Blini spiral pie

 Maslenitsa or Butterweek is going on in Russia right now. It’s a winter festival, saying goodbye to the cold winter days and greeting the warm and sunny spring. During this week people prepare and eat lots of blini. For breakfast blini can be served simple and quick with melted butter and sugar or some homemade jam, for lunch – again blini, and for the dinner, especially when the whole family is getting together, is really nice and festive to serve the delicious salmon pie or this one – soft, aromatic and nourishing spiral meat pie.
 Blini and the filling can be prepared a couple of days ahead, so you can assemble the pie whenever  you have the time or just before the dinner. Succulent stewed cabbage, tasty beef and aromatic dill along with coriander and parsley make the filling truly wonderful! Moreover, blini will be soaked in a mixture of sour cream and eggs, that adds extra moisture and taste.
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 Maslenitsa is a very kind and light time, each day has a special meaning according to old tradition. For example, Wednesday is called “Gourmand”. On this day huge tables and stalls were settled on main squares, where people could drink hot honey-based sbiten and aromatic tea, enjoyed gingerbreads, fresh buns and some other sweet treats, and definitely taste the unlimited blini! But the main event was the visit of son-in-law his mother-in-law, and the mother tried to prepare the best blini she could to show respect and love to her daughter’ husband.
 On Friday, the mother-in-law returned the visit, then her daughter made pancakes and the son-in-law had to please the mother and her other relatives.
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Blini spiral pie

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: moderate
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The quantity of the ingredients is given approximately, as it totally depends on the taste, quantity of blini, etc. 
*For the pouring mixture, you can use either sour cream or double cream; even milk will work, just reduce the quantity.
Ingredients
~8 blini
Filling
250g mince beef
250-300g raw white cabbage
1 medium red onion
2-3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
dried herbs: dill, crushed whole coriander, marjoram
salt&pepper to taste
some oil for frying
2-3 tbsp sour cream (15-20%)
100ml double cream (30-35%)*
2 eggs
Garnish
sour cream
Method
  • Make blini. The recipe is here.
  • Heat some oil in one frying pan, add chopped onion and beef, season with marjoram and salt and pepper. Fry on a high heat for few minutes, breaking up the lumps with spatula. Reduce the heat to medium and fry for 10-15 minutes more. Then add some warm water, if the meat is too dry, cover with the lid and simmer until tender or while you’re preparing the cabbage.
  • In another pan, heat the oil and shredded cabbage, fry on a medium-high heat, stirring occasionally and adding water if necessary, allow cabbage to brown but not to burn. Fry until cabbage is brown, then sprinkle with dill and coriander, season, cover with a lid and cook until the cabbage is soft.
  • To assemble, you need any round baking dish, covered with baking paper and drizzled with oil. Mix meat with cabbage and fresh parsley. Take one blin and put one-two tablespoons of the filling into it, roll. Make as much as fits to the baking dish.
  • Mix creams with eggs and pour over the blini pie.
  • Bake in preheated 190C oven for 30 minutes.
  • Serve warm with  a dollop of sour cream.
Enjoy! 

Russian Beetroot Caviar

 This bright beetroot dip doesn’t contain salmon or any other fish raw. In my home-country vegetable spreads and dips that are mushed into a non-smooth consistency are often called caviar. In USSR fish caviar was an expensive product and most of the time was served over special occasions, but people have always wanted something tasty not only during holidays or weekend; and such vegetables as an eggplants, marrows and beetroots were cheap and available almost throughout the year, thus I guess economical version of the “caviar” was created.

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 The recipe I found in a book dated 1990, it calls to boil beetroot, fry onions and press through the  meat-grinder machine along with other ingredients. Easy-peasy. It turned out so tasty, that i have already made it few times in a row! Moreover, it was a hit at the home-party, especially when I served this dip nicely decorated with little festive crackers; needless to say, guests asked for the recipe!
 The original Russian recipe calls for the salted pickled cucumbers, which are usually watery and personally I don’t like its taste, so I used regular crunchy pickled cucumbers and the beetroot dip was absolutely amazing and delicious! I prefer slightly coarse a caviar-like texture, so I don’t blend ingredients too much, but if you wish – just blitz it more to get the smooth dip. Enjoy!

Russian Beetroot Caviar

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients 
400g/2 medium-size beetroots
2 tps olive or sunflower oil, for frying
1/2 large brown onion
~100g pickled cucumbers
2 cloves of garlic
Salt&Pepper, to taste
Method 
  1. Boil beetroots until soft. Cool, clean and chop.
  2. Chop the onion and fry in a oil until soft and golden, about 5 minutes.
  3. Finely chop cucumbers. Also finely chop or mush garlic.
  4. Blitz all ingredients in a food processor until desired consistency.
  5. Check the seasoning. Serve with rye bread or crackers.
Enjoy!

