RSV’s Fountain of Youth – A New Year, A New You

Russian Standard Vodka Fountain of Youth

Forget detoxing this January, it’s a miserable enough month as it is to deny yourself the pleasure of a good cocktail.  However, if you are being lured to the dark side, then never fear, a fabulous Fountain of Youth cocktail, created by Russian Standard Vodka, may be the answer to your prayers.

Russian Standard Vodka Fountain of Youth

This fresh and fruity cocktail includes delicious pomegranate juice which contains three times more antioxidants than green tea or red wine.  Drinking pomegranate juice helps keep blood vessels from hardening, bring more oxygen to the heart and prevents bad cholesterol from being deposited on the arteries.

So how do you make this magic drink I hear you ask!  Just follow the steps below…

Ingredients

35ml / 1.7 fl oz Russian Standard
40ml / 2 fl oz Pomegranate juice, fresh squeezed where available
20g / 0.7 oz thinly sliced ginger

Instructions

Shake all ingredients vigorously with ice

Double strain and pour into a martini glass

Garnish with a piece of ginger and pass a mint leaf around the glass rim

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Armenian Taverna in Manchester

The Armenian TavernaA few weeks ago I visited Manchester for the first time.  I was not entirely sure what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised to find it is a gastronome’s paradise with an abundance of fabulous restaurants.  When I arrived I was excited to spot the Armenian Taverna, located at 1-7 Princess Street.  Armenian cuisine is something special and this restaurant’s menu boasts all the traditional dishes you could desire including: yershig sausages, spicy lamb kufta meatballs, karides prawns in a rich sauce, and a variety of lamb, pork, beef and chicken kebabs.  For those with a sweet-tooth the ideal meal here can be finished with the most famed Armenian sweet, paklava – layers of pastry with a filling of walnuts, cinnamon, sugar, covered in syrup.  There are also several party menus, great if you and a big group of family or friends plan to visit.  So the next time you find yourself in Manchester, spend a night at The Armenian Taverna – you and your taste buds are sure to be pleased!

A meal for two with wine should cost about £45

Closed Mondays; open 12 – 2pm for lunch Tuesday to Friday; 5 – 11pm for dinner Tuesday to Saturday; and 5pm – 10pm Saturday

The Armenian Taverna, 1-7 Princess St, Manchester M2 4DF

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Bourekia – Now Sold at Waitrose!

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.
Bourekia
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 Cooked

 

Bourekia, part of the Waitrose Delicatezze range and found in the chilled aisle, £3.69

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A la Ville de Petrograd: Russian Restaurant in Paris

Just opposite the Cathedrale Alexandre Nevski is a wonderful little Russian restaurant: A la Ville de Petrograd!

The exterior artwork boasts typical Russian motifs and designs.

All so incredibly endearing you can’t help but want to go inside and check out the menu.

And the menu is just as traditional.

There are plenty of salads, caviar, borsch, blinis and stroganoff to keep any Russophile happy!

There are also several set menu options starting at just 15 Euros.

A la Ville de Petrograd, 13 Rue de Daru, Paris, 75008.

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Russian Easter Traditions at The Merchant’s Yard, London

Kulich at the Merchant's Yard
Kulich at the Merchant’s Yard

Triple kissing and the giving of eggs as presents are distinctive features of celebrating Easter in Russia. On the first day of Easter people marvel at sunrise early in the morning and predict weather for all of the summer. People put on new clothes as a symbol of new life, a tradition that goes back to the early Christians who were baptised at sunrise on the first Easter day. After the end of Lent, it is acceptable to wear bright and colourful clothes, especially red. It is believed that the gates to heaven are open during Easter week and everybody who dies during this time goes straight to heaven.

The Imperial Kulich is a traditional Russian Easter cake. You will need a lot of eggs, butter and sugar so that the cake remains fresh for a long time. A special 1-1.5 cubic litre, tall cylindrical form, made from aluminium is used for baking the kulich. Forms are washed over with butter and half-filled with dough. The finished Kulich is decorated with sugar frosting, candied peel, nuts and sugar, with a rose placed on top to add the final finishing touch.  Kulich, pashka and painted eggs can all be found at the Merchant’s Yard this Easter.

Easter Eggs at The Merchant's Yard
Easter Eggs at The Merchant’s Yard

The Easter breakfast is an important ritual in Russia, bringing all the family members together around a beautifully-decorated table for a sumptuous feast. The Lenten fast is broken by first eating the eggs bless in church. Kulich and pashka are then divided up and then the family can proceed on to other dishes.

