

Moscow

Best-known in Russia for his short stories about nature and animals (and thus mostly read only in childhood), Prishvin as a writer, as a thinker, as a skillful photographer, was so very beyond this ‘tagline’ that persists today. Just read his Ginseng novel: yes, it’s so very romantic and out-of-place (written in the early 1930s and published in 1933 when the country was preoccupied with very different things like labour camps etc) but so very poignant, so philosophical (in a good way).

Moscow

I’m glad that writing a master’s thesis on this very novel did not ruin my love to the writer. I’m still discovering the treasure he left behind him, reading his diaries as real revelations of the era. Prishvin outlived Stalin for just 1 year but considering the things he dared to think and write down (though without publishing of course, his diaries only came to the public in the 1990s), he was way too lucky.

Moscow

Our next stop was in Zvenigorod where Prishvin used to walk sometimes. Under torrents of rain we ran into the Savvino-Storozhevsky Monastery which houses a local museum as well as executing its original functions.

Moscow

This monastery founded in the 14th century was pretty famous and quite rich in the old days. Now it looks a bit shabby but obviously gets its fair share of tourists and pilgrims who willingly buy bread (each of the items seems to be called Monastery-soemthing) and kvas.

Moscow

We spent quite a bit of time at the bread store but we also visited the museum which is divided into several section. With every new section we entered, the weather would change to the better. When we went out of the last one, the sun came out and the rain stopped.

Moscow

The sun finally opened my eyes to the surroundings and I regained interest in taking photos and in general looking out of my hood 🙂

Moscow

The spring always comes to Moscow earlier than to St Petersburg which is always lagging behind. My eyes were happy to see some bright green colors:

Moscow

By the time we went into the bread store and the cafe, it was all very fine. But when we were sitting in the cafe…

Moscow

The rain started again – this time it was recklessly pouring onto the surrounding hills and fields regardless of the shining sun. Here’s how it was:

Moscow

Our last stop before returning to Moscow was an old church hidden somewhere off the busy roads. It was unfortunately all covered in scaffolding so I took a photo of this small house instead. The street is called Gorodok, which is a diminutive of a city or town.

Moscow

Next morning we went to the recently-opened Museum of Russian Impressionism (yes, it does exist!) where we recharged our batteries with sun-lit paintings some of which were from Armenia (and were really good). After that we went to see one of the atypical places in the enormous capital, Sokol or the settlement (village) of artists.

Moscow

Rising up in the background of this photo is a nearby residential house and it’s a tricky question what seems to be more out of place: this high-rise monster or this village with tiny wooden houses? Although they say it is much more expensive to buy any of these houses than a pretty posh apartment in the center.

Moscow

The history of this unexpected village planted right in the middle of a ‘normal’ high-rise Moscow district is quite recent: it began in 1923 when the ideas of a garden city were in the air (including St Petersburg, then Leningrad) and so a community of artists, scientists and other intelligentsia were granted the right to use the land. The streets of this village are named after famous Russian artists, although they say not many artists live here now. It still preserves an atmosphere of an ordered village but the ever-present fences do not allow you to see many of the houses.

Moscow

We left the district on this bright blue tram. Seems so out-of-place in a more-than-busy capital like Moscow, doesn’t it? And yet the line crosses streets and parks and many people do still prefer this means of transport as it takes them to those hidden places where people actually live.

I really enjoyed this private side of Moscow!

This post goes to the Travel series where you can find more posts on Moscow under ‘Russia’.

G.

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

Autumn in Oreshek Fortress and Dacha

Oreshek in Autumn

While it’s snowing outside (first snow in St Petersburg today) I’m continuing the “Autumn in…” series with Oreshek Fortress and our dacha which are relatively close to each other. This time we went to Oreshek with a train which stops almost at the pier from where there’s a boat on which you can get to the island.

Oreshek in Autumn

It was a super windy day but there was sun which brightened the things up and made us stubbornly wind-resistant. The Neva looked very agitated – even more so than in May earlier this year:

Oreshek in Autumn

This is where the river Neva takes its start, flowing right from the Ladoga Lake. And it just crashes into the island with all its force. The island actually looks (and feels) like a ship forever moored right in the middle of the river.

Oreshek in Autumn

The rusty colours of autumn.

Oreshek in Autumn

…and the mossy colours of autumn:

Oreshek in Autumn

And at our dacha – the never-ending apple story that we’ve got ourselves up until ears this year. That day we’ve raked (a new word for me but definitely not at all a new activity!) a lot all the dead leaves and it felt good. Really good.

