Lifehacks from Russian chefs: How to perk up your diet while in self-isolation

Legion Media
We talked to chefs and foodies about how cooking three meals a day can be fun, while also helping you stay in shape, as well as get the kids involved.

How to get the most out of 1 ingredient

Evgeniy Mikhailov, chef at “Drinks@Dinners” restaurant

You can do several things with just one ingredient. Let’s take pasta. First day - plain boiled pasta (side), second day - pasta with cheese, third day - fried pasta ‘a-la risotto’ (fry the pasta on vegetable oil until golden and add water), you can do pasta with egg, with cream cheese, similar to a zapekanka. You can also do it with different sauces: tomato, cream, with bacon, cherry tomatoes, basil.

Sea bass with mushrooms in sauce

If you’re making schi, and don’t really feel like eating it the following day, take it out of the fridge, warm it up, pour into a blender and add cream. Now you’ve got cream of vegetable soup. That same concoction can be used as sauce in fish dishes. Or just poured over chicken. Or, when making goulash, during preparation. You can also boil golubtsy if you dilute the cream with some water. 

Evgeniy Khakhalev, chef at “Volna” restaurant 

When your access to store shelves is limited, my advice is to opt for conscious consumption. Buy, for example, an entire bird, instead of prepackaged meats. Steam a breast with vegetables or serve with fresh salad. You can do drumsticks in the oven with garlic, or mince them for patties. Also don’t forget to boil chicken stock from the bones of the wings for some cozy homemade noodles. 

Elena Nikiforova, chef at “Shinok” restaurant

For the second course you can choose from several ways to cook liver, after all, it’s a great source of amino acids, as well as effectively caring for your blood. You can soak liver in water or milk. The first time around, try doing it in sour cream, the next day - onions and carrots, on the third, try it with mushroom sauce, and on the fourth - fry as a steak and serve with applesauce. 

Read more: Try a liver cake for real men (RECIPE)

Involve the kids in cooking children’s meals

Andrey Kolodyazhny, chef at “Blush” gastrobar 

For a family with kids, there is fruit, syrniki, dishes like borscht with sorrel go down nicely, homemade noodles, chicken soup and meatball soup. 

Cooking with children is something else! Don’t forget pizza - kids love it.  You can use pretty much anything from your fridge as a topping. 

Pizza is loved by kids

Evgeniy Mikhailov, chef at “Drinks@Dinners” restaurant

Everyone can enjoy making dough for pelmeni together, or make sausages in dough, bake cookies from cookie dough, make nuts with condensed milk. Children in the current situation require activity, participation in the process - just don’t forget about safety measures.  

Pelmeni, vareniki, syrniki

Andrey Makhov, chef at “Cafe Pushkin” restaurant

The trick to making your child eat cream of wheat is in preparing it correctly. If you boil and serve immediately, in two minutes it will develop a thick film that no one likes much. To avoid this, place the little pan with the porridge into a large bowl of cold water and stir gently until serving temperature. This will take no more than a minute. You can eat the porridge now, and your child won’t burn their mouth, nor will there be any foam on top. 

Read more: 10 food art ideas to get the pickiest kids to clean their plates (PHOTOS)

Healthy living and rationality

Andrey Kolodyazhniy, chef at “Blush” gastrobar

Use the fact that it’s springtime to your advantage, it’s the season of vegetables. Add mushrooms and fresh herbs in all their variety. Start using foods like radish, wild leeks and nettles.

Sergey Leonov, chef at “Jean-Jacques Cafe” on Tsvetnoy Bulvar  

Now is the time to give preference to vegetable sides. For example, making cauliflower rice or cabbage spaghetti. At present, we don’t use enough energy to include heavy dishes into the diet.

Fresh and colorful salad

Every meal should be started with a portion of fresh salad in a light dressing. Instead of frying, start baking and stewing. Frozen berries, citruses and favorite herbs, and even cucumbers can all be used to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. 

Muriel Russo-Ovchinnikov, creator of the “Jean-Jacques Cafe” concept  

I bought some dried fruit in advance: mango, papaya, quince, figs, dates, various nuts, sunflower, flax and sesame seeds. I also swapped coffee for matcha, and drink herbal teas from thyme, rosemary cloves and rose hips - it’s what the immune system needs. Also, it’s high time for various recipes requiring extra time to make - I, for one, got into baking bread (baguette) for my husband.

Maksim Kolpaschikov, chef at “Farengeyt” restaurant 

Start your day with a glass of water on an empty stomach. It’s good to eat oats for breakfast, nuts, dried apricots, and berries. If you really have a craving for it, it’s best to finish all your sweetest things in the first half of the day, before noon. Don’t deny yourself a full lunch, so that, in the evening, you could have a light salad or some cream cheese. So as not to fill up too much before bedtime, snack more throughout the day. The simplest way to force yourself to eat more fruits is to immediately wash, peel/cut and throw on the table. 

How to preserve the produce

Evgeniy Mikhailov, chef at “Drinks@Dinners” restaurant

The best way to preserve produce is to “jar” it. Stew, lecho, cabbage, cucumbers and tomatoes can all be preserved this way. Sourdough bread is usually the most long-lasting, able to stay fresh for three to five days. Ordinary ‘store bread’ can be put in the freezer, then defrosted in the oven. 

What to prepare in advance

Viktor Beley, brand-chef at “Ukhvat” restaurant

You can prepare the dough in the evening, let it sit and store in the fridge. In the morning, making a pizza or sausages in dough, or pirogi (pies), will be a breeze. The same process can be applied to pelmeni and vareniki - doing the mince or another filling in advance, preparing the dough, making and boiling in the morning. 

Pirozhki, the must-have of every Russian table

Read more: How Viktor Beley interprets foreign cuisine: Potato-dough pizza

For dessert

Olga Situlina, brand chef at “Kuzina” confectionary chain

I would advise focusing on a light yoghurt cream dessert, with a minimal biscuit base, and with a maximum amount of fruits and berries. Various tarts and tartelettes come to mind. Also, as a light dessert, there’s always pudding made with natural yoghurt or coconut/almond/oat milk with the occasional fruit preserve or granola. Something like this is easy to make at home, you can switch it up as well with berries and seasonal fruit, so it never gets old.  

And for a family tea time, the traditional medovik will never let you down. It’s even simpler to make than it seems at first. Natural honey in the base gives it a pleasant aroma, while the sour cream and cream filling give it a tender quality. 

Medovik: the tsar of Russian cakes

Read more: #QuarantineCooking: 7 simple Russian dishes requiring only 7 ingredients

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