Summer is a time for Russian Okroshka

Okroshka is a cold Russian soup topped with kvas (a fermented beverage made from bread), which combines chopped vegetables and cooked meat or fish. The name originates from verb ‘kroshit’ (soft t), that means to crumble.                                The history of the dish varies. One says it came from the old simple dish – mix of sliced radish and chopped onion topped with salt and kvas, lately some boiled potatoes were added. Another says, it came from burlaki, who ate salted fish with kvas.. Anyhow, okroshka had been made from remains of roasted pork, beef, turkey, and grouse; the meat was chopped along with pickled or fresh cucumbers, onions, sometimes with splash of brine (from pickled cucumbers or cabbage) or vinegar, and of course, homemade kvas. Peasants who work in fields took vegetarian okroshka and kvas for their lunch; kvas is well-known drink to quench a thirst, and okroshka is wonderful and refreshing dish during hot summer months.

Okroshka!
 You can vary vegetables in okroshka to suit your own taste, add more or less some of them, you can add some boiled carrots, rutabaga (swede), turnip, pickled cucumbers, onion, or tarragon. It’s commonly accepted that meat or fish should be 1:1 to veggies.
 For the spice dressing, in a cup mix some kvas with black pepper and a teaspoon of mustard or horseradish; or rub some chopped spring onion, parsley and/or dill with salt. This dressing is added to a bowl with okroshka, then you should stir okroshka with a spoon and keep for 20-30 minuted to allow all flavours to meld; only after that you can pour over kvas, and add sour cream.
Okroshka-7
    The authentic okroshka should be topped with kvas, but nowadays in Russia you can find okroshka with kefir, pure or diluted with mineral water, or airan. Such soup can be called ‘cold soup‘, not okroshka. While the original recipe did not significantly change over time, the Okroshka may slightly vary across Russia and the recipe has been slightly modified during Soviet time, some ingredients (like particular fish and meat) were not available or hard to find in a regular grocery, and people buy and use regular pork mortadella, because it contained about 90% of meat those days, and it was a good alternative to meat. Using mortadella was also making the Okroshka easier and faster to cook, and it could be make in a short time as regular salad. Many people in Russia since Soviet era still considering Okroshka with mortadella as original, despite all ingredients for the traditional recipe are widely available.
 So, the choice is up to you! ;)

Russian Okroshka

Ingredients
500-600g boiled beef (or 300g beef+300g chicken), medium cubes
4 medium potatoes
5-6 large cucumbers
6-7 radishes, sliced
4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped or cut into quarters
a bunch spring onion, chopped
a bunch parsley and/or dill, chopped
1 Tbsp sour cream and 1 tsp mustard, per serving
cold kvas (kefir or laban up), 250-300 ml per serving
salt and black pepper to taste
Rye bread, for serving
Method
 Wash and rub potatoes. Place unpeeled whole potatoes a big pan with cold water, bring to boil and cook for 30 minutes or until soft. Let it cool, peel and cut into medium cubes.
 Cut cucumbers into medium cubes. If you want to keep the mixture in a fridge for 1-2 days, I suggest to discard the seeds.
 In a large bowl combine meat, vegetables, onion and greens, gently stir. You can add eggs on this step, or later into each plate.
 Put some okroshka into a serving plate, add mustard, sour cream, season to taste and give it a good stir. Pour over kvas or kefir. Enjoy!
Refreshing Okroshka
 Do you like matryoshki – those lovely wooden dolls? :D

Draniki

 Draniki - thin and round potato pancakes, are often pan-fried and served with sour cream. The word ‘draniki’ originates from the verb ‘drat’ (soft t), which means grate, rub. It was originally a common breakfast, and today we stick with this tradition, but in some restaurants it’s served all day long. Draniki are so beloved and popular in our country, that not even every Russian knows, that it is Belarus dish.
 Potato was brought to Russia in the end of 17th century, when it was served as an exotic dish only at royal banquets, and potatoes were sprinkle with sugar, not salt and pepper as nowadays. At that time in Belarus, potato had been known for 80 years. Today potato became the main vegetable in Belarus, and now over 200 potato dishes are known.
  Similar potato pancakes can be found in many countries, like hash browns in the USA, kartoffelpuffer in Germany, Swiss rösti, or Jewish latkes, and etc.
Draniki
 This is a simple recipe that is easy to prepare and produces great results! :) Enjoy!

Draniki - Russian potato pancakes

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients
4 large potatoes
1 egg
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2-3 Tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped (or 1 1/2 tsp dried)
a good pinch of salt
a good pinch of pepper
2-3 Tbsp sunflower oil, for frying
sour cream, for serving
Preparation
  • Peel potatoes and grate (using medium or large holes of a box grater), transferring to a bowl of water. Soak potatoes for 10-15 minutes, then drain well in a colander, and squeeze grated potatoes with hand, extracting as much liquid as possible.
  • Transfer potatoes back to a bowl and stir in egg, salt, pepper and dill. Add flour and mix until well-coated. The mixture should be wet and thick (not soupy!).
  • In a heavy-based or iron skillet heat the oil until hot, but not smoking.  Place the large spoonfuls of the mixture into pan, pressing down and spreading into cm/inch rounds with a fork or spoon. Reduce heat to moderate. Brown draniki on one side about 5 minutes, turn over and brown on the other. Let drain on a paper towels.
  • Serve warm with sour cream or raw.
  • Draniki are also good with creme fraiche, herb cream cheese and ricotta.
The remaining draniki can be kept in a refrigerator up to one day. Reheat in a 160C/320F oven, about 10 minutes.
Russian Draniki