Dacha in Late Autumn

the dying colours of autumn:

Dacha in Late Autumn

the withered colours of autumn:

Dacha in Late Autumn

and a sudden pink delight:

Dacha in Late Autumn

delightful from all sides:

Dacha in Late Autumn

More “autumn in…” posts are coming soon.

Adding this post to the St Petersburg collection.

G.

no recipe

And September is Gone

and September is gone

…and where did September go?

and September is gone

And we are still collecting apples at our dacha and having a cozy moment of being inside –  our verandah is definitely the place to be…

and September is gone

… while outside there’s a sudden rain with the sun shining brightly. Well, if you can call sudden a rain that is most ostentatiously preceded by very dark clouds.

and September is gone

There was warm sun, there were sunbeams breaking free through the clouds, there was wind, there were apples falling on our heads. Such a privilege to have a place to escape to and not from! Dacha, I love you, you know!

and September is gone

On the days like this, you learn how to carpe diem at least sometimes. And as usual – some physical work in the fresh autumn air is always good for you.

and September is gone

A sheer pleasure to go around with your camera and try to seize the moment, the colors and the senses:

and September is gone
I know this place by heart. And it is in my heart. I remember daydreaming about going to our dacha sitting in the classroom in those short winter days, making the whole journey there in my mind, following every turn of the road.

and September is gone

Years go by, the world around you changes but there is this place that will always stay yours, keeping your memories for you, looking so comfortably reassuringly familiar just when you need it.

and September is gone
Hello October! What do you have on your mind, I wonder?

and September is gone

Back home, listening to Enya’s ‘A Day Without Rain’ in an old-fashioned way (i.e. with a CD player). I would listen to this album every autumn, it used to be my soundtrack of the season. It might sound a bit too sentimental / banal, but indeed, where have those years gone?

A whole new month ahead of us. Lots of apples to eat too 🙂

G.

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

Repino on Gulf of Finland

Repino

Let’s celebrate summer and my blog’s 5th birthday by looking back at our trip to Repino on the Gulf of Finland. This small town to the North of St Petersburg is mostly famous for its celebrated inhabitant, Russian painter Ilya Repin. In this house called Penaty (the Penates) he lived up until his death in 1930:

Repino

The town itself – or rather a fisherman’s village – used to be called by its Finnish name Kuokkala (from koukku – fish hook which characterized its main industry pretty accurate) until 1948. For what I know it might have been renamed after another famous inhabitant, the writer Korney Chukovsky, but he was not in favor at all. I read about his life in his house in Kuokkala (jokingly referred to as Chukokkala) and all those well-known poets, writers, painters and singers who visited him there. Chukovsky would in his turn visit Repin in his curious house. To do this, he had to first cross the park:

Repino

Of course the house has been rebuilt and renewed several times since its construction in 1906 as all which was left after the Second World War was its basement. Kuokkala was not lucky enough to remain intact.

Repino

We went inside what is now the museum of Ilya Repin to see the interiors (here I should admit that they really put in a lot of effort to recreate its atmosphere) and found two floors of cozy rooms with lots of light and hand-made objects. It feels like a dacha and yet this was the painter’s home for many years. I particularly liked his study:

Repino

and the verandah looks pretty too – there’s so much light in there!

Repino
One of the stars of the house is this dining table which the guests could spin to access the dish they wanted. The Repin family was particularly proud not to be attended by any servants in their house – and so they would instruct all their guests on how to be self-sufficient 🙂

Repino

Unfortunately photos are not allowed in this museum and I didn’t manage to take any of all those cozy things on the second floor. Anyway, Repin’s house and the surrounding park with the painter’s grave are worth visiting. They have that very special aura around them which surprisingly survived or at least got very painstakingly recreated after all these years. I would compare it to the house-museum of Vasily Surikov in Krasnoyarsk, another Russian painter, his friend and contemporary.

Repino

No, this is not Baikal. This is Gulf of Finland, the closest you can get to the sea within the borders of St Petersburg. From Repin’s Penates you just cross the road and you see the sea. The Soviet times did not pass for nothing here: there are numerous health resorts all along the beach. And then the new times also transformed the town, introducing all those expensive and oddly looking dacha. But people still have their beach to walk – and you can walk and walk and walk…

Repino

It might be cold and very shallow but this is our sea 🙂

Repino
This is the Baltic sea as seen from this side, the St Petersburg side (I also happen to see its ‘other’ side in the Kaliningrad region). We had our lunch on the sandy and windy beach and then made a long stroll along the shore talking with my Mother. Love those moments!

Repino

Oh, goodbye summer.

 

This post goes to the St Petersburg and Travel series.

G.