The weather is finally cooling off now that summer has faded into autumn. Are you ready to make meals that really reflect the changing seasons? If so, brace yourself for a culture that is a master of all foods for colder weather. Influenced by European, Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Siberian people, Russian cuisine is full of variety and unique food and drink! In this blog, we will be covering the various ways in which you can make your meals authentically Russian. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll have a good idea of common ingredients used in Russian staple food, appetizers, main courses, desserts, and beverages that will leave your family relishing in the flavors of Russian culture.
Common ingredients in Russian staple food
The following section lays out the most popular grains, fruits, vegetables, and meats for Russian staple food: Russians use a lot of grains in their baking. The most common kinds are rye, wheat, barley, and millet. Not a lot of fruit grows in Russia, so most fruit used in recipes comes from berries and other small fruits like apples. Vegetables most common in Russia are cabbage, potatoes, and carrots. When it comes to meat, fish, pork, poultry, and caviar are all popular choices for Russian entrees and appetizers. All of these ingredients will make your kitchen ready for a Russian dining experience.
Caviar traditionally refers to salt-cured eggs of the critically endangered wild sturgeon fish, but these days it may also refer to eggs from caviar substitutes such as salmon, trout, or carp. Often portrayed as an appetizer for the upper class, this option will impress guests attending a more formal dinner.
Russians also have a huge variety of soups. Many of the soups are served warm, as befits a colder climate. One such soup is called Shchi. This appetizer is a cabbage or sauerkraut soup with pickle water, apples, carrots, basil, parsley, onions, celery, dill, and garlic. The soup is often served with smetana (sour cream) and rye bread. Served for over a thousand years, this traditional Russian soup has been made by both the rich and the poor, making it an option for virtually any Russian family. In other words, if a Russian person had a guest to serve but was unsure of this person’s social standing, shchi soup was a sure bet one way or the other! Ukha, which is a fish broth soup with potatoes and other vegetables of your choosing, is another option for those who enjoy seafood.
For a hearty soup that will fill the stomachs of even the pickiest eaters on a cold day, look no farther! Borscht is a very popular soup in Russia. Its base is made of broth, beets, and tomatoes, while the body of the soup contains many vegetables, such as celery, fermented cabbage, onions, and carrots. Russian Borscht usually contains beef and is served hot, with sour cream, garlic, chopped chives, and parsley.
Pelmeni, meaning ‘ear-shaped bread,’ is an entree of mincemeat wrapped in dough that is then combined with other meats. It is traditionally 45% beef, 35% lamb, 20% pork, and is spiced with pepper, onions, and garlic. Beef stroganoff is a dish you may be familiar with. This option involves sautéed beef cooked in mustard and served with sour cream. Sometimes, onions or tomato sauce may be added to give it a more family-friendly appeal.
There are many excellent Russian desserts that add an interesting variety to one’s typical dessert of choice. Pirozhki , meaning ‘small pie,’ is one such option. This dish is typically made from yeast dough and glazed with egg. The dough often contains beef and/or mashed potatoes, mushrooms, onions, egg, and cabbage. Pirozhki can also contain fish and oatmeal. A sweeter version of pirozhki may contain fresh or stewed fruit such as apples, apricots, cherries, or chopped lemons, and cottage cheese. Another dessert is the vatrushka, which is made by creating a ring of dough from sweet yeast bread that surrounds quark, an acidic fermented cheese made from warming sour milk and adding raisins or bits of fruit.
Well-known by the rest of the world, vodka is perhaps one of the most stereotypical alcoholic drinks one associates with Russia. Frequently served as a toast, this liquor is usually chilled prior to serving. For those not crazy about taking shots of vodka, kvass is a low-alcoholic, fermented beverage made from rye bread. Usually, between 0.5% and 1% alcohol, this drink can be flavored with strawberries, raisins, or mint. Lastly, black tea is a good choice for those who prefer to keep warm with hot drinks, rather than spirits.
If you’re looking to warm your family’s stomachs this autumn and winter, then the many intriguing foods and drinks of Russian cuisine is a perfect fit. Their warm hearts will thank you as the days get colder, and you’ll soon be a master of Russian staple food at it’s finest!