Voices from Russia

Saturday, 9 February 2013

9 February 2013. What’s for Dinner, Ma? (Orthosphere Style)

parish dinner


I’ve often spoken of the “Orthosphere”… that is, the Orthodox Civilisational Sphere. We have our own way of life… our own folkways… our own cuisine. So, let’s “eat through” some of the lands in the Orthosphere… sticking mostly to things that one can whip up easily at home (sweets are going to be in a different series). I decided to start “at the top”, which means that we start with the northernmost part, that’s to say, Finland. There’s both Orthodox Finns and Orthodox Russians living in Finland (the majority of the population is Evangelical Lutheran… godless American-style Evangelicalism doesn’t plague Finland). Besides that, Finland was part of the old Empire. Ergo, we start with Finland…


00a Finnish food. Cognac Mustard. 09.02.13


Finnish Cognac Mustard


  • 100 ml (½ cup) heavy cream
  • 300 ml (1½ cups) mustard powder
  • 200 ml (1 cup) sugar
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) vinegar
  • 250 ml (1¼ cups) water
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) cornflour/cornstarch
  • 5 ml (1 teaspoon) salt
  • 15 ml (1 tablespoon) brandy or whiskey
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric or curry powder

Combine the mustard powder, sugar, salt, and turmeric; mixing it together thoroughly. Set it aside. Whisk 100 ml water together with the cornstarch/cornflour. Stirring continually, bring the remaining 150 ml of water to the boil over high heat, add the cream, reduce the heat to medium, bring it back to the boil (whilst stirring continually). Reduce the heat to low, add half of the dry mixture to the pan, whisk like hell until it’s all thoroughly incorporated. After that, add the remaining dry mixture to the pan, whisking for a couple of minutes. Then, add the cornstarch/cornflour slurry to the pot; whisk like crazy until the whole concoction is smooth. Keep the pot on the heat until it bubbles again, whisking it slowly… remove it from the heat at this point. Add the brandy, whisk it in, and, last of all, add the vinegar and whisk it in well. The mustard will be loose, but it’ll thicken up on cooling. Let the mustard cool for an hour at room temp, then, put it in containers. Let the mustard mature in the fridge for at least a week; it’ll last for at least three months more under refrigeration. You can double up the brandy content without concern…



00b Finnish food. Mushroom Sauce. 09.02.13


Finnish Mushroom Sauce


  • 300 ml (1½ cups) fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 handfuls fresh parsley and/or chives
  • 200 ml (1 cup) cream
  • 100 ml (½ cup) dry white wine
  • 100 ml (½ cup) stock
  • 1 large onion
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons butter)
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric or curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • Salt, to taste

Peel and chop the onion finely. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, add the onions, and cook them for about 10 minutes, until they take on some colour, stirring frequently. Then, add the sliced mushrooms, and cook them for another 10 minutes, until they express liquid, stirring frequently. Season the mixture in the pan with salt and pepper (the original called for white pepper, but that’s wimpy stuff… use real pepper, it’s got guts, and no one’s gonna complain about the pepper specks in the sauce, trust me on that one). Add the stock/broth (the original called for “vegetable broth”, but you can go for the gusto and substitute beef or chicken broth/stock… the former is particularly hearty), mix in thoroughly, and bring it to the boil over high heat, stirring continually. Reduce the heat to medium, add the cream, sugar, and turmeric, and mix it in thoroughly. Stirring continually, bring the mixture to a boil, then, take it off the heat, and add the fresh herbs, stirring the mixture well to combine everything. Place back on the heat and simmer for one minute. This is best if you serve it hot.

The original called for chantrelles, but any ol’ mushroom will do in a pinch, even the common white button kind. Trust me, no one will complain (I doubt that you’re having a disciple of Curnonsky over for dinner). A nice variation is to soak ½ ounce (30 grammes) of dried mushrooms in a little warm water for at least an hour, and add them with the fresh mushrooms. You can add the soaking liquid with the stock/broth. This makes an ass-kicking ASSERTIVE mushroom sauce… save it for the real mushroom mavens (like all Russians, Polacks, Slovaks, Germans, Finns, Balts, Scandihoovians, Hunkies, Serbs, Romanians, Greeks, and other assorted human beings)… dried mushrooms ain’t cheap. This also tastes good if you use sour cream (and my Finnish friends assure me that’s how the Karelians eat it).



