Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Come Dine with me Russian style

If your idea of a Russian dinner is influenced by the austerity movies or the black and white Garbo film where the Russian officers throw the glasses behind themselves in unison after emptying them (I tried to find that scene on Youtube but couldn't), then your views are far from reality. Would you like to have a glimpse of what it could really be? Let's not just visit any festive dinner. You are invited to a New Year's eve party, or Come Dine with me Russian style.

That's me, in my home town, sitting by an old wooden house (not ours, we lived in an apartment)

The table will be laden and groaning under the variety of dishes on offer. New year's eve party is often a big family celebration, with friends coming and leaving through the night, as they visit as many parties as possible. And everywhere you come, you are expected to eat and drink and be merry.
In the Soviet times aka my childhood and young adulthood, there were three salads which were a must for any festive table, be it a birthday party or a New Year's eve.
These are: an Olivie salad (it is known in the West as the Russian salad, but is actually much nicer), a "seledka pod shuboi" (lit. a herring under the fur coat) and a Vinegret.
Herring under the fur coat is a salad that I remember with fondness though I make it very rarely (my dear husband is not keen on anything pickled or salted). I make my own salted or cured herrings as the marinated herring you can buy here in the delis is just not the same. For the salad you will need the cured herrings, potatoes, onion, apple, carrots, beets and egg with the much loved mayo. If you fancy finding out more about these salads and read the recipes, please follow the links above, they will take you straight to the recipes.
Vinegret is a vegetarian salad made with cooked beets, potatoes, carrots, sauerkraut, apples, pickled gherkins, shallots and peas. Very colourful and full of vitamins.

Herring under the fur coat and Vinegret

Olivie salad, another blast from the past. 
The recipe is attributed to the now obscure French or Belgian chef Olivier who opened a restaurant in Moscow in the 1880s. The original recipe asks for the partridge meat to be one of the ingredients of this salad.
My version is closer to the Soviet-style recipe. From my childhood I recall the days when we went out to friends' party, and the women would be sitting in the kitchen, chopping the ingredients and mixing the salad in the big enamelled wash-basin. This is a very satisfying mix of the cubed turkey meat or ham, with the hard-boiled eggs, cornichons, olives, apples, carrot, potatoes, onion, peas, all smothered with mayo.

Salad Olivie

These salads as well as all the other appetizers are served typically with a shot of ice cold vodka. Put a bottle of Stolichnaya in the freezer for a couple of hours (don't worry, it won't turn into ice due to the high alcohol content). Personally I prefer a glass of champagne. In the Soviet times many Russian families celebrated with a bottle of Sovetksoe champagne, but I have no idea if this brand still exists. I would offer a bottle of Veuve Clicquot or Moet & Chandon if you want to splash.

Russian vodka
While the photo of Stolichnaya is my own, the image of the Soviet champagne is taken from a cook book Kulinariya 1955, USSR

The table will be laden with salads and appetizers, all kinds of pickles, pirozhki, and sliced cold meats.

Russian pickles
Pickled baby cucumbers and tomatoes

Russian pies
Pirozhki stuffed with mashed potatoes & mushrooms

Russian appetizers
Blini with cured salmon and soured cream

And if you thought that was all, you'll be wrong. Yes, you might feel stuffed already. There is still a main course to come, but there is no hurry. There is a whole night ahead, with music and TV on. At midnight raise a glass of champagne and toast the New Year. You might want to go out and watch the fireworks in the main square. After a brisk walk in the cold, you might be ready to have the main course.

Don't expect a roast turkey for the main course, it is not very popular in Russia. Instead it will be a roast duck or goose, with beautiful roast apples and stuffing, served with the roast potatoes and other veg.

There is no typical Russian new year's eve dessert as such. Christmas pudding would be almost unheard of, and not particularly fancied either. Every family will have their own favourite cake, fruit and nuts, or open a big box of chocolate to have with a coffee to keep you going until 5 or 7am.
Most likely, you wouldn't want any cake, but wouldn't mind a bit of a refreshing fruit salad.

Often we would add a dollop of ice cream to coffee and make coffee glisse.

Dance through the night with me!

Dress code? I wanted to tease you and invite you to get dressed in the national Russian outfits...

That's me, in my early 20s, in a Russian dress (I was a member of the ethnographic society)

... but please don't worry. Informal cocktail attire would do perfectly well. I have even found a perfect dress for myself, a Slav Tsar dress from a new Verushka collection by White Stuff.

This is my entry to Come Dine with Furniture blogger competition. Hope you are inspired by my extensive menu and would really come and dine with me!


  1. Wow, I love your entry - it really gives a feel for Russia and not just the food but the whole atmosphere

    1. Thank you Cheryl! Did you post you entry as well? would love to read it!

  2. Oh you!!!! You've just made me feel all 'homesick'!!!! I need to go back asap!!!!

    1. You can grab your girlies and come over any time, I'll cook a Russian vegetarian feast for you!

  3. I love reading your posts with mentions of your life in Russia, so interesting and different than we believed it to be.

    1. Thank you, Mary! I think we all have had wrong ideas about what's it like on the other side.

  4. Hello there, I am Russian myself, nice to see a reminder of our NY traditions, thanks. I remember it in a slightly different way- with lots of food, salads (my family, relatives and friends didnt use apples in salads) and instead of duck or goose (ive never heard of these 2 before as a main for NY) it was always a chicken or meat with potatoes and mushrooms. I guess different families brought something different food wise.

    1. Welcome to my blog, Victoria! I'm sure there were/are lots of variations, depending on the region etc. My parents were both from the South who ended up in the Urals as young specialists, and my Mum commented often that when they came to live up North, the food and traditions were all different. Whereabouts are you from?

    2. Thank you) I guess its the same as here in the UK accents differ, in Russian they differ as well etc etc) I'm from central part- Moscow. Nice to meet you!

    3. So, we would have different Russian accents as well. ;) As I mentioned on your blog, if you need another Russian to chat to about your pregnancy, I'm always happy to help.

    4. thank you, my facebook page is a bit weird or im still not used to it, here is my email ( i guess it would be easier)

  5. The Vinegret and Pirozhki look especially delicious. I love the photo of you at the top. It must be lovely for Maximka to grow up with and learn about your Russian heritage :)

    1. Thank you Kate! My little man is more Italian than Russian, he says I talk funny when I speak Russian to him. :)