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.

bread · no recipe · pies · sweet · sweet bread

Apples. Again. A lot

Dacha Apples

Apples are back! Which means apples are gathered, apples are picked up from the ground, apples are given out to all our friends, apples are eaten raw, apples are baked as is and in cakes, apples are made into compote, apples are grated, cut, chopped, sliced, mashed … everything is done in the attempt to make them disappear! 🙂

Dacha Apples

We’ve spent the entire weekend picking them up at our dacha – we filled all our baskets and the plastic bags too. Apples normally come in large numbers every second year, but this year with its un-summer-like summer we were quite surprised that the apples are not only many but also quite sweet!

Dacha Apples

And all that without actually picking the apples from the tree – we just gathered what fell (and is constantly falling) onto the ground. It has been windy as hell here in St Petersburg and the region recently. But this was a very fine late August weekend. With the soft sound of apples falling sneakily behind your back (it just suffices to turn away from the trees for a moment!) or… directly on your head! And so they are now baked in numerous cakes:

Apples

and pies:

Apple Pie
with tons of cinnamon!

Apple Pie

THE best apples that grow in our ground and probably just the best apples are Bely naliv (aka Papirovka) – they are early to ripe, resistant to cold winters, sweet&sour in taste and juicy. Some of them grew to real giants of apples but then they get a bit too mashy, as if you were eating a potato. Here they are on the tree…

August Improvisations

…and making company to some freshly baked sourdough bread. Other types of apples that we have at our dacha include Baltika (pictured in the beginning of the post, with these cute red stripes), Osenneye polosatoye (Stripy Autumnal, with red strokes) and Zvezdochka (Star, winter sort, so thank God we’re to get their harvest some time later; they are red in color).

August Improvisations

And.. as we discovered on Sunday they are now accompanied by plums too. Who would believe we live in the North-West of Russia with all these fruits?

Dacha Plums

For the collection of recipes with apples, see this page.

G.

bread · pies · sweet

Lemon-Gooseberry Bars

August Improvisations

I’ve made these bars with whole lemon and gooseberries recently and my family liked them. There’s no particular recipe for them as it was a part of my improvisations with the ingredients I had at the moment. There was this lonely lemon hanging out in the fridge for some time and those 30% sweet – 70 % sour gooseberries from our dacha 🙂 And some butter in the freezer! The dough recipe was inspired by this friend’s recipe here, I just used less butter, omitted soda+vinegar and added some spices to the dough. The lemon part of the filling was inspired by another friend’s recipe where it is the only fruit component.

August Improvisations

1 year agoGreek Olive Buns and Breadsticks

2 years agoSpanakopita and Mediterranean Vegetable Millefeuille

3 years agoSummer Goes On with Sourdough Mini-Rolls

4 years agoPommes. Pommes de Terre too

Lemon-Gooseberry Bars will make soft pie-like bars with a tangy summer berry flavour.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 100 g butter from the freezer
  • 3-5 glasses of flour
  • spices like cardamom
  • 1 whole lemon
  • gooseberries – I had a mixture of red & black gooseberries
  • 1 Tb cornstarch
  • sugar and spices, to taste

Procedure:

  1. First, mix cold butter with sugar and add eggs. Add a cup of flour and spices and see how it goes. You might need about 2 cups for the dough to be malleable but thick. Turn the pastry onto a surface and divide in two equal parts (balls), wrap them in plastic foil or put them in two plastic bags and then of they go into the freezer for about one hour. The more you chill them, the easier the grating.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Wash the lemon thoroughly, cut it in pieces and take out the seeds. Then put the pieces in the blender and wheeze them to achieve the result you want (bigger / smaller pieces). Add sugar to taste (about 3/4 of a cup I guess) and spices (ginger, mm?) and berries cleaned from all the stalks. Blend the mixture again and then by hand add the cornstarch (which will help create a less runny filling).
  3. Grate one piece of the dough to make the base for the pie – you can grate directly onto the bottom of a lined rectangular baking tin. The larger tin you use the thinner the dough and filling levels will be. Spread the filling all over the bottom layer and grate the second ball on top of the filling, covering it as much as you can (avoid too much action so that you do not destroy the authentic ‘grated’ look!). If the dough gets too soft making grating quite a hard job, put the ball into the freezer back for some time and then continue the process.
  4. Bake at 180’C for about 30 minutes.
  5. Let the pie cool a bit and then cut it into slices.

August Improvisations

Remarks: Although the berries I had were already quite tangy (to say the least), I think the combination with sugar was a good one. Just add enough sugar to cover the sourness of both. And you can use any kind of berries you have, I think. The filling will be oozing from the sides of the pie but that’ll only create this sugary extra something to the border slices 🙂

Result: Lemon-gooseberry bars, isn’t it a perfect end-of-summer vitamin booster?

August Improvisations

Check out these Double-Decker Gooseberry Scones too!

This post goes to the Sweet and Berry recipe collections.

G.