00c Finnish food. Italian Salad. 09.02.13


Finnish “Italian” Salad



  • 250 grammes (8 ounces) elbow macaroni
  • 300 grammes (10 ounces) ham, diced
  • 150 grammes (5 ounces) frozen peas
  • 200 grammes (7 ounces) corn, canned
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 pickle, diced
  • 1 sweet apple, peeled and diced


  • 200 ml (1 cup) REAL mayonnaise (not LITE or “Low-Fat”)
  • 15 ml (1 tablespoon) olive oil
  • 15 ml (1 tablespoon) honey
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all the dressing ingredients together and mix them well to incorporate everything thoroughly. Cook the macaroni until done in the usual manner and drain it, placing it under cold running water to stop the cooking. Nuke the peas in the microwave for about a minute… let them cool to room temp. Drain the corn well. Then, mix all the salad ingredients together well; when done, add the dressing, and mix it well. Let it stand, covered, in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. This seems a close relative of the Russian Salat Olivye, but with macaroni instead of potatoes (then, there’s Greek “Russian” Salad, which is a more-or-less direct rip (more “less” than “more”) of the Russian original, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves).

This should serve eight.



00d Finnish food. Karelian Stew. 09.02.13


Karelian stew


  • 600 grammes (1¼ pounds) beef
  • 600 grammes (1¼ pounds) pork
  • 1 onion
  • 100 grammes (4 ounces) swede/rutabaga
  • 100 grammes (4 ounces) celeriac or celery
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 juniper berries (optional)
  • 300 ml (1½ cups) dry white wine
  • 15 ml (1 tablespoon) flour
  • 50 grammes (2 ounces) butter
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

A thick-walled lidded casserole like a Le Creuset pot is best for this dish (an old cast-iron pot will do just as well, as long as it has a tightly-fitting lid). Cut the meat into cubes. Peel the vegetables, cube up the swede and celeriac, you should leave the carrots in rounds, and slice the onion thinly. Then, place all of the vegetables in the bottom of the pot. Sprinkle the flour over the veggies. In a separate pan, brown the meat in batches in a little oil over medium heat. Place the browned meat over the veggies in the pot. Then, scrape up the frond (that’s the good stuff sticking to the pan after browning the meat), using the white wine. Pour the wine into the pot, if it doesn’t just cover the meat, add water; place it over medium-high heat to bring it to the boil. Add the bay leaves and juniper berries. Shake the pot briskly now and then; don’t stir it, that’s so the veggies don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. When it comes to the boil, take it off the heat, place the butter in pats on top of the meat, cover it, and place it in a preheated 150 degree (300 degrees Fahrenheit) oven for 2-3 hours (the longer the better). Check to see if the fluid just covers the meat. If it doesn’t, add hot water. Serve with boiled potatoes and sauerkraut on the side.

This should serve six.



00e Finnish food. Macaroni Casserole. 09.02.13


Finnish Macaroni Casserole


  • 1 kilogramme (2 pounds) macaroni
  • 500 grammes (1 pound) ground meat (pork or beef, or a combination)
  • 3 onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 litre (1 quart) milk
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) tomato paste
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) vinegar
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) vegetable oil
  • Salt, to taste

Put a large pot with 2 litres of water over high heat to boil. When it boils, add 1 tablespoon salt into the pot. Cook the macaroni in the usual way for 12 minutes. Drain the macaroni in a colander and place it under cold running water to halt the cooking. Place the vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions, and sauté them for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions take on colour. When you get to that point, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sugar over them and stir it in. Add the ground meat to the pan with onion. Cook it for a few minutes, stirring it often, until the meat loses its red colour. Then, season it with salt and pepper to taste, and add the tomato paste and vinegar, mixing it thoroughly. Break the eggs in a bowl, whisk until well-mixed; then, add the milk, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1 teaspoon pepper, mixing into the liquid completely. Place the pasta and meat mixture in a baking dish, stirring well to make sure that it’s mixed thoroughly. Smooth it out. Pour the egg/milk mixture evenly over it, and let it stand for a minute or two to allow the liquid to settle properly. The top of the meat/pasta mixture should be just covered with the liquid. Cover the dish and bake it in a preheated 180 degree (350 degrees Fahrenheit) oven for 35 minutes.

This should serve eight generously.

Finns ALWAYS squirt mind-numbing amounts of ketchup over this… it’s what they do (I don’t care for it, but that’s the way it is there). This is Finland’s Number One Comfort Food. If there’s a relationship between this and Greek Pastitsio, I wouldn’t be surprised. By the way, only Swedes put cheese on the top of this (and put it back in the oven only until it’s melted and flecked with brown specks (do watch carefully… it doesn’t take long at all))… at least, that’s what the Finns say. They’d NEVER do such a thing. It’s a contest as to whom the Finns distrust more, Russians or Swedes. They lived under both as a subject people, picked up more from both than they care to admit, and are closer to both than they want to say. I’ll stay out of that one, kids…


There’s going to be more… next time, I’ll go to the other extreme… to the south, to Ethiopia. Now, there’s a four-alarm cuisine if there ever was such…

BMD barbara-drezhloBarbara-Marie Drezhlo

Saturday 9 May 2013

Albany NY



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