muffins · sweet · travel

Black Currant Muffins, Vyborg and Lappeenranta

Vyborg, Russia

A quick post combining three in one. Food, friends and travelling – best memories of this autumn 2015. First things first – I’ll start from the revisiting of a town situated to the North of St Petersburg, close to the border with Finland. I was in Vyborg in May and now we went to Vyborg again in early October.

Vyborg, Russia

My aim was to see the Monrepos park in its autumnal glory. At first it was cold and windy – perfect only for Vyborg krendel’ (pretzel) and hot sbiten‘ (honey beverage) but we courageously mounted the 200 something stairs up the St Olaf’s tower (see above), glimpsed some of the decadent Medieval part of the city:

Vyborg, Russia

…and then I walked to the park while the weather was gradually getting better. Here are the 18th century fortifications which did not survive the time test half as well as the Medieval ones did.

Vyborg, Russia

I made a long walk in the park – it was not long in time but in distance. I actually walked all the way to the End of the World – this is how the farthest corner of this landscape park is called. Somewhere on my way there I found these roots:

Vyborg, Russia

And there was this tiny ‘pebble’ too. Perfectly Karelian forest – although it was designed in the 18th century and artificially planted to resemble an English landscape park:

Vyborg, Russia

The view on the Gulf of Finland in such gloomy but absolutely characteristic weather (it was changing with the wind) is quite atmospheric and graphical:

Vyborg, Russia

Loved this view too:

Vyborg, Russia

The Island of the Dead, adding up to the Romantic / Gothic aura of the Monrepos park:

Vyborg, Russia

Feeling inspired? Get more information about Vyborg here.

***

A short break for food now?

 

Glazed Blueberry Doughnut Muffins from www.cookingclassy.com

A year ago – Kaliningrad: In Search of Old Konigsberg

Two years ago – Cheesy Potato and Leek Bake with Sourdough Bread

Three years ago – Autumnal Comfort Sweet Treats

Four years ago – An Easy Bread and A Not That Easy Bread

Glazed Blueberry Black Currant Doughnut Muffins adapted from www.cookingclassy.com will make soft ship-shape berry muffins. For the entire recipe visit the original blog.

My changes: Used less salt, added lemon zest and substituted blueberries with defrosted black currants from our dacha.

Glazed Blueberry Doughnut Muffins from www.cookingclassy.com

Remarks: I tried not to overmix the batter so that they do not become dark blue from the berries. I skipped the glaze part which definitely adds sweetness to the muffins. I had to bake them a bit longer – at the suggested time they were still to ‘white’.

Result: These muffins rose nicely and were soft inside. A simple recipe for a simple sweet treat!

Glazed Blueberry Doughnut Muffins from www.cookingclassy.com

***

Lappeenranta, Finland

And now on to my last stop of this post – Lappeenranta, Finland, where we celebrated my school friend’s marriage. It was probably the best destination to make the trip there easy both for my friend’s Russian friends and her husband’s British family.

Lappeenranta, Finland

The wedding was beautiful, bringing together such different people for the sole aim – to make this moment special for the couple, for their relatives and for us, the friends. It was completely not Russian (though there was a traditional karavay that the newly married break and eat with salt, a very tasty bread!) and yet it was a cozy and cheerful event. It felt both Christmas and some kind of harvest-celebration 🙂 I also felt involved in the preparation and the actual day of the wedding (although that was already a symbolic not the official wedding), which definitely made me enjoy the process even more.

Lappeenranta, Finland

My best wishes to the beautiful people – Tanya & Ben, take care of each other and let magic into your life!

Lappeenranta, Finland

Next day we had some hours before the bus back to St Pete. For the citizens of St Petersburg, Lappeenranta is where you go to get that stamp on your Shengen visa. You go shopping there too.

Lappeenranta, Finland

So it was quite a new experience this time when I actually stayed there for two nights and had a Finnish breakfast instead of Russian buterbrod 🙂 See the various rye bread? The triangle with bran is actually a round flat bread, very tasty. The square one was with caraway seeds which to my mind and taste buds just spoil the whole thing. The pie was with sweetened rice and milk (cream?) on a thin-thin rye crust (close to our Karelian kalitka pies).

Lappeenranta, Finland

I jogged in Finland for the first time, in the darkness along the embankment until I got that weird fear of boats I have for some reason back. That made me run in the opposite direction 🙂 I walked along the embankment again several hours later, going up to the fortress and enjoying the colours of autumn.

