In a previous post, I reviewed the entertaining memoir Mastering The Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing by Anya Von Bremzen. Her book enables you to learn about Soviet history while getting a “taste” for what it was actually like.
Today, I want to share a couple of recipes.
The first is for Kotleti, or as Von Bremzen calls them, “Mom’s Russian ‘Hamburgers’.” She writes that there was a time when she had “Kotleti for lunch, kotleti for dinner, kotleti of beef, of port, of fish, of chicken – even kotleti of minced carrots or beets.” Writing that “every ex-Soviet cook has a special trick for making juicy, savory patties,” she includes her mother’s recipe, which is prepared “Odessa-style.” You can get this recipe as well as others if you get the book! There is also a very stylistically beautiful rendition of a kotleti recipe by Olga Oilikki at They Draw and Cook, one of my favorite websites:
(Click here for a larger, more readable version of this recipe.)
A recipe for syrniki is not among those the author includes at the end of her book, but I am including it because I love them. Eating these ambrosial cheese pancakes was one of the highlights of a trip I once took to Kiev.
1 1/2 cups farmer cheese (if unavailable, you can substitute cottage cheese, blended to break up the curds, or ricotta or fromage blanc, but they will require a bit more flour)
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch baking soda
Few drops lemon juice
3 to 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour (depending on the type of cheese used)
Butter for frying
Sour cream and berries, jam or compote for serving
Heat a heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Mix together the cheese, eggs, sugar and vanilla. Separately, mix together the baking soda and lemon juice and stir that in as well. Add enough flour to make a thick batter, slightly thicker than pancake batter (the exact amount will vary depending on the type of cheese used).
When the skillet has heated, melt a few spoonfuls of butter in it, and plop down heaping tablespoons of batter. The batter should sizzle slightly. If the batter is too runny to set in little pancakes, add additional flour. Cook until the underside is golden, and the top has dried out slightly and holes are beginning to poke through (this will just take a few minutes). Flip, and brown on the other side (the second side should take less time). Repeat with remaining batter, adding additional butter to the skillet as needed. Serve with sour cream and fresh berries.
Makes 3 dozen pancakes, 4 servings
To wash it down, I recommend a bottle of Soviet Champagne. I got one in order to do “research” for this post. Jim found it too sweet, so I was forced to finish it myself….