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Sponge Cake with Strawberries

The summer is over in some countries, and autumn’s come. Hope you enjoy it!  If only it could be here for a day..

It was usual hot summer day, when ‘why not to make a nice cake with strawberries’ idea came into my mind. I went for the widely known sponge cake, which in Russia is often called biscuit cake. In the US it’s known as pound cake, while in the UK as Victoria cake. Pretty simple to make, could be layered with various berries and feelings.

I soaked sponges with cherry brandy to pep it up.  😉

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Ingredients for 20 cm/8 inch round pan:

200 g self-raising flour
3 large eggs
160 g butter, melted
100/150 g granulated sugar*
1 tbsp lemon or orange zest (optionally)
1 vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla extract (optionally)
a pinch of salt

For cream filling:

200 ml whipped cream
80/100 gr caster sugar*

For brandy syrup:

6 tbsp water
2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp brandy**
300-400 g strawberries***
2 tbsp icing sugar

Directions:

  1.  Heat oven to 160C (350F). Butter and flour a cake pan.
  2. Whisk together eggs and sugar until light cream texture. Add melted butter, salt, lemon zest, vanilla extract and beat in.
  3. Sift the flour over bowl and gently start to fold in.
  4. Bake 25-30 minutes or until top of cake is golden.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare brandy syrup. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan, simmer until sugar is dissolved. Remove from a heat and stir in brandy.
  6. Remove the cake from oven, cool in a pan for 10 minutes. Take cake out of pan and put onto a wire rack and let it cool completely.
  7. While cake is cooling, cut strawberries into medium-thin slices. Sprinkle with icing sugar.
  8. Whisk whipped cream and sugar together (for 4-5 minutes).
  9. Time to assemble our cake. With long knife cut cake horizontally into 2 layers.  Brush each layer with brandy syrup. Spread 2/3 of strawberries over one layer, then half of whipped cream.  Cover with another sponge. Spread whipped cream over it, top with remaining strawberries.
  10. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Serve with tea and enjoy!

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*In every day life I consume very small amounts of sugar. In all recipes I put it roughly. But you can increase amount as much as you like it.

**Substitute brandy with cognac/rum or non-alco liquor. 

*** Substitute fresh strawberries with preserved.

Purple peppers and chickpeas!

This summer I’ve been making lots of salads.

It’s still extremely hot in Dubai and one more salad has been done:)

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    I found these beautiful capsicums at a store, grown by farmers in the Netherlands. They’re absolutely marvellous, aren’t they?

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Never seen such deep purple, blackish color of bell peppers. 🙂 They are green inside and have got the same taste as green ones.

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So, about the salad. One of the main ingredients are capsicums, as you could guess 😉

I promise, the salad won’t leave you hungry.  Chickpeas in it are high in protein! Usually I make it ahead (before fitness class, for example, after I’m so hungry!) so it has plenty of time to marinate.

We need:

  • 1 can chickpeas (drained)
  • 2 big capsicums
  • 100 g feta cheese
  • juice of  ½ lemon + zest of ¼ lemon
  • extra virgin olive oil (for frying and dressing)
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme (or dried one is good as well)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • fresh mint or/and parsley

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Heat the olive oil with thyme and cumin just for 1 minute, add shredded capsicums, toss and stir-fry until they become soft. My purple peppers turned into greenish color 😀

In a large bowl, combine chickpeas, capsicums, feta cheese and lemon zest. Toss to combine.  Pour 2 tbsp olive olive and lemon juice over the mixture.

Add some fresh mint and parsley; season to taste with grounded black pepper.

You can serve it immediately, but I heartily recommend to leave it  for 30-60 minutes to marinate.

Enjoy!

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Russian cold soup-Sveckolnik

    Sveckolnik [sve’koljnik] – Russian summer cold soup, which goes really well during the summer heat. The name comes from the word “sveckla”, which denotes beetroot.
   When AC and even hundreds of ice cream don’t help you against hot, this light soup refreshes and cools you. 
  The main ingredient is a raw beetroot, it’s high in vitamins, minerals and fiber that can effect the digestive system in a positive ways.
Raw beets are one of the top vegetables for nutritious raw eating, according to Bastyr University.
   You can include this light soup in your balanced diet and it takes only few minutes to prepare it.
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Ingredients:
beetroot – 2 small
cucumbers – 3-4
eggs – 1-2 per plate
a bunch of spring onion
a small bunch of dill
1 garlic clove
buttermilk 400 ml
water 200 ml
salt, sugar to taste
sour cream (optional)

Better to choose small young beets. And you can substitute raw beets with boiled, if you like.

