Russia

Why Russia

May is Liam’s birthday month, and he has chosen Russia. He says he chose Russia because the World Cup was played there last year, which is a valid reason. But I suspect he also won’t be sorry to scratch such a large country off the scratch map.

My experience of Russia

I have never been to Russia and would have loved to visit St Petersburg while I was living in the UK. But it was not on the cheap airlines’ popular destination list, so was prohibitively expensive to get to.

And I’ve always loved the word Vladivostok. If I remember correctly Vladivostok’s claim to fame is that it is Russia’s only warm-water seaport, and it is where the Trans-Siberian railway commences – or terminates, depending on your itinerary.

Preparation

A friend from work has lent me a recipe book entitled Culinaria Russia, which includes recipes from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. It’s a beautiful book, and the recipes look amazing. She suggested adding sauerkraut to the potato and cheese pierogi, so I’ll do that.

I was very disappointed to learn that beef stroganoff is not actually Russian – it was created by a French chef. Liam has suggested that one of our international lunches should consist of dishes that do not originate where you assume they do, for example croissants did not originate in France. It’s a great idea and perhaps we could do that for our 80th lunch. Beef stroganoff is going to be one of the dishes at that lunch!

I was surprised about how much sour cream I need to get, but that’s OK – it’s easily enough sourced. The most exotic food I have to find is caviar for the blinis, and that shouldn’t be too hard to find either. Expensive though!

Lunch in Russia is on Sunday 26 May. Viv and Bill will be our guests. The most exciting news is that the council finally approved the building permit for my pergola, and the amazing people at All Weather Shelters had it fully installed within four days of me arriving home from the UK. Fantastic!!

The menu

This is what the menu is looking like:

  • Borscht
  • Potato and cheese pierogi
  • Blini
  • Beef stroganoff
  • Chicken pelmeni
  • Russian salad
  • Shashik
  • Mushroom julienne
  • Cabbage rolls
  • Chicken fritters
  • Honeycake
  • Sbiten

Lauren and Will are on cocktail duty. It’ll be interesting to see what they come up with.

The food

Our Russian lunch was another fantastic meal.

Most unusually, I felt very under-prepared, and was still madly cooking when everyone arrived. Not that that matters in the least – we’re all family, after all.

I ran out of time to make the sbiten, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it – the rest of the food was crazily delicious.

I’ve never had borscht before. It was delicious! The kids liked the chicken fritters, and I think I would have enjoyed the cabbage rolls more if they did not have prunes and sultanas in the sauce. There is something inherently wrong in mixing protein and fruit – it’s very rarely a good combination.

When we had finished the first course, there was much discussion about the dish of the day. Was it the borscht? Maybe those delicious mushrooms. Or the ever popular and ever yummy beef stroganoff. Was it the lamb shaslik? Or perhaps the blini, which were oh so yum.

And then the honey cake came out. To use a much over-used phrase – oh my god!

It was oh so good. I don’t like honey at all, and I had to get lots of strong honey for this recipe and then caramelise it to billy-io. The recipe called it burnt honey. But, oh my god! How yummily delicious it was.

This cake is a true show stopper. It’s not difficult, but it takes time to make the eleven layers of cake (I actually got twelve layers). I made them last weekend and froze them, and the burnt honey lasted OK for the week in the fridge. It became a little more complicated when Lani and I decided to turn it into a birthday cake for Liam. Lani made a three-colour strip of fondant, cut Liam’s name out and stuck the letters onto melted white cholate that had been spread on Oreo biscuits.

Whatever else you do before you die, eat or, even better, bake and eat a Russian honey cake. You’ll go out with a smile on your face, for sure.

Here are the recipes for our faves – Russia best recipes

Click here to see all our favourite recipes.

The drinks

Our cocktail, thank you Lauren and Will, was a Moscow Mule, which is made of vodka, ginger beer and lime juice.

Lauren and Will have a lime tree that, I swear, produces more fruit each year than any commercial lime orchard. At this time of the year, we’re all looking for ways to use up limes and the Moscow Mule was a very satisfactory solution.

The ambience

Traditional Russian music doesn’t do much for me, so I thought I’d make up a playlist of songs about Russia rather than from Russia.

Top of the list was, of course Back in the USSR by the Fab Four, followed closely by Rasputin by Boney M and Jukebox in Siberia by Skyhooks. I loved Skyhooks back in the day and was devastated when I learned that Shirl had been killed in a helicopter accident. Like hearing of the deaths of John Lennon and Freddie Mercury, I can call every detail of where I was and who I was with when I heard that he had died. RIP Shirl!

We sat outside under my lovely new pergola for the main course, but the cold weather forced us indoors for dessert and the quiz.

The quiz

Will won the quiz with a rather impressive 22 out of 25. Well done, Will!

There was not too much controversy this time, although we did have a little discussion about what the Kremlin actually is.

Here’s the factsheet – Factsheet_Russia

Here’s the place-mat –Place-mat_Russia

And here’s the quiz – Quiz_Russia

The highlight of lunch in Russia

There are only two words to describe the highlight of lunch in Russia – honey and cake.

The rest of the meal was lovely, but the honey cake outshone the lot.

Where to next?

Namaste, India.

Why would we not go to India on our journey around the world? Indian food is delicious. Who doesn’t like a good curry?

We’ll have lunch in India on Sunday 30 June. Should be good …