While the Russians may not have created signature cauliflower cheese they do indeed have their version and enjoy it with gusto. It’s a great side dish or one for their zakuski board. It’s by far one of my favourite ways to eat cauliflower, only perhaps overshadowed by fried cauliflower in breadcrumbs.
Here’s my recipe…
3 tbsp plain flour
500ml sour cream
100g grated hard cheese
Boil the florets in water for five minutes, drain and set aside
Heat the flour in 50g butter until golden brown
Add another 50g of butter to the pan and the milk
Whisk continuously to prevent lumps
Allow the sauce to thicken, then add sour cream
Simmer for five minutes
Put the cauliflower into a greased gratin dish
Pour over the hot sauce
Sprinkle with grated cheese (to ensure the top browns, add a few tbsp of butter to the top)
Bake in the oven on 180°C until golden brown (approximately 25 minutes)
There are many Russian zakuski dishes (small, introductory dishes usually part of a welcome board serves to guests on arrival) that also double as impressive, party-piece starters. These tomatoes are no exception. The large tomatoes are stuffed with a mushroom and sour cream sauce which can all be prepared before baking for just 30 minutes before serving. Ideal! Should you have any mixture leftover it can be frozen for up to one month and used as a pasta sauce or sauce for a grilled chicken breast.
Here’s my recipe…
500g mushrooms, chopped (I use a mixture, wild are best but shitake and chestnut will do if availability is limited)
125ml sour cream
1 white onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
4 large beef tomatoes
100g grated Gouda cheese
Gently fry the onion, when softened add in the mushrooms
When sauteed add in the sour cream and parsley
Allow the mixture to cool
Cut the lids off the large tomatoes and hollow out the middle
When the mixture is cool, fill the tomatoes
Sprinkle the tomatoes with cheese and bake in an oven at 180°C for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top
As most of you know I like to champion superb local produce from across Eastern Europe, especially the likes of Croatia where I have indulged in many a fabulous meal. As you can imagine, I was thus excited to hear that Croatia enjoyed not one but several spectacular wins at the 2010 World Cheese Awards in Birmingham at the BBC Good Food Show. Paški Sir made it all the way through the 2636 international cheeses to the final 14 best cheeses of the world!
Sirana Gligora entered Paški Sir in the ‘sheep cheese cheese‘ category as well as ‘new cheese on the market‘ and ‘small producers cheese‘. Sirana Gligora came top of each class, winning no less than three Super Gold Medals and three places in the best 30 cheeses of the world, an outstanding result and a great testament to the cheese makers at Sirana Gligora!
When you consider the new Sirana Gligora diary was only opened in January 2010 it is even more remarkable that such an outstanding cheese can be produced in its first year of operation. In fact the cheese that was entered was eight months old having been produced in March 2010, just two months after Sirana Gligora started production. No doubt expectations will be even higher at next years show.
Congratulations to everyone on the island of Pag in Croatia for their efforts!
I first tried Khachupuri at Mimino, a Georgian restaurant in Kensington. There are many different types of Khachupuri:
Imeritian (Imeruli) circular khachapuri
Adjarian (Acharuli/Adjaruli) khachapuri, an open boat shape, topped with a raw egg and a pat of butter before serving
Mingrelian (Megruli) khachapuri, similar to Imeritian but with extra cheese on the top
Abkhazian (Achma) khachapuri, with multiple layers
Ossetian (Ossuri) khachapuri, with a potato and cheese filling
My favourite is the most simple, simply dough, filled with the cheese, topped with another layer of dough and then baked in the oven. I opted for a combination of smoked and unsmoked Sulguni cheese from the Russian Kalinka shop on Queensway in London.