The Merchant’s Place, 41 Beauchamp Place, Knightsbridge, London SW3 1NX

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Russian Zakuski Part IV: Vodka

Russian Standard Vodka & Shot Glasses
Russian Standard Vodka & Shot Glasses

In the 10th Century Prince Vladimir the Great of Kievan Rus’ wanted to abandon paganism in favour of a more modern religion.  In the Primary Chronicle it is said Vladimir sent emissaries out to investigate alternatives.  When the emissaries returned and relayed what they had found out about Judaism, Christianity and Islam it is believed Vladimir rejected the option of Islam saying, ‘Rus’ loves to drink, we cannot be without it.’

Mead, kvas and beer met the imbibing demands of the Kievan Rus’ until the late 14h Century when spirits became available, probably via the Baltic.  However, there is some confusion over what exactly was available, vino being used to describe sprits distilled only once (unlike vodka) and also wine.  According to one Soviet historian, there seemed a complete absence of information on drinks like present-day vodka and if one is to believe written sources, only spread to Russia in the 16th Century.

Read more…

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An Introduction to Russian Zakuski (закуски)

Christmas Day Zakuski Cooking
Christmas Day Zakuski Cooking

When one thinks about Russia, be it the feasts of Ivan the Terrible, the European-style banquets of Peter the Great or even the large socio-political functions of Stalin, one conjures the images of excess, indulgence and merriment, all at the expense of the poverty-stricken masses.  But the truth is, even with little money, the Russians know how to put on a good spread for their guests.  Even those with little will open their door and greet their guests with the offering of a zakuski (закуски in Cyrillic).

Zakuski can be anything from a simple appetiser to a laden table.  The tradition began in the decadent Russian manor houses of the 18th Century when the tradition of opening a meal with vodka, bread and cold soups, gave way to open sandwiches, meat and fish.  Although the style of food changed, the diet remained relatively the same as before, with the exception of the introduction of cheese.

The Zakuski table would be ready to welcome guests inside from the harsh climate.  A bottle of vodka, or more popular among the elite, European Champagne or wines, took pride of place, as did the samovar full with hot tea.  Guests were invited to help themselves, mirroring the hospitality the Russians are famed for.

Zakuski Blini Platter
Zakuski Blini Platter

Among the delicacies, guests enjoyed salted cucumbers, sour cream (smetana), pickles, black bread and a simple meat or fish dishes.  The zakuski was designed to be quite different to the main meal, so if the main course was to be fish, meat appetisers were provided and vice versa.  Ensuring the table was an array of vibrant colours was important so the choice of ingredients was key: carrots, beetroot, cucumbers etc.

Blinis are an ideal component of the zakuski table.

Find out more about making blinis here…

Keep your eyes peeled for further information about this Russian tradition in Zakuski Part II.

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Uzbekistani Pilaff Recipe

Pilaff is a classic dish for entertaining and can be varied to personal tastes easily.   Traditionally, everyone digs in from a big communal dish which makes it great for this time of year when you have visitors for dinner and want to do something a little different.

Ingredients

600g lean boneless lamb stewing steak

5 tbsp rapeseed oil

700ml water

1 tsp smoked salt

2 carrots, chopped finely

2 white onions, chopped finely

400g long grain rice

1 whole garlic, outer paper removed but left intact/whole

5 sprigs fresh parsley to garnish

Instructions

Healt the oil in a flameproof casserole dish

Add the lamb and fry, stirring frequently for 10 minutes until brown on all sides

pilaff-2

Add the water

Bring to the boil

pilaff-3

Reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes until meat is tender

Meanwhile, heat more oil in separate pan

Add the carrots and onions and stir-fry for 5 minutes until softened

pilaff-4

Add the rice and stir-fry for 1 minute until translucent

pilaff-5

Transfer rice mixture to the lamb and add the garlic

pilaff-6

Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes until rice is tender and has absorbed most of the liquid

Serve the pilaff heaped onto a warmed dish, garnished with parsley

Uzbeki Lamb Pilaff

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Enjoy Georgian Wine this Christmas

Georgian Wine SocietyThis week I came across a very exciting website, The Georgian Wine Society, which helps supply British consumers with the best Georgian wines.

It is widely believed that it was Georgia in which wine production first began, over 7000 years ago, with archaeological remains suggesting that grape juice was placed underground in clay jars to ferment during winter as early as 4000 BC.

Georgia is a land famed for its natural bounty. These days there are over 500 species of grape in Georgia, a greater diversity than anywhere else in the world, with around 40 of these grape varieties being used in commercial wine production. Conditions are well suited for viticulture: summers are rarely excessively hot, winters are mild and frost-free. In addition, the mountains around the vineyards are full of natural springs, and rivers drain mineral-rich waters into the valleys. All this means that Georgian wines have a reputation for being exceptionally pure.

Around 150 million litres of wine are produced each year in Georgia, with around 45 000 hectares of vineyards under cultivation. There are 18 Specific Viticulture Areas (a local analogy of the Controlled Appellations of Origin) where the grape variety, planting density and yield per hectare is controlled by Ministry of Agriculture, and where the grape yield per hectare is limited to 8 tons.

Read more…

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