7 underrated Russian dishes you can cook yourself

Russian cuisine is about more than just blini and pelmeni. The following traditional dishes may be less famous abroad, but they’re no less tasty.

1. Casserole

Russian casserole is called zapekanka (from the world zapekat, to bake). Take any ingredients you want, mix them together, add flour, eggs, and spices, and bake in the oven. Perfect! This kind of cooking is an ideal to use up leftovers. A zapekanka can be a main dish (for example,made from potato or pasta and minced meat), a side dish (vegetable casserole), or even a dessert. Cottage cheese casserole with raisins is one of the best dishes from the Soviet Union! 

2. Buckwheat porridge

The oven has always been the heart of the Russian kitchen – it used to boil water for the entire house, cooked all meals, and kept the house warm during the winter. Traditional Slavic dishes often need to be stewed for several hours. That’s why buckwheat porridge has been so popular since ancient times: you need only to cover the pan with hot water and leave it overnight. In the morning the dish will be ready. Buckwheat is incredibly healthy: it’s gluten-free, full of ferrum, zinc, and vitamin E. At first its taste may seem a little unusual, but soon you won’t be able to live without it.

3. Pastila

One of the oldest Russian sweets, pastila, is made from apples and berries, which are dried and then baked on a very low temperature for several hours. The most famous pastila is made in the small towns of Kolomna (100 km south of Moscow) and Belyov (300 km south of Moscow). Russian pastila is light, airy, low-calorie, and as sweet as a marshmallow. Another dessert similar to pastila is zephyr, named in honor of the Greek god of the west wind. The difference is in the recipe – besides fruit puree it’s also made with eggs.

4. Rassolnik

If you’re not enthusiastic about the idea of boiled pickles and pearl barley, rassolnik (from the world rassol, brine) soup will change your mind. This, at first glance, weird combination of food, makes it one of the tastiest soups in Russian cuisine. Add rich meat broth – and you’ll get a healthy and nourishing dish for winter. Eat this soup with sour cream, like a real Russian. 

5. Circassian cheese

The homeland of this mild cheese is the south Russian region of Adyghea. In the country, the cheese is actually shares the republic’s name. This cheese is made of cow’s milk and is similar to feta, but more tender and less salty. Circassian cheese is very popular in Russia, and it’s a common ingredient in many dishes, from sandwiches to casseroles.

6. Borodino bread

This “dark” rye loaf with coriander is one of the most beloved breads in Russia. There’s a legend that this bread was first backed with cumin by the sisters of the Spaso-Borodino Convent, which was established the Battle of Borodino took place. However, the official recipe of the Borodino loaf didn’t appear until the 1930s. Russians believe that this bread is healthier than wheat varieties: it contains fewer calories and more vitamin A, B, and PP, not to mention loads of fiber.

7. Vegetable caviar

The word “caviar” (ikra in Russian) comes from the verb kroit, to cut, meaning the way to cook the dish. That’s why Russian caviar is not only “fishy.” Eggplant and squash caviar, loved by the wife of the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, is a vegetarian alternative to red and black caviar (which was in short supply during the USSR). Still, vegetable caviar is a very popular appetizer in Russia – especially if you make it yourself! 

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