Russian Kitchen: Layered vegetable bake

Russian Kulebaka. Source: Press Photo

Russian Kulebaka. Source: Press Photo

Russian cuisine has its own array of layered dishes, with the Kulebaka being the most elaborate of them all. Thankfully, there is also a simple vegetarian variant that can be made at home.

In each cuisine you can find dishes that are made of layers. Italian Lasagna, Greek Mussaka, Georgian Adzapsandali, Uzbek domlama, Russian Kulebaka - we can continue this list further and further.

Why did people create layered dishes? Is it because they didn’t want to waste their time mixing or to give the dishes some special taste? I don’t think anybody can answer this question.

Let’s talk about Kulebaka. It is a type of pie traditionally made for the Russian Tsars, consisting of 12 layers! The cooks used almost all the types of food in Kulebaka: meat, various fish, mushrooms, poultry of different types and onion. Sometimes ingredients were layered, sometimes put into the corners. After the items were put in a very mysterious way, they were covered with the dough and then baked. The pie is generally decorated with the leaves and flowers made of dough.

Kulebaka is supposed to be cut and served in a particular way that each piece has all the ingredients. According to some sources, the 12-layered Kulebaka was made only in the ‘Kupecheskii Club’ and ‘Testov Traktir’ in Moscow and the order has to be made a day in advance.

I have never tried Kulebaka, I tried only the distant relatives - various pies with fish and rice or chicken and potatoes, or cabbage and eggs. I remember watching Anthony Bourdain’s ‘A Cook’s Tour – St. Petersburg’ where he was invited to experience the practice of making homemade Kulebaka. This is what Bourdain had to say about this extremely elaborate pie: “They were able to find only one woman in the whole of St Petersburg who could make this pie. First, she spent at least an hour to make pastry dough. Then couple of hours to make an exhausting list of ingredients. Each ingredient required special preparation. Then, she laid the dough, fish, eggs, mushrooms, onions, fish, eggs, mushrooms, onions, fish, eggs… and so one. Then she sealed the dough and put it in the oven for another couple of hours. After 5 hours Kulebaka was finally served.”

He said that only Russians can eat it!

Of course, I won’t be teaching my readers how to make Kulebaka. I won’t dare making it myself as well. Let’s cook some other, simpler layered Russian dish.

Layered Vegetable Bake (serves 2-3 portions)

Ingredients:

Tomatoes 6-7 pc

Eggplant 2 pc

Mushrooms 300 g

Onion 2 pc

Set Curd 150 g

Cheese 200 g

Vegetable Oil 50 ml

Spices to your taste

 

1.            Clean the vegetables. Slice onions into circles.

2.            Apply oil on the baking tray, spread onion rings and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3.            Slice mushrooms and lay on onion. Spread a little bit of curd on it.

4.            Peel the eggplants, cut circles with 7-9 mm thickness, apply spices on it and put on top of the mushrooms.

5.            Cut tomatoes into circles and equally put on the eggplants with salt, pepper and sprinkle of oil. Bake in the oven at 180C for 30 minutes.

6.            Scrape cheese on top of tomatoes and bake another 15 minutes. Sprinkle herbs of your taste on ready dish.

I would recommend adding finely chopped garlic between eggplant and tomatoes for people who like garlic taste in their food.

Priyatnogo Appetita!

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