Shred beets and cucumbers, put them in a deep plate.
Boil eggs for 10 minutes, let cool and cut them into chunks.
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Slice green onions, put it in a cup and add some salt. With teaspoon begin to grind the salt into onions.
Svekolnik
Add crushed garlic and mix.
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Combine together beets, cucumbers, eggs, onions and dill. Add a pinch of sugar.
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For the liquid part buttermilk is mixed with cold drinking water, the volume and thickness of it totally depends on your taste.
 If you can find “salted lassi”  (yougurt drink)-use it, no need to dilute with water; in Arabian countries it’s called “laban up”, in Russia – “tan”, “sivorotka” .

Pour the buttermilk over dry ingredients and mix well. Sprinkle some dill.

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  Enjoy! 🙂
You can serve it with a dollop of sour cream and rye bread.

Layered salad with chicken and prunes

In Russia you can find large variety of salads, especially with mayonnaise dressing. Such salads are little bit heavy and could nourish you easy, especially during winter time.

Despite the fact that they’re tasty, better to cut down mayo dressings and replace it with sour cream or yogurt.

The below wonderful salad could be served not only for a family dinner, but for any festive occasion. It consists of simple ingredients, tastes good and deserves to be in your cooking book 🙂

Cucumber salad1

Ingredients

  • 2 medium chicken fillet
  • 12 prunes (dried plums)
  • 200 g mushrooms (champignons)
  • 1 onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Dressing

  • 150 g sour cream
  • 1 tsp plain mustard
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt, pepper

Put the prunes in a cup and cover with hot water, let stand for 30 minutes. Remove stones and cut prunes into pieces.

Boil the chicken, let cool, then cut it into small cubes.

Boil the eggs for 10 minutes. Shred the cucumbers and cooled eggs.

Cut the onion and mushrooms, fry together with 1 tbsp olive oil until golden-brown; set to cool.

Mix ingredients for the dressing.

 Layers

  1. Prunes
  2. Chicken fillets
  3. Spread 1/2 dressing
  4. Mushrooms with onion
  5. Spread 1/4 dressing
  6. Eggs
  7. Spread the remaining 1/4 dressing over eggs
  8. Cucumber

Done! Let the salad stand for 1 hour and you can enjoy! 🙂

Cucumber salad-2

Butterweek and Russian Pancakes!

    What can be special in pancakes, you think? In this case, you have never tried real Russian pancakes with their special aroma and taste! 🙂

     Russian author Alexander Kuprin gave good characterization to pancakes:

“A pancake is round-shaped as the generous sun. A pancake is red and warm as the hot sun. A pancake greased with butter is a recollection of sacrifices, which were made for a mighty stone idols. A pancake is a symbol of the sun, nice days, good harvests, happy marriages and healthy children.”

Some ages ago, a man was accompanied by a pancake all their life. From birth, when pregnant woman was eaten pancakes, and until death, when pancakes were served during funeral repast (we still follow this tradition).

Nowadays, pancakes are essential treats for Butterweek (Rus.-Maslenica). It’s the spring festival, the week before Lent (The Great Fast) for Christians in Russia. During this week women bake pancakes every day(!), invite relatives and friends, and celebrate the spring.

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Lots of Russian authors mentioned pancakes in their work. A good example, “Eugene Onegin” by Alexander Pushkin:

  “Throughout their life, so calm, so peaceful,

  Sweet old tradition was preserved:

  For them, in Butterweek the greaseful,

  Russian pancakes were always served..”

Every day of Butterweek has a name and meaning.

Monday is “meeting”. The daughter-in-law visited her parents, then father and mother-in-law visited their house and their decided together how to celebrate. First-cooked pancakes were given to poor people in commemoration of deceased. In the evening, children went to slide from snow hills.

Today is “flirting”  🙂 Usually it was day for weddings. Just married couples and their guests went to slide from snow hills. In every house baked “hills” of pancakes. 🙂

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  Have a nice week! 😀