Middle Eastern Salmon steaks

 Salmon is a very popular fish in Russia. We pan-fry and roast it, make delicious cured salmon, pies, like worldwide famous Koulebyaka. Less fatty varieties, such as pink and hunchback are well-known and in high demand, they are less expensive, but still good and healthy choice. As you may know, such fish is an excellent sauce of Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and B. :)
 My husband and I love salmon and are always trying to find new ways to prepare it. The below recipe requires about 30 minutes and is guaranteed to please family or friends. It is simply amazing recipe, rich salmon, coated in aromatic Middle Eastern spices. 
Middle Eastern Salmon

Middle Eastern Salmon steaks

  • Servings: 2
  • Time: 30mins
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Ingredients
2 salmon steaks
2 round lemon slices
1 tsp whole white peppercorns, crushed
1-2 tsp coarse sea salt, crushed
2 tsp zaatar*
2 tsp sumac
2 tsp sesame seeds
2 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
 
*Make your own zaatar: 2Tbsp thyme+2Tbsp oregano+2Tbsp sesame seeds+1Tbsp sumac+1/2tsp ground cumin+1/2tsp salt
 
Preparation
  • Rub salmon steaks evenly with salt, white pepper and sumac. Place fish on a baking tray (you may line it with baking paper), drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Leave to marinate for 10-20 minutes. 
  • Preheat the oven 180C/ F. Sprinkle zaatar and sesame seeds over steaks; top with lemon slices. Bake for 18-20 minutes.
  • For the side dish, you can roast some potatoes, turnips or carrots along with salmon. Cut veggies into thin slices, sprinkle with salt, pepper, sesame seeds and olive oil. Potatoes usually need more time to be cooked, so you may parboil them before.
Bon appetite! 
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Delicious roasted carrots

Refreshing Sangria

 If you have such a hot summer as I do here (around 45C), you need a good refreshing cocktail to cool you off on a weekend.
 What about Sangria? It is a type of punch from Spain and Portugal, which is served during summer and in some parts of the countries year-round. :D Sangria is made from wine, fresh chopped fruit and sweetener, with an occasional addition of brandy (or vodka, rum, soda may be added). Sangria is named after the word ‘bleeding’ for its bold red color. Now it’s very popular party drink around the world.
 I’m bringing this pitcher, full of nicely spiced Sangria to Angie@Thenovicegardener party! The recipe is easy to multiply for crowds. Yahoo! A little party never killed nobody! :D
Sangria-6

Refreshing Sangria

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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A classic sangria of red wine and fresh fruits that’s easy to make ahead of time for outdoor gatherings.
Ingredients:
1-750ml bottle red wine, Rioja/Cabernet Sauvignon/Burgundy
200ml brandy
400-500ml  freshly squeezed orange juice
120ml/1/2 cup water
90g/1/2 cup sugar
1 large cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 large orange
1 lemon
2 large apples
150g/1 1/2 cups seedless dark grapes
Ice cubes, for serving
Lemon or orange wheels, for garnish
500-700ml orange juice or sparkling water, for serving, optionally
Instructions:
  • In a small saucepan,  mix water, sugar and spices. Bring to boil and simmer the syrup over medium heat for 5 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved. Cool completely. Such syrup is called simple syrup.
  • Cut orange, lemon and apples into wedges; cut some grapes into halves.
  • In a large pitcher, combine the wine, brandy, juice and simple syrup. Add all of the fruit and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until chilled and all the flavours are melded, about 2-3 hours, or better overnight.
  • When sangria is ready, add some ice into the pitcher and stir to combine.
  • Serve over ice in a cocktail or wine glass; garnish with some of the soaked fruit and orange wheels. You can top with the desired amount of orange juice or sparkling water, if using.

ENJOY! <3

Salad with sauteed vegetables

 I want to thank all for your lovely comments on my previous post!
What’s the weather in your country? What do you do to stay chilled? Hiding at home, eating ice cream all days long or chilling near the swimming pool with a cocktail..;) In Dubai almost everybody is hiding inside houses, malls.. Moreover, it’s Ramadan, to drink or eat in public is prohibited until the sunset.
I’m trying to eat more balanced and healthful meal this month, like the below salad. It’s summery and..just eat the salad, man! :D

Veg salad-1

Salad with sauteed vegetables

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Time: 30mins
  • Difficulty: easy
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Aromatic herbs make it so good and appetizing! Eat as is or with grilled sausages.
Ingredients:
2 zucchini/6-7 baby/~600g
2 medium apples, juicy and sour
6 cherry-tomatoes or 1 large tomato
1 red onion
1 clove of garlic, smashed
zest and juice of half lemon
1 tsp fresh thyme or 1/2 dried
2-3 Tbsp parsley/coriander/mint, finely chopped
salt, white pepper to taste
1-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • Cut the onion and slice into half moons. Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the onion until tender.
  • Chop the tomato and apples, add to the pan along with garlic and thyme, mix and sauté for 2-3 minutes more. Discard the garlic, put the vegetable mixture in a bowl, set aside and keep in a warm place.
  • Slice zucchini, add it to the frying pan along with lemon zest and sauté on a medium hit until tender. Add more oil if needed.
  • Add the veg mixture into zucchini, mix and heat for 1-2 minutes.
  • Put all the veggies in a big serving bowl, add mint and/or parsley, salt&pepper and squeeze lemon juice. Drizzle some extra olive oil over the salad, if desired.
Enjoy!
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Veg salad-3