Russian Zakuski / закуски Recipe: Baked Cauliflower Cheese

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.

Russian Zakuski / закуски Recipe Cauliflower Cheese

Here’s my recipe…

Ingredients

Cauliflower florets

3 tbsp plain flour

100g butter

500ml milk

500ml sour cream

100g grated hard cheese

Instructions

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)

Russian Zakuski / закуски Recipe Cauliflower Cheese

Bake in the oven on 180°C until golden brown (approximately 25 minutes)

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Recipe: Balkan Rack of Lamb in Sour Cream

Rack of lamb

There are parts of the Balkans that lamb just isn’t popular, however, there are regions in which dishes such as rack of lamb are simply adored.  As with most cultural traditions and traits related to this region, food can be highly polarised.  Now lamb is in season this foolproof recipe should provide you with a show-stopping meal suitable for any guest.

Balkan Rack of Lamb

Ingredients

1 rack of lamb

50g butter

3 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped

1 tbsp sea salt

1 tbsp cracked black pepper

1 tbsp cornflour dissolved in a small amount of water

2 tbsp sour cream

1 tsp tomato puree

1 cup red wine

250ml lamb stock

1 bay leaf

Instructions

Mix the rosemary, salt and pepper into the butter

Rub the butter onto the rack of lamb

Pour wine and stock and place bay leaf into roasting tin

Place rack of lamb above stock

Balkan Rack of Lamb

Cook in the oven according to taste (rare, medium, well done etc.)

Remove lamb from oven, cover and leave to rest

Put roasting tin on hob

Add cornflour to roasting tin and stir

When the gravy reaches a simmer add the sour cream and tomato puree

Carve the rack of lamb and place on plate with sauce drizzled over the top

Serve with seasonal vegetables

Russian Zakuski / закуски Recipe: Tomatoes Stuffed with Mushrooms

Russian Zakuski / закуски mushroom stuffed tomatoes

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.

Russian Zakuski / закуски mushroom stuffed tomatoes

Here’s my recipe…

Ingredients

500g mushrooms, chopped (I use a mixture, wild are best but shitake and chestnut will do if availability is limited)

125ml sour cream

25g butter

1 white onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp parsley, chopped

4 large beef tomatoes

100g grated Gouda cheese

Instructions

Gently fry the onion, when softened add in the mushrooms

Russian Zakuski / закуски mushroom stuffed tomatoes

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

Russian Zakuski / закуски mushroom stuffed tomatoes

Sprinkle the tomatoes with cheese and bake in an oven at 180°C for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top

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Russian Zakuski / закуски Recipe: Meatballs Braised in Sour Cream

The Russians are not commonly famed for their cuisine yet the nation boasts some fantastic dishes.  In my opinion, the simple are always the best and I love these Russian beef meatballs braised in sour cream which would make up a zakuski board for guests upon arrival.  They are very easy to make, though they do require some time as it is best to chill them thoroughly before cooking to prevent them breaking up.

Russian Beef Meatballs in Sour Cream

Here’s my recipe…

Ingredients

500g minced beef

50g breadcrumbs

3 tbsp chopped parsley

1 small white onion, grated

20g plain flour

25g butter

3 tbsp sunflower oil

700ml sour cream

Instructions

Mix the beef, two tbps of parsley, breadcrumbs and onion

Form the mixture into small balls

Roll the balls in the flour

Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes

Fry each ball in oil and butter

Russian Beef Meatballs in Sour Cream

Rest the meatballs until just before serving

When you want to serve them, heat sour cream in a saucepan and add the meatballs

When everything is thoroughly heated serve and sprinkle with remaining parsley

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Russian Zakuski / закуски Recipe: Grated Carrot with Horseradish

Russian zakuski dishes are small, introductory dishes normally served to guests on arrival after a long journey and prior to an indulgent feast.  Carrot is a popular and cheap base for many zakuski recipes.  This particular concoction is entirely that, an amalgamation of several recipes.  The taste may be a bit unusual but it is certainly pleasing.  Plus, it also makes a great alternative salad side dish.

Russian Grated Carrot with Horseradish

Here’s my recipe…

Ingredients

2 carrots, finely grated

200ml sour cream

50ml creamed horseradish

Juice and zest of one lemon

Cracked black pepper for seasoning

Instructions

Place carrot in a bowl

Drizzle over lemon juice

Mix the sour cream and horseradish

Top with cracked black pepper and lemon zest

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Matevž Side Dish Recipe: Mashed Potato with Pancetta & Beans

This Balkan side dish is one of my absolute favourites.  I’m not a fan of mashed potato but this is so much more than that.  A mixture of potato, kidney and cannellini beans and pancetta this is simply truly delicious!  Plus, it’s incredibly easy to make and goes well with meat, sausages, fish and salad.