250ml sour cream
150g melted butter
1 egg lightly whisked
400g plain flour
(this can vary depending on the flour, best to put in small amounts at one time and wait until it comes together)
Pinch of salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
For the filling:
100g smoked and 100g unsmoked sulguni cheeses, grated
1 egg whisked
2 tbsp sour cream
2 cloves of garlic crushed
1 egg yolk for glazing
Mix sour cream and melted butter
Add salt and baking soda
Whisk in the egg
Add the sifted flour slowly
Knead until the dough comes together and is maleable
Divide the dough into two and roll out
For the filling:
Grate the cheese, mix with egg, sour cream and garlic
Place one length of dough on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper
Put the cheese filling on the dough, leaving about 1 cm from the edges
Place second sheet of dough over the top of cheese filling
Use a fork to press edges down, then make a few holes in the top layer of dough to allow steam to escape
Brush with beaten egg yolk to glaze dough
Place in oven for 20 minutes at about 180 degrees Celsius until golden brown
Last week I happened across the new Polish section in Tesco on Queensway. Tesco has always supplied some Polish goodies (depending on the store) but this was very much a new and improved section with all manner of sausages, hams, cheeses etc.! Now while I am a real advocate of real food rather than ready meals and ready-prepared food but I thought I’d try out a couple of packets of pierogi (Polish dumplings) and a small tub of Polish smetana (sour cream).
The pierogi is available with meat, cheese or cabbage fillings. My favourite has to be the cheese. The meat tastes a little too generic and I’m just not a fan of cabbage. Add the pierogi to boiling salted water, when the first pierogi begin to rise to the surface, cook for 1 minute and then serve. I like to put a little melted butter over the top. For non vegetarians a little crispy bacon could be added. Alternatively, top with a few breadcrumbs toasted in butter. Delicious, if not particularly healthy!
I have no idea why but East European smetana (sour cream) always tastes differently to the sour cream normally available in the UK so this little tub was a real treat!
Burek is a popular treat in Bosnia. Originating from the Ottoman Empire a thin filo-like pastry is filled with spinach and salty cheese, though sometimes meat and other fillings. On wandering the aisles of Waitrose a few weeks ago I came across small packets of round bourekia, ideal to use as canapes for a small gathering of friends.
The small green packets contain eight bourekia, filled with spinach, feta and plenty of mint making the taste a real mouth-watering explosion. They can be served hot or cold (personally I feel hot is best but if you are going to head out and enjoy a springtime picnic then cold will suffice).
Bourekia, part of the Waitrose Delicatezze range and found in the chilled aisle, £3.69
When I received an email a few weeks ago regarding the opening of a new and luxurious Russian deli in Knightsbridge I was literally thrilled. Russians are renowned for feasting, from the medieval banquets of Ivan the Terrible to the elaborate political dinners of the communist era. The Merchant’s Yard deli certainly celebrates this grand Russian tradition.
Owner, Julia Flit, has created a venue for opulent feasts and celebrations, providing shoppers with key Russian ingredients, in addition to an intimate space, ideal for small parties to be introduced to traditional fayre. The shop contains everything from caviar to beetroot, staples in every Russian kitchen.
The Merchant's Yard, Russian Deli Facade, Knightsbridge, London
The Merchant’s Yard beings the opportunity to try authentic Russian homemade food that the capital has long lacked. Finally, there is a venue doing real justice to the recipes of established customs, as well as more contemporary interpretations. While every member of staff is on hand, ready to assist shoppers with every possible question. Their own enthusiasm for the food is quickly very clear.
What you can expect:
The Deli Counter: Food prepared daily for eat-in or take-out including organic salads, freshly baked breads, cakes, pastries, coffees and teas.
The Grocery: For produce to enhance any table setting including cheeses, organic olives, homemade vegetable dishes, spirits, beers and Russian vodka, Moldavian and Georgian wine.
To Order: Recommendations from the Merchant’s Yard chef, for your own personal needs, when there is no time to cook for guests at home.
Dinners: Every third week of the month, for ten to 12 people, a seasonal menu will be prepared based on the traditions and customs of Russia; enhancing your appreciation and understanding of a style of cooking rooted in history.
These little Russian dumplings, a cheesy version of Italian gnocchi, are a real favourite of mine, but be warned, they require some time to make. Personally, I think the easiest thing is to make up a huge batch once or twice a year, freeze in small batches, and simply defrost and reheat when you want them. This is such a typical little East European dish which can be eaten either savoury, such as with bacon, or as a dessert with smetena (sour cream) and sugar.
