A spread from our Empire Line shoot, featuring: Salted Cucumbers; Beetroot & Walnut Salad, Olivier Salad, King Crab, Pomelo & Avocado Salad
For this month's food feature in our W*164 Reigning in Russia issue, we've brought together a selection of Russian-inspired gastronomic delights and given them a modern twist. From Borscht and Shashlik skewered lamb with pomegranate and onion salad, to a good-looking cassata bombe and Syrniki cheese pancakes, here's how to cook them to perfection.
1kg small cucumbers
1 litre iced water
4tbs sea salt
4 sprigs fresh dill, with flowers if possible
2 bay leaves
8 blackcurrant leaves, if available
50g fresh horseradish
8 cloves garlic, peeled and halved lengthways
1tbs whole black peppercorns
You will need one large, or two smaller pickling jars with a total capacity of 2 litres. Clean the jar or jars thoroughly with boiling water. Prepare the cucumbers: wash them, trim the ends and place in a large pan with the iced water. Bring the water to a rolling boil, add the salt, stir until dissolved and leave to cool. Place two sprigs of dill, a bay leaf, and two blackcurrant leaves at the bottom of the jar. Peel and finely dice the horseradish. Place the cucumbers in the jar, standing vertically, and layering them with more blackcurrant leaves, dill, horseradish, garlic, peppercorns, and the other bay leaf.
When the brine has cooled to just above room temperature, pour it into the jar, covering the contents. Secure the lid and store, in the fridge preferably, for at least two weeks before eating.
Note: a shot of the pickle juice from this recipe is a noted Russian hangover cure.
3 potatoes, about 300g
2 carrots, about 150g
100g frozen peas
3 hard-boiled eggs
2 Russian salt-pickled cucumbers or gherkins
100g cooked ham
100g cooked chicken
salt and black pepper
Peel and halve the potatoes and boil in salted water until just tender. Allow to cool. Peel the carrots and cut into large chunks. Cook, like the potatoes, until just tender. Cook and cool the peas. Dice the potatoes and carrots into 1.5cm cubes. Peel and chop the eggs. Dice the cucumbers into 1cm cubes. Chop the ham and chicken into 1cm cubes. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and fold together with the mayonnaise. Season with salt and black pepper.
Beetroot & Walnut Salad
1 clove garlic, crushed under the flat of a knife with 1tsp salt
3tbs sour cream
4 medium beetroot, cooked
100g walnuts, chopped
70g pitted prunes, chopped
salt and pepper
Put the garlic and sour cream in a bowl and mix well. Dice the beetroot into 1cm cubes and place in the bowl with the chopped walnuts and prunes. Toss well to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
King Crab, Pomelo & Avocado Salad
¼ of a pomelo, about 100g
1 small avocado
100g white king crab meat
juice of half a lime
1tbs chopped fresh coriander
2 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
salt and pepper
Peel the pomelo segments. Pull the fruit apart into small chunks and place in a bowl. Halve the avocado and cut into 1cm cubes. Put half the chopped avocado in the bowl with the pomelo, crab meat, lime juice, coriander and spring onions. Toss to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon half the mixture into two moulds or small cups. Add a layer of chopped avocado to each and finish with the remaining crab mixture. Upturn the cups onto serving plates.
Shashlik Skewered Lamb with Pomegranate & Onion Salad
Shashlik Skewered Lamb
1 clove garlic, chopped and crushed under the flat of a knife with 1tsp salt
2tbs pomegranate syrup, or 100ml pomegranate juice
juice of half a lemon
1kg lamb, cut into chunks
salt and pepper
2 red peppers
Peel the onions and grate half of one into a large bowl. Add the garlic, pomegranate syrup, lemon juice and lamb. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt, a good grinding of pepper, and the paprika. Toss well together and leave to marinate for at least 3 hours or overnight. Chop the remaining 1½ onions into large chunks. Trim the peppers and cut each into 8 pieces. Thread the meat and vegetables onto metal skewers. Cook over (or under) a hot grill, turning occasionally, for 12-15 mins.
Pomegranate & Onion Salad
1 red onion
1 pomegranate, seeds removed
juice of half a lemon
2tbs chopped fresh coriander
salt and pepper
Peel and thinly slice the onion. Place in a bowl with the pomegranate seeds, lemon juice and coriander. Sprinkle with salt and a grinding of black pepper and toss well.
1 large white onion
1 large carrot
1 celery stalk
350g fresh raw beetroot
2 potatoes, approximately 300g
1 bay leaf
1.5 litres good beef stock
½ a small cabbage, finely shredded
3 cloves garlic, chopped and crushed under the flat of a knife with 1tsp salt
2tbs red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
sour cream and dill to serve
Prepare the vegetables; keeping them separate, as they go into the pot at different stages. Peel and finely chop the onion, carrot and celery. Peel and trim the beetroot and potatoes and dice into 1cm cubes.
