Russia is an incredibly diverse place. Covering parts of two continents, it’s home to a vast array of cultures. If you’re of Russian heritage or you just want to get better acquainted with this part of the world, it’s easier than ever to find ways to fill your plate with specialities Russians have enjoyed for centuries. Many Russians have brought their cuisine with them as they’ve travelled. Pop into a restaurant to try these time honoured traditions from excellent cooks. Or, take the time to make your own version at home. A few simple ingredients and you’re on the way.
Beef Stroganoff is the namesake of the Stroganov family and their gift to culinary history. It’s eaten all over Russia. This famous dish is composed of chopped pieces of beef. They’re sauteed in a butter sauce to which sour cream, white wine, onions and local Russian mustard is added. Once the whole thing is completed, it’s spooned over large egg noodles. You can make it at home with a few basic ingredients. This is one that’s good for a winter night when you want something truly filling.
Few things are more essentially Russian than this lovely magenta soup. Beets are grown all over Russia. They are turned into a soup with thick chunks that is kept on top of the stove until the flavours merge into one. Stock from beef bones is gently simmered for several hours. The basis of the soup is the beet but other root vegetables are added for a warmer, richer flavour. Carrots, cabbage and potatoes may also go into the pot. Once it’s done, it can be served cold or hot. For even more rich flavour, many Russians throw in a nice teaspoon of sour cream.
Also known as stuffed cabbage, this is about the use of Russian ingredients brought to perfection. Cooks take beef that might otherwise be tough and reduce it down until it’s tender in the mouth. It’s then stuffed into boiled cabbage leaves. Russians love to serve it on top of a base of tomato sauce but you can decide to opt for something with a bit more bite. A bit of sour cream is usually added to the sauce but can be left out if you’d like lighter possibilities. Serve it cold during the summer or warm for a winter’s lunch.
Russians love these thick, hearty dumplings. These all start with a thin coating of unleavened dough. Expert Russian cooks stretch them until you can practically see through the results. Dough forms the basis for many types of fillings. Many Russians love them with all kinds of meat. They add finely chopped onions and a splash of equally finely chopped dill. If you prefer something lighter, you can bring in wild mushrooms you’ve gathered or brought on the store-bought versions. The dough wraps easily around the filling. A light cooking and you’ll have something right on a cold day.
Pirozhki are rather like the older brother of the pelmini. Here, the dough is much thicker. The goal is to provide the ideal base that can stand up to the filling and serve to complement it. Fillings like ground beef, potatoes and cheese are quite common. People can find them baked in large trays in many large Russian cities. It’s also common to see them quickly flash-fried for a delightful snack in the middle of the day. Many places offer them with different kinds of fruit fillings that take advantage of the Russian summer.