Winter Spiced Drink

I guess some of you never heard about these beautiful berries, and even not tasted them. Not sure about the correct name in English, but google says “sea buckthorn or hippophae”. These bright orange berries have a sour and slightly bitter taste, and they are well-known in my home country. I remember  late September and myself a little girl picking these berries from trees in parents’ garden. It was not easy at all, because of dense berry arrangement on each branch plus lots of thorns among the berries! It was possible to cut the whole branches but in that case the future harvest could be low. But hard works pay and it was such a pleasure to sip freshly brewed tea with bright berries in it or just eat them as is.
 Sea buckthorn has lost of benefits for the health, and contains great amount of vitamins E and C. It can be frozen, or used in making jams, pies or preparing liquors.
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I make this simple hot drink with frozen berries, they are of course less bitter but still tastes great! Addition of cinnamon sticks and star anise adds a nice spicy note to the drink, that always associated with cold winter days. I haven’t used any tea this time, but you can add a cup of freshly brewed black tea (plain, not flavored) to the drink and simmer all together.
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I truly hope that you could get and enjoy these beauties one day! Highly recommend to serve it in a glasses (or transparent tea pot) so you can enjoy not only the taste but also to watch how berries and spices ‘dancing’ in your glass!
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Winter Spiced Drink with sea buckthorns

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: very easy
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You can add a freshly brewed black tea (plain, not flavored) instead of water or make 50/50 and simmer all together. 
Ingredients 
150g frozen sea buckthorns
600-700ml water
1 cinnamon stick
1-2 star anise
1tbsp brown sugar or honey to taste, optional
Method 
  • Cover frozen berries with water, add spices.
  • If using sugar add it along with spices. You can leave the drink unsweetened and serve it with honey, which is better to not to boil and preferably add to the ready drink thus it can keep all its healthy benefits.
  • Bring the drink to boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Switch off the heat and leave to infuse for few minutes more.
  • Serve warm.
Enjoy!

Gingerbread cookies

 Holiday Greetings! Merry Christmas! May this amazing and magical time of the year will be filled with joy and happiness, and sparkle with moments of love and laughter!
 Winter holidays are about spending time with your family, loved ones and close friends. In this lovely season you may find lots of little things to do, simple things which make you truly happy. I love watching ‘winter’ movies, while eating mandarins or some traditional festive salads, or what a pleasure to wrap up in a cozy blanket and sip hot cinnamon tea, reread favourite book and of course baking! This year I haven’t had time as much as I wanted to spend over baking, but I’d like to share with you my recipe of gingerbread cookies. What a winter without cookies, right? And I can’t wait when my little pie will grow up and we will be making festive cookies together!
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Gingerbread cookies

Ingredients
100g butter
100g brown or raw sugar, or mix
1 large egg
4 tbsp/50g molasses
200g or more plain flour
1/2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
mixture of ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves

Warm butternut squash salad

This delicious warm salad is perfect for cold months. Yes, it is simple but bursting with flavour, and of course it contains the main autumn ingredient – beautiful winter squash! Slightly sweet roasted butternut squash together with salted feta and fresh spinach leaves create nice and tasty salad, perfect in its simplicity.

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And don’t forget to sprinkle the salad with raw pumpkin seeds (as I did.. haha)!
Warm butternut squash salad

Warm butternut squash salad

  • Difficulty: very easy
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Slightly adapted from here
Ingredients
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1cm-thick slices
1 medium red onion, cut into wedges
1 orange
fresh spinach leaves, as much as you like
100-150g feta or white/Bulgarian cheese
handful of raw pumpkin seeds
Dressing*
juice of 1/2 orange
2-3 tsp white balsamic or champagne vinegar
1 tsp honey mustard
2-3 tbsp EV olive oil
freshly ground sea salt &white pepper, to taste
Method
  1. Arrange butternut squash and onion on a baking tray, drizzle everything with olive oil, plus squash with juice of 1/2 orange. Roast in preheated 180C oven for 25 minutes or until squash is soft.
  2. For the dressing, in a small jar combine all ingredients and shake well. *Adjust to your taste by adding more vinegar or oil.
  3. Arrange spinach on a serving plate, top with warm squash and onion. Sprinkle with feta and pumpkin seeds. Drizzle with dressing.
Enjoy warm salad!