Melt the butter in a large pot over a low to medium heat. Add the onion, and soften, stirring occasionally, for 5 mins. Add the carrot, celery, and beetroot and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10 mins. Add the potatoes, bay leaf, and the stock and simmer for 15 mins. Add the cabbage and garlic and continue to cook until all the vegetables are tender. Finally, add the vinegar, a good grinding of black pepper, and salt to taste. Serve with dollops of sour cream and a sprinkling of chopped dill.
Sole with Vodka Sauce
4 sole or plaice fillets, about 600g
300ml fish stock
1 echalion shallot, peeled and very finely chopped
150ml double cream
salt and pepper
1 small jar salmon caviar
Season the fish lightly with salt. Roll up the fillets and secure with cocktail sticks. Pour the fish stock into a lidded sauté pan and bring to the boil. Place the fish in the pan, cover and simmer for about 8 mins, until the fish is just cooked. Remove the fish from the pan and keep warm. Discard the cocktail sticks, and strain the cooking liquid into a jug.
Melt the butter over a medium flame, add the shallot and cook, stirring, for 5 mins or so, until soft and golden but not browned. Add the reserved fish stock, the vodka, and the cream, bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer until the mixture has reduced to the consistency of single cream. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. At this point you may wish to blend the sauce until smooth, in a food processor or with a hand-held blender.
Pour ¾ of the sauce onto a serving plate. Arrange the fish on top and pour over the remaining sauce. Spoon 1tsp of caviar onto each fillet. Serve with boiled potatoes or rice.
500g plain flour
1 large onion
1 clove garlic
250g minced pork
250g minced beef
To make the dough: Place the flour in a pile on the work surface and sprinkle with half a teaspoon of salt. Make a hollow in the centre of the flour mound, and break the eggs into it. Add a little water, and begin to mix, drawing the flour towards the egg in the centre, adding more water gradually, until you have a firm, un-sticky dough. Knead the dough for a few minutes until smooth and elastic. Wrap in plastic and leave to rest in the fridge for at least an hour. (Alternatively you could make the dough in a food processor.)
To make the filling: Chop the onion and garlic very finely and place in a bowl with the beef, pork, the other half a teaspoon of salt, and a good grinding of black pepper. Mix thoroughly with your hands.
Cut off about a quarter of the dough, leaving the rest wrapped to prevent it from drying out, and roll out to 2-3mm thickness. Using a cutter or an upturned glass, punch out rounds about 6cm in diameter. Place a teaspoon of the mixture on each round. Lightly wet the edge with a finger dipped in water, and fold the circle of dough around the filling to make a half moon shape, pinching the edges together to secure them. Pinch the two points of the half moon together with another dab of water. Continue with the remaining dough and filling, placing each batch in the freezer as they are finished.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil and drop in the frozen pelmeni. They will rise to the surface after a few minutes. Simmer for a further 3 mins, cooking for about 7 mins in total. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and serve hot with melted butter, sour cream, a dash of vinegar, and chopped dill.
60g mixed peel, chopped
60g glacé cherries, chopped
150g caster sugar
4 egg yolks
300ml double cream
50g shelled pistachio nuts, chopped
about 100ml raspberry sorbet
Line a 1 litre bombe mould or bowl with cling film. In a small bowl soak the chopped peel and cherries in the rum.
Put the sugar and water into a pan and boil rapidly for 5 mins. Place the egg yolks in the bowl of an electric beater and whisk for a minute until they begin to thicken. Slowly pour the hot syrup into the moving beater, in a thin stream, until the mixture is thick and fluffy. Allow to cool for a few minutes. In a separate bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks. Fold the whipped cream and rum into the egg mixture, followed by the soaked fruit and nuts. Carefully pour ¾ of the mixture into the mould, reserving the rest in the fridge. Drop a small cup into the centre of the filled mould, so that its rim just rests on the surface. Secure with tape to prevent sinking, and place in the freezer for at least 6 hours, or until very firm. Release the cup by filling it with hot water and lifting it out. Fill the cavity with raspberry sorbet. Pour the remaining cassata mixture on top, filling the mould. Place in the freezer for another 3 hours.
Syrniki Cheese pancakes
Makes 8, serves 4
250g ricotta cheese
3tbs (40g) caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
3tbs (60g) plain flour
1tbs light cooking oil
Put the cheese, eggs, sugar and vanilla extract into a bowl and beat well together. Stir in the flour and mix thoroughly to make a smooth, thick, batter. Cook the pancakes in batches. Heat a frying pan over a medium flame and drizzle with a little oil, to lightly coat the base. Drop generous spoonfuls of the batter into the hot pan, 3cm apart, and cook for approximately 2 mins, until just set, with bubbles appearing on the surface, and the underside golden. Turn the pancakes and cook for another 2 mins on the other side. Serve immediately with fresh or preserved berries, jam, or honey, and sour cream.
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Photography: John Short. Entertaining director: Melina Keays. Interiors: Leila Latchin