The meat eater's guide to surviving Lent

Learn how to turn Russian cutlets and pelmeni into meatless dishes: these kundyumi are mouth-watering!

Learn how to turn Russian cutlets and pelmeni into meatless dishes: these kundyumi are mouth-watering!

Courtesy of Voronezh restaurant
"You must fast in order to clear the mind, to arouse and develop sensibility and to bend the will to virtue." (Blessed Ephrem the Syrian) Fasting is not a matter of losing a couple of spare kilos, but of becoming a different person spiritually. Vegetarian food does not weigh heavily on the stomach and is quickly digested, making it easier to be in command of one's mind and spirit. So why not take the opportunity to alter standard dishes and make them suitable for Lent?

Lent lasts a long seven weeks, which is enough time to get a feel for one of the features of Russian cuisine and apply it in practice: all ingredients are open to any form of experimentation. But how can one avoid thinking of those traditional, far from meatless dishes? With the help of Moscow chefs we describe how to cope with Lenten rules and prepare the tastiest meat dishes, but without meat.

Kundyumi with potatoes and basil

It’s almost impossible to imagine Russian cuisine without pelmeni, even during Lent. Well, there is a Lenten version, which was invented possibly as long ago as the 13th century. Called kundyumi (they are also known as kundyubki, or ushki), the dough is made with vegetable oil and the ushki (ears) are made in the oven. Maxim Tarusin, chef de cuisine at Voronezh, shares his recipe for crispy, spicy and juicy kundyumi, which can compete with classic pelmeni for people's affections.

How to make it:


  • 700 ml vegetable stock
  • 400 g potatoes
  • 150 g basil
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 40 g pine nuts
  • clove of garlic
  • 1/2 onion
  • 600 g flour
  • 1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 350 ml water
  • salt, pepper to taste
1. To make the filling:

Wash and bake the potatoes in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius (360 F) for 20-30 minutes, let cool and then skin them. Finely slice and brown the onion in a frying pan. Wash the basil leaves in cold water and dry them with a kitchen towel. Put in a blender, add the pine nuts, garlic and olive oil, and then switch on to mix. Add the fried onion and potatoes to the resulting pesto sauce, and mash with a fork until uniform.

2. To make the dough:

Sift the flour, make a hole in the center, add hot water and oil. Knead the dough with a fork until it is uniform. Roll out the dough, cut it into 5x5 cm squares, add the filling. Pinch the dough edges like pelmeni, so that the filling cannot escape.

3. Bake the kundyumi in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius (360 F) for 15 minutes until they acquire some color.

4. Serve, covering the kundyumi with hot vegetable stock, and adding pesto.

Tomato cutlets

Courtesy of Μολὼν λαβέ restaurantSource: Courtesy of Μολὼν λαβέ restaurant

Alexander Pushkin sang the praises of soft and juicy cutlets, and another famous writer, Anton Chekhov, used to say that, "Greece has everything." At least it has the recipe for vegetable rissoles, and we managed to obtain it from Stamatis Tsilias, chef de cuisine at Μολὼν λαβέ.

How to make it:

Ingredients (10 servings):

  • 600 g tomatoes
  • 20 g spring onion
  • 10 g parsley
  • 10 g dill
  • 120 g onion
  • 60 g breadcrumbs
  • 5 g garlic
  • 80 g tomato paste
  • 4 g sugar
  • 4 g salt
1. Cut an X in the skin of the tomatoes and immerse in boiling water for 30 seconds. Then put them in water chilled with ice cubes. Peel off the skin, remove the seeds and dice the flesh. Place in a sieve and leave to drain.

2. Finely chop the spring onion and parsley. Grate the onion finely and also leave in a sieve to drain. Mix everything together, then add the breadcrumbs, garlic, tomato paste, sugar and salt. Stir everything again and leave to stand in the fridge for 3-4 hours.

3. Heat some oil in a high-sided frying pan. Shape the tomato mixture into 80 g cutlets, coat with flour and drop in the oil. Fry for 3-4 minutes until browned. Remove, place on absorbent kitchen towel to remove excess oil. Can be served with diced raw tomatoes mixed with onion and parsley.

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