Lappeenranta, Finland

Brought back some tasty rye bread, Polaroid photos from the wedding and warm memories of a very pleasant time and a friendly party.

Adding this post to Travels, Berries and Sweet Recipes. Will come back to continue my Provence saga and give you some ideas of the South of Russia.

G.

no recipe · on USSR / Russia · travel

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Capital of Karelian Republic

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

My second trip to Petrozavodsk, the capital of Karelian Republic in the North of Russia, has proved once again my first impression of a very provincial and yet welcoming city. In fact this visit has been one of the most rewarding as far as my job goes. But of course there was a travel part to this journey which was almost completely left out during my first time in Petrozavodsk 2 years ago.

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

Petrozavodsk is of exactly the same age as St Petersburg and was founded by the same super-active person, tsar and then emperor Peter the Great. Actually, Petrozavodsk is a shortened version of Petrovsky Zavod, the Factory of Peter, as there was this factory founded to make metal things for the Russian fleet.

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

People had populated the area long before the new settlement appeared on the shores of the Onega lake, well, in fact, thousands of years earlier, so the region has enough to show and tell about its indigenous people and their culture, the Karelians. The language is very close to the Finnish language and – if not widely spoken – it is still preserved in the region. Petrozavodsk is Petroskoi in Karelian and that’s what you read written on top of the Stalinist railway station building when you arrive from St Petersburg.

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

Karelia for me is all about forests and stones. It’s a pity in this time of the year you don’t see much when travelling with an overnight train. When we arrived in Petrozavodsk it was so early in the morning we had to wait at the station (which had free wifi and actually there’s wifi all over the city for free!) till it got less dark and we could go have breakfast on the 4th floor of an ex-mica factory (dating back to 1930 but now shut down) with a view over the old roofs of the city. We were the first customers but I must say that Na Kryshe (On the Roof) cafe proved to be ready with tasty buttermilk oladyi (pancakes) served with oblepikhovoye varenye (sea buckthorn jam) and a pot of milk Oolong tea. And that was a very economical breakfast!

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

Out of all the cities I visited so far this autumn I think I liked the haunted Kaliningrad with its ever present past the most. Whereas Chelyabinsk left very negative feeling and it was not for nothing that I kept coughing each time I went outside there, Petrozavodsk left a rather positive impression on me. It’s a small very low rising (unless you visit one of the suburbs) provincial town with some preserved old houses and an embankment where you can catch a hydrofoil to get you to the famous Kizhi island which has become an open-air museum for wooden structures. We arrived too late in the year to get there but I hope I will see Kizhi soon. At least I don’t mind seeing Petrozavodsk in a better weather!

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

Petrozavodsk itself is an open-air museum for old houses, be it wooden barracks or Stalinist imposing buildings along the main arteries of the city. It used to be a very St Pete-like city, I mean the houses were really old, both built in stone and those in wood. Like this hospital building which can be seen from the Onega Lake embankment:

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

Well, the war swept away most of the old city and there came the 1950s when the new rationalizing plans which brought new buildings for the better future of the Soviet Petrozavodsk. And oh boy what houses!

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

This is the house where the central office of Post of Russia is (no postcards!). Actually sometimes the buildings housing Post of Russia are one of the best in the cities I’ve visited (like in Vologda). But then it rarely affect the quality and the swiftness of the service…

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

Another grand Stalinist house forming the ensemble of the central square:

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

With these Stalinist buildings you just have to remember to look up from time to time – to discover all those details and (decaying) balconies which I actually try to avoid these days 🙂

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

And then – in stark contrast – there is this type of houses – we saw several of them:

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

or these barracks – people still live there, mind you…

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

the same house from the other side – and with the wood for the long winter…

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

and this is the entrance to one of the wooden houses opposite those barracks

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

and how about this one?

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

the wall is just oh so decadent!

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

However the city has a number of 19th and early 20th century wooden houses all gathered together near Onega embankment that form a separate district of historical and architectural value. Take a walk along the Onega Lake embankment starting from the square in front of the Theatre and then turning left. But do not walk fast however windy the day might be!

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

The embankment is yet another open-air museum (and how does one fit in all this in such a small town?!) – this time of various successful and not that very successful sculptures and statues. The one from the beginning of the post called the Statue of Fishermen (a gift from Minnesota) looks really nice against the colourful sunset sky and the lake while the tall figure of Peter the Great (19th century) has actually been removed from its original place twice throughout the Soviet period. And guess who stands in Peter’s place now in the middle of the central square? You’ll find it out later in the post.

