Shchi

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1/2 onion, thinly sliced

1 carrot, peeled and grated

200g chestnut mushrooms, roughly chopped

250g sauerkraut in brine

1.3 litres vegetable stock

4 bay leaves

4 potatoes, peeled and cubed

handful of dill, finely chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper

soured cream, to garnish.

Method

Heat up the oil in a medium-sized stockpot and fry the onion and carrot with a teaspoon of salt over a medium heat for 5 minutes.

Once the onion has softened, add the mushrooms and sauerkraut and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Next, add the vegetable stock, bay leaves and another small pinch of salt. Cover the pot with a lid and bring to the boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the potato cubes to the pot and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Turn off the heat and let the soup rest for 20–30 minutes.

To me this is the most difficult part of the recipe – oh, the wait! Serve hot with freshly ground black pepper and a dollop of soured cream, along with a slice of rye bread (of course).

Siberian Pelmeni Dumplings

Makes about 200 dumplings

Ingredients

For the dough

700g ‘00’ flour, plus extra for dusting

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

200ml water

For the meat filling

500g mixed minced pork and beef (in equal measure)

1 onion, very finely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the fish filling

500g mixed skinless trout, salmon and cod fillet (in equal measure), cut into small pieces

1 onion, very finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, grated

bunch of chives, finely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the mushroom filling

400g mixed mushrooms (wild mushrooms or white and chestnut mushrooms)

1 onion, quartered

2 garlic cloves

small bunch of flat l leaf parsley, finely chopped

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

dash of soy sauce

150g pine nuts

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the cooking broth

1 bay leaf

1 vegetable, fish or meat stock cube, according to your filling

To serve

chopped fresh herbs

soured cream

freshly ground black pepper

unsalted butter (if serving without the cooking broth)

Method

To make the dough, sift the flour onto a clean, dry work surface. Make a well in the middle and add the salt, eggs and measured water, gradually mixing the flour into it with your hands to form a firm dough. Knead well for 5–7 minutes. Cover with clingfilm and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

In the meantime prepare your fillings. To make both meat and fish fillings, thoroughly mix the ingredients together in separate large bowls. To make the vegetable filling, finely chop the mushrooms, onion, garlic and parsley in a food processor.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the vegetable mixture with the soy sauce for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir through the pine nuts and seasoning. Let the mixture cool before handling.

The dough should be ready by this point. Take it out of the refrigerator and roll it out on a lightly floured work surface. For best results, use a pasta machine, as you need to make sheets that are about 1.5mm thick, which you will get by using the number 7 setting on the pasta machine.

Using a shot glass, cut out discs about 4–6cm in diameter from the dough. Place a teaspoon of the filling in the middle of each disc and fold in half to make a half-moon shape, then fold again so that the edges of the half-moon are stuck together. The dumplings can be cooked immediately or frozen to be cooked at a later date using the same method as below, increasing the cooking time as necessary.

To cook, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, adding the bay leaf and stock cube.

Add the pelmeni, in batches, to the boiling broth and cook for 5 minutes. You know they are ready when they float up to the surface.

Ladle your pelmeni into soup bowls with the cooking broth, topping them with fresh herbs, soured cream and black pepper. If you prefer to have them without the broth, use a slotted spoon and add a generous dollop of butter as well as the rest of the ingredients to the bowl. There should be around 10 servings of dumplings, but if that’s more than the number of mouths that you have to feed, they freeze well kept in flat layers in a freezer bag.

Plov

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

500g rice – traditionally devzira, but arborio or basmati can be used instead

100ml mild vegetable oil

800g diced boneless lamb shoulder

2 large onions, thinly sliced into semi-circles

3–4 carrots, peeled and cut into batons

1 large garlic bulb

2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and roughly crushed

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, roughly crushed

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon dried barberries

a few saffron threads

1 tablespoon salt, or more to taste

Method

Wash the rice under tepid water until the water runs clear of starch, then soak in warm water while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Heat up the oil in a cast-iron casserole dish and fry the lamb over a medium heat until it’s golden on all sides, stirring occasionally. This should take 10–15 minutes.

Add the onions and carrots and fry for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cover with boiling water so that the meat and vegetables are fully submerged – the exact volume of water depends on the size of your casserole.

Place the garlic bulb in the middle of the casserole and add the rest of the spices, the barberries and the salt. Do not cover, but bring to the boil. Then reduce the

heat to a minimum and simmer for 30–40 minutes. This rich golden stock is called zirak, in which the rice will be cooked at the next stage.

Drain the rice and add to the casserole in a layer on top, without mixing the contents of the casserole dish.

Gently submerge the rice in the zirak using a flat slotted spoon. If there isn’t enough liquid, top it up with more boiling water so that the rice is covered with at least 1cm of liquid. You can also add more salt at this stage.

Firmly close the lid and cook over a low heat for 25–30 minutes. If you notice that the plov is only bubbling away in the centre, gently push the rice from the edges towards the middle. Serve upside down on a platter of seasonal vegetables and soft herbs

Syrniki Doughnuts

Makes 10-12

Ingredients

200g tvorog (make sure you get the right stuff from an Eastern European shop) or ricotta

2 eggs

1 tablespoon caster sugar, plus extra for dusting

½ teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

4 tablespoons plain flour, plus extra for dusting 2

tablespoons raisins (presoaked in rum or whisky to add that extra je ne sais quoi)

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

flavourless sunflower oil, for deep-frying

Method

Using an electric hand whisk, whisk all the ingredients together, except the oil for deep-frying, in a mixing bowl until well incorporated and fluffy.

The dough will be very runny, so use a well floured work surface and 2 tablespoons to shape it into medium sized doughnuts. For each doughnut, scoop out a full tablespoon of the dough and roll it around in the flour until it stops sticking to the spoons and the work surface.

Heat up the oil for deep-frying in a large pan, keeping it over a medium heat to ensure the oil doesn’t start to smoke. Test the temperature of the oil by dropping a little of the dough into it – it should start to sizzle but not turn dark brown immediately.

Once you are happy with the oil temperature, drop the dough balls in one at a time, making sure they don’t stick together. Swirl them around occasionally and remove with a slotted spoon after 1–2 minutes. They should be golden brown and crisp.

Lay them out on kitchen paper and sprinkle with extra sugar. Serve on a sharing plate with an array of accompaniments for a real feast of a breakfast, or plate them up individually with your accompaniment of choice for a moreish dessert.