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Russian Cuisine
December 25, 2006 18:11


Read about the Russian cuisine and find RECIPES of traditional Russian dishes

The Russian cuisine is first of all associated all over the world with vodka, caviar, beetroot salad and pies. It should be noted, however, that vodka was brought to Russia from Italy only in the 15th century. And it was not before the 19th century that salads were borrowed from European cuisine. Caviar has always been festive rather than daily food.

Throughout its long history the Russian cuisine has accumulated and inventively transformed various traditions - both Eastern and Western – from Mongolian to French ones – thus becoming one of the richest cuisines in the world. Yet, originally the daily meal of the Russians used to be quite modest: based on cereals and vegetables, it was enriched with fish, mushrooms and milk products. Meat was rarely used, as there were a great number of lent days.

Bread is everything's head' the Russian saying goes. From times immemorial bread has symbolized the wealth and health of this land. It is an old custom to meet dear guests with bread and salt. Even the Russian word ‘khlebosol'stvo', that stands for ‘hospitality' and ‘open-handedness' consists of the roots ‘khleb'(bread) and ‘sol' (salt).
 

The famous Russian black rye bread appeared in Russia in IX-X century and became the real staff of life here. Meat could not replace bread for the Russians. Neither could white wheat bread substitute black leavened bread.

How can this love of the Russians for their black sour bread be explained? As the latest studies have shown, this bread is very wholesome. Beer and kvass dregs were used as leaven. The bread was baked in the Russian oven where even heat contributed to thorough baking. The loaf was taken out of the oven and tapped on the bottom. Well-baked bread was to jingle like a tambourine.

Varied pies, pancakes, muffins and gingerbreads were an integral part of traditional rites and festivals of the Russian folks. "A home is made by pies, not by walls," – the Russian proverb bears witness to the importance of this dish. Pies of leaven dough with various stuffs (of vegetables, berries, mushrooms, chicken, meat, etc.) are still very popular in Russia

“You can't feed a Russian without kasha” – a proverb says. Kasha is a native Russian dish. Kashas were cooked from all sorts of groats with meat, fish, liver, mushrooms and onion. For base, milk, cream, meat and fish broths were used. Kasha was the symbol of home well-being; its honorable status is reflected in numerous folk tales. Suffice it to say that a wedding feast was called kasha in the days of old.

A Russian dinner is impossible without soup. The favorites are shchi (cabbage soup) and borshch (beetroot soup). They are easy to cook, delicious, nourishing and wholesome.
 

From times immemorial vegetables have been an integral part of Russian cuisine, with plenty of recipes based on turnip, cabbage, radish, cucumber and potato. The inclination of French, American or oriental cuisines to mix quite diverse ingredients was alien to the Russian cuisine. All the vegetables were cooked and eaten separately from one another.

Yet, there was a wide variety of vegetable dishes and foreigners admired skills with which they were cooked in Russia. The vegetables were pickled, salted, boiled, stewed, baked, fried, braised, roasted and broiled. These were also various oils and spices such as onion, garlic, fennel, parsley, mustard, pepper, anise, coriander and laurel leaf that gave the vegetables special delicacy. Some of the old recipes have kept till nowadays. Salads came to Russia from France to be assimilated and acquire quite a special Russian taste.

The original features and richness of Russian cuisine are mainly due to the exuberant ‘gifts of nature' – the abundance of fish and caviar, poultry, mushrooms, berries and honey. Sturgeon (a large fish weighing a few dozen kilograms) has graced Russian tables since ancient times. The famous black caviar comes from sturgeon and related species. Fish and mushroom delicacies, especially appetizers, are known all over the world.

Bread, berries and honey were used for making unique Russian beverages, such as kvass, sbiten', medovukha, mors and drinking honey. The honey drink mentioned in many Russian epics and tales was pretty strong. Consisting of two-thirds honey and one-third berry juice, it was matured in large barrels, buried in the earth, for 15-40 years. Unfortunately, the honey drink went out of use when edged out by vodka in XVIII century.

As for the famous Russian tea-drinking tradition it dates back to the XVI century when Astrakhan and Kazan khanates joined Russia and tea spread all over Russia.

It was not only tea that came from the East. Numerous meat dishes permeated into the Russian table: Siberian pelmeni, Asian manty, Caucasian shashlyk , etc. Among the genuinely Russian meat inventions are suckling pig roasted in dough, solyanka and beef stroganoff.

It was not before Peter the Great that French and German cuisines became popular with the Russian nobility; the XVIII century is characterized by numerous borrowings of foreign dishes, such as cutlets, omelets, sausages and salads. The French cooks also brought with them various sauces and dressings as well as frying pans, saucepans and other utensils. This is when the numerous appetizers Russian cuisine is so famous for were invented.

In Soviet times Russian cuisine accumulated numerous national dishes of the Soviet republics, such as Ukranian vareniki, Uzbek pilaf, Georgian dolma and chakhokhbili, etc.
 

However strange it may seem, Russians rarely eat traditional meals nowadays, as there are lots of Western influences, with fast and ready-to-cook food prevailing, especially in cities. Yet, Russian hosts enjoy treating their guests with traditional dainties, especially on holidays, which are not rare in this country.

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