Struckli is a real comfort food for me but something one can really only enjoy when in Croatia or Slovenia. Naturally, I am of the opinion that the best Struckli is made by Mira, my friend’s Grandmother on stormy summer nights in Kranjska Gora. There is nothing better than eating some struckli, doused in some sugar, playing Slovene Rumi, or Tarock and watching the thunder and listening to the lightening.
However, last summer in Zagreb I enjoyed a hot, steamy dish of savoury struckli at a lovely slastičarna. Unfortunately, on my trip to Zagreb this trip, I ran out of meals to eat any but I was lucky to stumble upon it at the airport! I decided to make the most of the time waiting for the plane back to Gatwick and ordered a baked savoury struckli. (Warning: Struckli takes 40 minutes to prepare/cook so if you are in a hurry for your plane, best not to order it just in case).
Struckli is often described as a boiled version of strudel but I do not think that really does it justice.
Štajerska (Baked Struckli) Ingredients
For the pastry
1 tbsp oil
A little luke warm water
Ingredients for filling
375g cottage cheese
1 1/2 eggs
Handful of breadcrumbs (to thicken the filling)
Make the filo pastry dough by combining the flour, egg, oil, salt and water
Allow the pastry to rest for 30 minutes
Prepare the filling by mashing cottage cheese, adding cream, egg yolks and breadcrumbs
Whisk the egg whites and sugar and fold carefully into the filling
Roll out and stretch the dough across across a board and roll out on floured cloth
Spread filling over dough, if the filling is too thin, add more breadcrumbs
Use the cloth to roll the struckli into a roulade
Lift struckli onto greased baking tray
Cook in oven on moderate heat (200 degrees Celsius) for 40 minutes
It may need to be covered half-way through cooking process
Good accompanying wines include Chardonnay, Renski Rizling, Sauvignon
Restoran Katedralis sits on a corner overlooking Zagreb’s beautiful cathedral. The restaurant offers a vast menu with plenty of Croatian delights to satisfy the hungry tourist looking to indulge in some local specialities and best yet, this restaurant is not a tourist trap. The large, split-level terrace is filled with tables of Croatians enjoying great food and fantastic wine. The restaurant staff are attentive and friendly, without being overbearing.
While mulling over the menu, the waiter presents soft white bread, accompanied by a local, soft cheese, mixed with cream and herbs. The cheese may resemble coleslaw (one food stuff I simply loathe) but it tastes delicious and is worth trying, even if one finds its appearance slightly off-putting.
The main courses on offer include a selection of typical home-cooked meals, as well as usual restaurant favourites such as Zagrebački Odrezak (veal schnitzel Zagreb). The schnitzel was served with a garlic dipping sauce, wedge of lemon, thin, fried onions, and some carved carrots and radish. The schnitzel was thick and wrapped in ham and cheese before covered in breadcrumbs and fried. The cheese, usually an edam like cheese, oozed out with every cut of the knife. This plate was quite simply heavenly but incredibly large which made it a little bit of a challenge to eat every morsel!
Other traditional main courses included a mixed meat plate, with beef, pork and chicken, served with a herb sauce, and a veal saltimbocca, the latter of which is traditionally Italian but also eaten and enjoyed throughout Croatia. However, unusually, the veal saltimbocca, a thin veal escalope with sage, prosciutto and dry sherry, was served with a pepper sauce.
A mixed dish of grilled vegetables, aubergine, courgette and white pepper with cubed potatoes made the perfect side dish.
The wine list boasted many great Croatian wines and Graševina, Vrhunsko vino, Vinogorje Kutjevo, Berba 2007, 12% vol. seemed like the perfect choice to wash down the meal with. Not too immature, as many East European wines can be, the taste is smooth, dry and not too floral and its colour was golden. The wine and meal was followed by a homemade pear schnapps which was quite lethal!