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

And with this small stone house begins the district full of old wooden houses, in one of which we entered to warm ourselves up a bit and from which we went out with some embroidered souvenirs. They also have some natural products like shampoo and soap, made without any preservatives and all that stuff.

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

This is the hospital church:

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

And this is one of the most expensive hotels in the city spoiling the view on the old town. ‘Spoiling’ because as I said the city has very small amount of high-rises in its historical center, so this weird construction can be seen from far away.

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

On the last day of our stay we left our hotel and went for a walk in the sun, heading towards the local history museum where we wanted to spend some quality time. It was sunny but rather frosty and we had quite a lot of time before the train back to St Pete – that was not an overnight but a rather fast Siemens train with comfortable seats which takes 5 hours.

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

When we came to the end of this wall we realized that was the Industrial Museum (which we skipped) occupying the old factory buildings. We thoroughly enjoyed this urban art on the walls!

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

So in the end we spent an unusual for an average visitor lot of time at the local history museum. Recommended by the way! There’s even a chance to listen to some Karelian folk songs and incantations or get a copy of Karelian recipes (will try some of them for sure!). Karelian cuisine is based on what the wild nature gives you and so some of the exhibits at the museum were dedicated to it.

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

And yep, here’s your Lenin right in the middle of Lenin Square (apparently), where Peter the Great used to stand until the 1930s came. And the Square itself has a very curious story to tell – it changed its name so many times I got lost when counting them. Well, they definitely embellished the look of the square whatever name you call it in the recent years. But as soon as you go into the back yard of the museum, you find yourself staring at this wrack of the “state-preserved” building:

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

The museum will also tell you about the brief period of the Finnish occupation of the city (1941-44) when the same Square which used to be Round Square (:) was renamed into Administrative Square. And oh, remember those Karelian forests that go on and on and on? Well, with the forests you have a strong culture of gathering or foraging and that means you have all the tools for berry picking or hunting for mushrooms 🙂 Here’s what you can see at display at the museum:

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

This thingy with spikes is to pick berries in a fast and efficient way. Everything made from wood and bark of the trees… Perfect! Just as this proto-rucksack for carrying all the treasure the forests can give:

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

After that we just could not have missed the local food! So we headed to the same restaurant opposite one of the best known symbols of Petrozavodsk (hotel Severnaya where I stayed last time – definitely NOT recommended, if only to see the inside of that super-red Stalinist buildings with white columns) where I ate 2 years ago. The restaurant is called Karelskaya Gornitsa and is although quite pricey and tourist-oriented is a nice place to imagine yourself travelling back in time.

  Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

But you see, last time we went to the Finnish part of the restaurant and this time we entered the Karelian part, which I found out when we were already leaving the place. All the time we were there I was wondering why I cannot recognize the place at all =) And then they explained to me there are two entrances leading to two parts of the restaurant. So we’ve made a better choice this time entering the Karelian cuisine part!

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

There I sampled thew most fluffy and almost yogurt-like thing called tolokno (oat flour which contains all the bran usually removed when making the regular flour) mixed with blueberries (hence the colour) and also a rye blin (pancake) filled with millet. This type of rye or barley pancake is called skantsy or sulchiny and is traditionally filled with porridge (they are either baked or fried, sweet or sour). We drank cowberry mors (juice) which is almost always the best choice when it comes to traditional non-alcoholic drinks in Russia.  

For some Karelian recipes, see my post on kalitka, traditional Karelian rye boat-like pie which is also enjoyed in Finland and in the North of Russia.

Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia

So, to wrap up Petrozavodsk, here are my checklist points:

  • decent postcards – failed
  • post office – found
  • market – failed
  • local history museum – done
  • dairy products and baked stuff – sampled
  • local specialités – as far as the vegetarian stuff is concerned – tasty! And my Mom said that her fried fish and rich mushroom soup were really good!
  • old town – seen and admired

Here you can hear the official hymn of the Republic of Karelia (actually a song from 1963). It was played on the train when we were leaving Petrozavodsk without unfortunately seeing all the beauty of the Karelian woods and lakes…

By the way, I am going to the dark-dark Arkhangelsk in two weeks! Hope this time I will get hold of the authentic sochni of Arkhangelsk…

G.

pies · sourdough · traditional Russian recipe

Autumn Leaves and Karelian Pies

IMG_0015

Time is running fast, already mid-October, the wind takes the colourful leaves down. This post has been waiting since the beginning of September – I thought I would go to the place where these pies are made but I didn’t. Instead of Karelia I have been to other pie- and bread-eating places. I made the recipe I’m sharing with you today almost as soon as I discovered it on one of my favourite food blogs, cindystarblog.blogspot.com. So here is yet another take on the traditional Karelian pies, also popular in Finland as they are in the North of Russia where the rye flour is (or at least used to be) the king. 