French recipe · sweet

Moelleux aux Groseilles for My Mother

Moelleux aux Groseilles (Redcurrant Cake)

In between the series of the Trans-Siberian journey posts, here’s a simple and yet very delicate red currant cake that I’ve made for my Mother’s birthday. With all the berries we are having now at our dacha, this was just ‘what the doctor prescribed’. Enjoying the sourness of our northern berries with the sweetness of the summer days.

Moelleux aux Groseilles (Redcurrant Cake)

1 year ago – Petrogradsky and Aptekarsky Islands in Details – no recipe in this post

2 years ago – Chasing Alexander Pushkin in Tsarskoye Selo – no recipe in this post

3 years ago – Zucchini and Aubergine Whole Wheat Pizza

4 years ago – Moscow and Courgette Pies

Moelleux aux Groseilles or Redcurrant Cake adapted from the lovely lavenderandlovage.com will make a French-style dacha-inspired upside-down cake with that sweet & sour combination in one bite. For the entire recipe, follow the link above. Here are my changes and remarks:

As far as the ingredients go, I used 2 small eggs instead of one large egg and also regular (though quite fine-grain) sugar instead of caster sugar. I substituted all-purpose flour + baking soda for the self-rising flour as well. I also thought that adding at least some vanilla extract would help veil the egg flavour, so I added some to the batter.

Moelleux aux Groseilles (Redcurrant Cake)

As for the procedure, I suppose 200 ‘C was a little it too much. I and could see through the oven window that the top was browning too fast, so I decreased the temperature to about 180 ‘C for the last 10 minutes or so (the total time being 30 minutes). I used a bundt tin and didn’t line it with paper, just greased it generously.

Moelleux aux Groseilles (Redcurrant Cake)

Remarks: The northern berries are normally quite watery and sour (or with the best-case scenario – just not sweet enough) so the top of my cake was a little bit too moist in some parts. Although the soft and yet ship-shape cake counterbalanced this moisture (and I turned it out of the form almost in its entirety), I wouldn’t add any more berries for fear of creating too much liquid on top.

Moelleux aux Groseilles (Redcurrant Cake)

Result: This French-style upside-down cake is easy to make but interesting enough thanks to this combination of the tangy berry topping and the airy ‘base’ part (after all, it’s a moelleux which means soft & delicate in French). My Mother particularly praised it for this sweet & sour combination.

Moelleux aux Groseilles (Redcurrant Cake)

… And if you find the tangy berries a bit too much, you can always add a bit more icing sugar on top (anyway, it will disappear entirely after some time, being absorbed by the berries)! Or even eat it with some whipped cream as the author suggests. If you are interested in other ways to use red currants in baking, try this red currant meringue cake, red currant coffeecake, red currant flan or any of these options.

Mama's birthday

Just some photos to save the moment. Dried mulberries (from a local tea & natural stuff shop) in a clay cup (from my Trans-Siberian trip), such a treat for sweet-toothed!

Mama's birthday

And some freshly baked sourdough rye bread.

Mama's birthday

Will come back soon with the continuation of my travel posts, I’ve got aaaall the Siberia to tell you about.

This post goes to Berries, Sweet and Country-specific recipe collections.

G.

no recipe · St Petersburg · travel

Spring and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

Spring and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo (aka Pushkin) equal a very very enjoyable Sunday! Let’s dive into the Art Nouveau architecture straight away, by visiting one of the first modernist buildings in St Petersburg:

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

It’s such a coincidence that the first building discussed in the book on Art Nouveau in St Petersburg I picked up today for reading would be this very dacha!

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

According to the legend, Queen Victoria presented it to one of her relatives from the Russian royal family Grand Duke Boris Vladimirovich of Russia (grandson of Alexander II), who ordered it to be built in the very end of the 19th century by British architects. Hence the English-cottage style:

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

The Soviets first gave it to Lunacharsky and then to the famous scientist Vavilov who had his study in this building. Since then it is still occupied by Vavilov Research Institute of Plant Industry. You can spot their greenhouses to the right:

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

And thanks to them they also preserved the garden surrounding the dacha buildings. Not all them survived though. But the over-hundred-year-old cedars are alive!

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

This building has become a film star thanks to becoming a filming location of the much loved Soviet Sherlock Holmes series back in 1980. It was filmed from the outside to make a perfect home for one of the characters in The Adventure of the Empty House. And from the inside it impersonated a hotel in Switzerland in The Adventure of the Final Problem 🙂 And how amazing it is actually inside – oak furniture, doors and wall panels… Pity we couldn’t enter to see all that!

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

The early spring decadence can only rival with that of autumn.

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

The ivy is still dormant, there are a few flowers around and the sun graphically emphasizes the details. And Art Nouveau is in the details.

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

This nearby building was less lucky. Just a few years ago the clock tower was still holding on but now it is pretty much threatening the passers by. This is the stables, actually.

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

And this one is a later addition by the court architect, in the same style. It was supposed to house the duke’s guests along with one of the first cars in the country (and a chauffeur).

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

This used to be an arch – for that very car to drive through:

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

Details:

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

And this one:

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

Very decadent:

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

And just for a change – the glorious gates to Catherine Palace:

Tsarskoye Selo in Spring

This post goes to my St Petersburg series.

G.