Matevž

Check out the recipe below…

Ingredients

600g maris piper potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters

240g (1 tin) of cannellini beans

240g (1 tin) of red kidney beans

250g diced panetta

20g butter

150ml sour cream

2 garlic cloves, crushed

Instructions

Cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender (it should take about 20 minutes)

Meanwhile fry the pancetta until crispy

Drain the potatoes and return them to the pan

Add the butter and sour cream and mash until smooth

Add the beans and pancetta into the potato and stir

Place in bowl to serve

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Delightful Russian Plum & Almond Tart Recipe

I like to make the most of plums being in season as they are quite easily one of my favourite fruits.  Although I am not a huge fan of desserts I thought I’d try out a Russian recipe which uses gorgeous, juicy plums and almonds, another favourite of mine.  First you make a basic pastry, then an almond mixture, on top of which you place the plums. After baking and glazing the tart is ready to be devoured.  Trust me, this will prove to be a real family favourite.

Ingredients

For the dough

200g plain flour

115g butter

60ml sour cream

For the topping

60g caster sugar

50g butter

2 eggs

115g ground almonds

8 plums

100g Plum jam

Handful of flaked almonds for decoration

Instructions

Mix the flour and butter in a bowl until you the mixture has a breadcrumb consistency

Add the sour cream to the dough

Russian Plum & Almond Tart

Roll dough into a ball, put in greaseproof paper and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

Beat 50g caster sugar into the butter

(save the remaining 10g of sugar for sprinkling over the tart before cooking)

Beat the eggs and add to the sugar and butter, alternating with the ground almonds

Mix well

Russian Plum & Almond Tart

Roll out dough and place on an oiled baking tray

Spread mixture onto dough, leaving a 5cm border which will be turned in later

Spread the cut plums over the mixture

Turn in the sides of the tart to create a crust

Russian Plum & Almond Tart

Sprinkle the remaining 10g of caster sugar over the tart

Bake for 45 minutes in an oven on 180°C or until golden brown and cooked through

Heat the jam in a saucepan

When the jam has a syrup consistency push it through a sieve and then use it to glaze the tart

Sprinkle over flaked almonds

Russian Plum & Almond Tart

Serve with choice of double cream or custard

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Russian Fast Food: Kotletki – Russian Burger Recipe

Kotletki are Russian fast food but unlike that of the Western world, they are delicious and healthy.  They can be bought from the supermarket or when out and about and in need of a quick, hot snack.  But most people would make these at home.  So I gave it a go and I was impressed.  Lovely chunky burgers, with great texture and taste.

Russian Fast Food: Kotletki - Russian Burger Recipe

Ingredients

1 grated potato

1 grated white onion

300g minced pork

300g minced beef

100g white breadcrumbs

40g butter

30ml rapeseed oil

100ml smetana (sour cream)

To serve with buckwheat:

350g buckwheat

Cook as instructed and add gently-fried slithers of white onion

Instructions

Add mince, potato and onion in a bowl and mix thoroughly

Russian Fast Food: Kotletki - Russian Burger Recipe

Make into small balls and pat flat into burgers

Place in breadcrumbs and thoroughly coat

Russian Fast Food: Kotletki - Russian Burger Recipe

Heat oil and butter in frying pan

Fry burgers in pan on each side for 2 to 3 minutes

Russian Fast Food: Kotletki - Russian Burger Recipe

Then put lid on pan and continue cooking on a low heat for 10 minutes

Russian Fast Food: Kotletki - Russian Burger Recipe

Serve with buckwheat and lashings of sour cream

Georgian Khachupuri Recipe with Sulguni Cheese

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
  • Svanuri khachapuri
  • Rachuli khachapuri
  • Phenovani khachapuri

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.

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Serve warm with salad garnish as starter or snack

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New Polish Section at Tesco: Pierogi & Smetana

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).

Pierogi and Smetana at Tesco

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!

Pierogi with Smetana, Tesco

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!

Go get yourself some Polish delights now!

Tesco

Pierogi with meat £1.40

Pierogi with cheese £1.40

Smetana £0.78

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