A year ago –  Autumn Colours and Karelia with another recipe of the traditional Karelian kalitka pies + some comfort food for autumn dinners

Two years ago – Creamy Peach Tart and Kitchen Reborn – cannot believe it was just two years ago…

Karelian pasties or Karelian pies (Karjalanpiirakka) from cindystarblog.blogspot.com

Karelian Pasties or Karelian Pies (Karjalanpiirakka) adapted from cindystarblog.blogspot.com will make very handy pies (like Cornish pies but open) with super-thin and crunchy rye crust and a savoury filling. Go to the blog to see the entire recipe.

My changes:

The milky rice filling was not enough for the quantity of dough, so I made a second one – mashed potatoes + chopped raw onion + egg + fresh herbs + seasoning. Here’s a picture of the potato version:

Karelian pasties or Karelian pies (Karjalanpiirakka) from cindystarblog.blogspot.com

As for the dough, I added a bit of rye non-fed sourdough and thus made these pies even more rye-ish, for more authenticity perhaps =)

Result: These pies are really handy, you hold one in your palm and they just spring into your mouth : ). The two textures come together -the creaminess of the rice filling and the crispiness of the rye pastry.

Remarks: I somehow forget to bring the edges of these pies closer to the center each time I make them so they look more like boats than a flat pie. I’m sure you can make this pie with leftover rice too, just add some creamy binding agent – sour cream or egg?

Karelian pasties or Karelian pies (Karjalanpiirakka) from cindystarblog.blogspot.com

There is an idea of a sweet treat to accompany your lunch or dinner: PAIN d’ÉPICES – I’m eating a slice of it right now =) I used black currant jam instead of honey and apple jam with apple bits instead of orange confiture, added some wholewheat flour and omitted dried fruit… and the spicy loaf turned out great – very moist and chewy!

To my mixed relief + disappointment I discovered that the only city left for me to visit this pre-application-deadline season is the capital, Moscow. Will finally see my sis’s apartment and probably try some cool Moscow food, haha.

G.

no-dough · pies · traditional Russian recipe

Autumn Colours and Karelia

I’ve come back from my third trip, this time to Petrozavodsk, the capital of the Republic of Karelia. I was supposed to be eating the traditional Karelian kalitka all the time… but the only thing I did manage to try was a tasty rye-wheat bread full of seeds, kefir (of course! but still – Vologda kefir beats them all!) and cowberry mors (traditional sweetened berry juice). I even got excited while making my way to the nearest supermarket, haha, I guess this is the best part of my business trips =) But in the shop there were quite few things Karelian… So when you have no chance eating the traditional food right on the spot, you just go back home and make yourself delicious kalitka with potatoes! (we’ll talk about them later)

The autumn colours – yellow, brown, red, transparent light – are even more distinct when you’re closer to the nature and move further North. Petrozavodsk is not THAT Northern but it’s almost Finland there. There were a few traditional restaurants just opposite the hotel (a very dramatic cardboard-like crimson&white building with columns=) I was staying at, and to one of them I did pay a visit:

It was very nicely decorated, with traditional music playing and lots of you-can-never-pronounce-that names of the dishes. As you know, I don’t eat meat and am even worse with fish… So I ordered some tasty grilled aubergines with smetana =) But I guess for a fish addict that is THE place. Also there were such traditional dishes as oat meal with three kinds of berries, berries with sugar, pea fritters, pies with mushrooms and rye blini with I forgot what. After a very difficult day at work that was a very nice place to relax a bit.

But before giving you the recipe for those kalitka things (which can be stuffed with porridge (especially millet), mushrooms, cheese, tvorog, berries,…), let’s see what I reserved for you quite a long time ago, before my last job trip. Here are some more autumn colours… in food =)

Here’s a sunshine-like Caramelised Onion Tart from www.bbcgoodfood.com which is a kind of quiche-like tart with loads of onion inside. However, the taste is different from a classic quiche, there’s more of the onion flavours in it. This is real comfort food!

