Welcome to my tales of cookery school, food and travel

The first 30+ posts of this blog describe my experiences as I complete a nine month cooking course - the City and Guilds Diploma in Food Preparation and Culinary Art. I did this after I moved out of full time employment and it was purely selfish - I love food, cooking, eating and drinking. Subsequent posts are about, food, travel and adventures.

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Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Besides caviar, what did you eat in Russia?

I'm glad you asked!
As a non Russian I'd describe the food as comfort food. Hmmm, shouldn't all food give some comfort? But you know what  I mean. Hearty, warming food that sticks to your ribs - soups, bread, dumplings, pancakes, porridge, stews and casseroles, potatoes. My uninformed theory is the love of filling food stems from the days when there wasn't much to go around.

There are always several soups on the menu, including Borscht, and often Okroshka. Our daughter in law (who is Russian) says she can't go two days without soup and she loves Okroshka.  This is a soup of thinly sliced vegetables and boiled meat and it's made with Kvas,  a fermented bread drink.  I know, it's sounding better and better!  That it is fermented probably means it will be trending on western menus before long.  It's an acquired taste.



Our dumpling guy
Dumplings come in all sizes and are often eaten for snacks as well as part of a meal. Cabbage is a popular filling. Mmmm I hear you say.  We found a great hole in the wall coffee place near our Moscow hotel where we conversed with the guy using a translation app. His coffee was excellent as were his Korean dumplings. Go to Russia and eat kimchi and pork dumplings for breakfast. Why not? Delicious.

The son and d-i-l had recommended a beer and sausage place near the Bolshoi, so we went before the ballet. It's all culture right? Spicy sausages grilled over a huge pile of charcoal, stuffed into bread with onions and mustard. You'd think we were at a baseball game. We wiped our fingers before going into the theatre. 
The hunter-gatherer tracking down a spicy sausage













Stews and similar dishes come thickened and always (in our experience) with potatoes. Pork, beef and lamb are all popular. Salads run from Greek to Caesar, along with local compositions such as the delicious Georgian salad with walnut dressing we ate one night.
Georgian salad with walnut dressing
Nuts turn up a lot, particularly walnuts. They coated the delicious delicate fried smelt, acted as binding for the various starter spreads, and popped up in salads. 

Fish is popular, particularly fresh water species including, God be praised, salmon. Delicious salmon tartare, fillets, baked, smoked....yum.  Russians' love of fish means sushi restaurants are very popular, which came as a surprise.  Sushi and Russian don't go together in my head.  Smoked fish, yes, and markets are full of it. And we ate little fish, smelt, quickly fried and very tasty. Like a larger, stronger flavoured version of New Zealand whitebait. 
walnut crumbed smelt with gazpacho sauce
Bakeries have great bread and delicious pies and pastries. Sour cream and cream cheese desserts feature heavily and taste damned good with luscious fresh berries.

 

As in all European cities there are restaurants of every stripe. Italian, Chinese, Indian and so on. We didn't come away totally wowed by anything, but nothing was really inedible or terrible either. Possibly because I ignored the 'bovine brains' when I encountered them on a menu.  Presentation varied hugely and there are attractive and unattractive ways to serve any dish. We saw some unattractive ones, some over complicated styling, some no frills slapitonaplate ones that still tasted good. 

I love good food!

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