Sunday Treat – Russian Cooking

sundae2In 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.

Soviet Cooking

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 pork, 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:

Screen Shot 2013-09-14 at 2.51.49 PM

(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.


Syrniki (syr means cheese in Russian) is a Slavic dish traditionally made with “tvorog,” which is a dry curd cheese similar to farmer’s cheese, which can be used instead. Recipes can be found all over the web, and of course all vary slightly. But basically you’re looking at cheese pancakes. This particular recipe is from NPR.

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….


About rhapsodyinbooks

We're into reading, politics, and intellectual exchanges.
This entry was posted in food, Sunday Treat and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Sunday Treat – Russian Cooking

  1. Beth F says:

    What a sacrifice to have to drink champagne. You’re such a trooper! My grandmother made these all the time. I didn’t know they had a name other than cheese pancakes. LOL.

  2. jama says:

    How interesting! I know nothing of Soviet food. The pancakes sound so good!

  3. sandynawrot says:

    The Polish have very similar foods (they call cheese “ser” or “sernik” and the meat “kotlet”). There is nothing bad going on in either of these recipes! Especially with champagne!

  4. Soviet Champagne… who knew! 😉

  5. Athira says:

    That looks super yum! I need to take a look at that cookbook.

  6. Yummy, yummy. Yes, I remember your post about the Russian cookbook from last week. I would like to taste the Russian hamburgers.

  7. i am enjoying your Russian food posts, they are so interesting.

  8. Carole says:

    Soviet champagne – how fitting! Oh, the irony…

  9. Vicki says:

    I love trying new ways to make hamburgers, so I wrote down the recipe.
    I’ve never heard of cheese pancakes, but I wrote that recipe down to try also. I’ll pass on the Champagne though!

  10. Marg says:

    Yum! I would be happy to eat either of those…. or both!

  11. Jackie says:

    I would have helped you with the champagne, those pancakes look like my potato cakes!

  12. Cecelia says:

    What fun! I’ve never had cheese pancakes, but they sound (and look!) delicious. Thanks for sharing.

  13. heatherdpear says:

    Too bad my grandmother never made these, but then she learned to cook from her mother who was Ukrainian and her father was the Russian in the family. I would have loved these when I was able to eat dairy. Thanks for sharing this.

  14. I’m impressed with the way you took one for the team and drank the champagne on your own! This looks like quite an intriguing book – I know absolutely nothing about Soviet cooking – and these pancakes look delicious.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.