My changes were scarce: to the onions, I added herbes de Provence and Italian seasoning and my cheese was far from being Emmental =) As for the pastry, I used the shortcrust pastry recipe also from bbcgoodfood.com.

The same day I was on the verge of making even more comfort food – some Greek-style lentil soup, thick and flavourful… But when I opened the fridge to get some onions out of it, I saw an entire pot of soup made by my Mom… So instead of lentil soup there were some baked lentils for lunch, an improvised dish (as I already started making preparations for lentil soup…):

So, basically, I just fried up some onions, garlic, coarsely chopped carrots with herbs and soy sauce, meanwhile lentils were boiling in a pot of water. Then I simply combined all the things in a ceramic dish and baked at 190 ‘C along with the onion tart from above.

To add even more autumn colours, here are some realllllly red apples:

it’s a sort we call Paradise apples in Russia – they’re small, red and so sour this year that the only thing you can make with them is to cook some preserves! (more things to do with your apples here)

And now back to kalitka – traditional Karelian rye buns with various fillings. The word kalita means a purse. The rye crops are quite resistant to the cold so you’ll find loads of rye recipes in the North of Russia + Finland, Sweden, etc (see shangi, for example). The nice thing about the kalitka is that you don’t have to prepare leavened dough, there’s even no baking powder there, just flour, salt and dairy. And also for the filling feel free to use your leftovers! Just like I did – we had like a cauldron full of mashed potatoes and could easily fill in all the buns with them, with even more of potatoes left.

A year ago – Τάρτα με κρέμα και ροδάκινο (Tart with Cream and Peaches)

Karelian Kalitka Pies with Potatoes – adapted from the package of rye flour and translated, of course – will make a batch of pretty buns that are so good with smetana!

Ingredients:

for the dough:

  • 210 g rye flour + some all-purpose flour for kneading
  • 75 ml sour cream – I used 15% fat smetana
  • 75 ml milk – I used 25% fat dried milk diluted in warm water
  • 1/4 tsp salt

for the filling:

  • 5-6 medium potatoes (or use your leftover mashed potatoes! less work to do=)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • salt to taste – I also added some pre-mixed seasoning
  • 30 ml milk or sour cream – I used milk + prostokvasha

for brushing:

  • 1 egg (use a tiny bit less in the filling and safe it for brushing!)
  • 20-30 g butter – I didn’t use that

Method:

First, prepare the filling (if you are making it from scratch): Peel the potatoes, boil them, drain and mash them, adding eggs, butter, milk or sour cream. Leave to cool. (As I was using already made mashed potatoes, still warm, I added less butter, eggs – reserving some for the glaze – and milk combined with prostokvasha + salt & seasoning).

Now, the dough: Sift the flour, add salt and milk which was mixed with sour cream. Knead the dough. If the dough is too sticky (which it will be as you’re using just rye flour!), add a bit of flour (here I suggest using all-purpose). The final dough should be not sticky and elastic. Make a ball out of dough, place it in a plastic bag so that it doesn’t dry out and leave for 20-30 mins.

Roll the dough into a log about 4 cm in diameter. Slice the log into walnut-sized pieces (I had about 9 pieces). Each piece should be then flattened into a thin round – called skanets (a generic word for the rounds of dough which can be later turned into shangifor example). Place 1-2 Tbs of filling into the centre of the rounds. Then lift the edges of the rounds, pinching them at a 1 cm gap, so that you get a sort of tartelette with its borders lifted to the centre of about 1.5 cm height. Thus you’ll have an open rye kalitka pie.

The original recipe suggests greasing a baking sheet but I prefer using parchment paper here. Place your pies on the paper, brush with a beaten egg and add 1/4 tsp of butter in the centre of each pie (which I didn’t do, considering the amount of butter already sufficient). Bake in the preheated to 180-200 ‘C oven (I opted for a temperature closer to 200 ‘C) for 15-25 mins till the filling is nicely browned. After baking, the pies can be brushed (again!) with butter, left to cool a bit and served just a tiny bit warm (we ate them veeery warm=).

Result: Although I forgot to bring the pinched ends to the centre, the pies didn’t fall apart and – which is more important – were a pleasure to eat =) I’m sure they’ll be great with any savoury filling but even with some sweetened cottage cheese or berries it’ll be an interesting combination!

Go on, make something comforting to make yourself comfortable 😉 there’s been this Medieval mist (don’t know why, but I associate mist with the Middle Ages!) covering the city all since the very morning today and one feels a need to get comfy on that misty Sunday… (haha, no sun!)

G.