The soft-boiled beef made frequent appearances on the imperial table.Vostock-Photo
The dining table of Empress Catherine II (the Great) was marked by its diversity of dishes as well as the precision of its meals.
Catherine’s personal dining timetable was clearly defined. She arose early, at 6 a.m., and started her day with extremely strong coffee with thick cream and almond toast. She had two cups of coffee and left the remainder for her servants, who simply added more boiling water into the pot with the coffee grounds.
Lunch began at 1 p.m. and usually consisted of three or four courses, combining indigenous Russian dishes with trendy foreign ones. The meal was accompanied by plain water or water infused with black currants. She didn’t drink much alcohol — only a small glass of Madeira, on her doctor’s advice. Supper was hardly worth the title — Catherine usually had one or two apples or iced water with a drop of berry juice. She believed that eating a small meal at the end of the day prevented headaches.
Food was important in Catherine’s court. A skilled diplomat, Catherine ordered her chefs to cook the favorite dishes of her honored guests. She had a special courtier whose job it was to escort visitors and find out their food preferences. She was also kind to her cooks. Should a dish be overdone or undersalted, Catherine gave no sign of displeasure, and no punishment followed. She even protected the lower-ranking cooks from the ire of the head chef.
This story illustrates Catherine’s preference for simple and wholesome food, such as beef. Beef is a natural nutrient mine. It can also be digested quickly and easily, making it a good meal for those with stomach problems. It also raises the amount of hemoglobin in the blood and lowers the amount of cholesterol. Beef is recommended for those who do sports or whose work involved hard physical labor as it promotes bone and muscle strength. But those engaged in more intellectual pursuits should include it in their diets also; it helps to improve memory and calm nerves.
You can experience all these positive effects by trying this original recipe for the soft-boiled beef cooked for Catherine the Great.
2. Remove the beef from the brine. Boil the pickle brine and let it cool.
3. Mix water and flour together to form a soft dough and roll out to a size to cover the baking dish. Put the beef into the baking dish, pour the brine over the beef and cover it with dough.
Serve with pickled cucumbers and boiled potatoes. The beef can be served in one piece or sliced against the grain.
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