Mushroom Risotto Pie or the Power of Leftovers

Standard
_IGP2857
When I came to Italy, I was amazed how horribly Italians waste food. My flat mates would throw away everything that they had not finished during the dinner; in my perspective you can eat the dish even the day after. From time to time I saw in the garbage a whole loaf of bread; that made me absolutely sick… At least you can give the bread to birds. The fist moths of living together with my Italian bf were a constant fight for the food leftovers – I told we wouldn’t through them away, which confuzzeled him a lot (confuzzeled = confused + puzzled). In general, I can though away only something that is gone, but I prefer to utilize everything before it is wasted. This has nothing to do with greed; it is a matter of respect.
My grandmother was just 4 when the war started – big enough to remember everything. She never spoke about the war, even though many of people of her age or older told us how important it was to keep on studying and helping adults in watching out the fire. The only thing she ever had told me about the war was bread related. She once, when I was a small girl, tried to explain me what was responsibility and that life requires trade-offs. She told me they got a piece of bread per day, and they were three: my granny, her sister and their mother (my grandgrandmother). Each day my grandgrandmother would split this tiny peace in three unequal parts. My grandmother told me, that she was a kid and she was so hungry, as she was growing, but already then she understood that she had right to take just the smallest part of the bread. Her mother was working hard, her sister was studying in school – in her eyes they needed the food more, than herself.

Those 125 grams

During the siege of Leningrad around 5,000 people per DAY died because of hunger only. The piece of bread, 70% of which was not even wheat, but wood shredding, was the only food for the citizens for 900 days. In total, over 800,000 died from starvation. There is no single person with a normal upbringing in St Petersburg who can through away a piece of bread. It has nothing to do with greed; just the price of this bread is way too high to afford putting it to garbage. It is like spitting in your own history. Each time, when you through away good food, you show fantastic disrespect to those people, who are dying because they don’t have it. Since when have people forgotten that for centuries food was synonym for life?
Well, back to the recipe now. What if you cooked too much of risotto? Next day it is not tasty anymore. Solution is an absolutely fantastic risotto pie.
Time of preparation: 20 minutes Difficulty: Easy
Ingredients:
Mushroom risotto leftovers or
Rice____________300 grams
Onion___________1/2
Dry mushrooms__ 30 grams
Goat Cheese_____100 grams
1. If you prepare risotto from scratch: put mushrooms into boiling water for 30 minutes. After drain, and save the water. Chop onion; pour oil in the pot, fry onion and mushrooms. Add rice; mix so that every grain is coated with oil. Pour in a splash of broth from mushrooms. Constantly mix till the water evaporates, add another splash then, mix till the liquid evaporates… Repeat this sequence till rice is cooked. Add salt, pepper to taste.
2. Transfer the half of prepared risotto/leftover risotto into the baking dish, put sliced soft goat cheese, sprinkle with dried oregano (any herb you like/have next to you) and cover with the remaining risotto. If you want, sprinkle with grated parmiggiano. Bake on 180C (350F) for about 20 minutes or till golden crust. Super good cold, hot, and on the next day.
For utilizing stale bread you can check stuffed courgettes recipe, for using rice check oven-baked rice, if you have some fried vegetables left roll them into strudel, a lonely cooked potato or a lonely baked aubergine will fit into Balkan cheese pie.

 

Advertisements

Rhubarb and Apple Crumble and Russian Idioms

Standard

_IGP4067

There is a popular idiom in spoken Russian: “All in the chocolate”. Of cause it is not the language of good literature, but rather an expression you use among your cute fellow lads to sound easy and loose, and it means that all is fantastic, fabulous and dreamy. I doubt I had ever used it, as first I am not that cool type of gal, and second I had not had such a  phenomenal success yet. Until this Friday.
I came from my job, where I have a pretty exhausting project: I have 250 museums on my list, so I have to contact each and request the complete list of the exhibitions for 2015, and put in the system. Museums are unorganized institutions, who don’t respect deadlines and need to be watched like children. After a week of working as a psychologist, negotiating, praying and blackmailing where suitable, I came home on Friday with the dream of indulging myself. The aim was a perfect marble cheesecake. Apparently, it was a sign of solidarity with Tanya (see my tagline to learn who is she), who made a cheesecake for her party and shared with me a recipe and inspiration. So I came home and I was whisking, mixing, melting chocolate… the cheesecake looked fabulous, the oven reached the temperature and I was putting the baking dish inside when cheesecake suddenly slippered out of my hands and dropped on the floor. As we say in Russia “The bread is always dropping with the buttered side down”. As proved, cheesecake tends to follow the same pattern. The floor, the furniture, the oven were covered with a good and tempting level of chocolate. Finally I learned on my own skin how it is “to have all in chocolate”, which I can boast about among my friends. And I guess my newspaper owes me a cake, for making me exhausted to this extent.
Ok, so for tonight my cheesecake is crumble. A very good crumble though. 
Time of preparation: 40 minutes Difficulty: Easy
Ingredients:
Rhubarb________400 grams
Apples_________ 2
Sugar__________ 100 grams golden caster
Liquor_________ 2 tablespoons
Crumble: 
Self-raising flour___140 grams
Butter____________85 grams
Sugar____________50 grams muscovado
Walnuts__________ 50 grams
1. Chop rhubarb in pieces of approximately 5 cm, put in the pan, cover with sugar, pour in liquor (I used amaretto) or water if you do not want to use alcohol and simmer on the low fire for about 15 minutes – the rhubarb should become soft but not shapeless. Transfer it in the baking dish, leaving some of the juice in the pan.
2. Fry the apples in the preserved juice till they are brown and soft. Transfer in the baking dish.
3. Combine butter and flour, rub together with hands, when crumbles are formed add sugar and chopped walnuts. Mix, and cover the apple/rhubarb filling. Bake on 200C (400F) for about 30 minutes or till it is golden brown.

 

Different Autumns and Charlotte Apple Pie

Standard
_IGP2589
Autumn…. I never liked it, mostly because of rains. In St Petersburg it is not a great deal, after all we have our proud 62 sunny days per year, which leaves us with remaining 300… of the water hanging in the air – sometimes it can’t be even called a proper rain. Another problem is the light, which leaving – after long and lively summer nights, when it is never dark – White Nights. In other languages it means the night when you are forced to stay awake, for example preparing for exam. This is not so far from reality, as how can you sleep when the guys are playing guitar in the yard, some friends are calling you for a long over several days camping in the park, or you just drive car to watch the bridges are raised, or you are sitting and eating sushi… because you forgot about the bridges! They air seems hot, long, and lackadaisical, like a dense red wine; it makes you loose your head these very few days when one of the northeast city becomes as lively as a southern town.
Then it abruptly finishes. The light is gone, the rain is never-ending (I wonder if the hero of Raven lived in St Petersburg, will he ever pronounce his famous phrase). The leaves are rotten, and drop fast, without giving this fanfares of colors. My autumn is grey, cold and dark. But… this is just one of the autumns. In Italy it comes late, it’s bright and loud – all trees one day seem to turn yellow as if they are coordinated, so Italian autumn in noticeable as soon as it arrives. Austrian autumn arrives on time, it is cold, clean, well-prepared and sound. Her work is planned and she had a time schedule to follow – so one by one she is painting the trees. The Texan autumn is conservative and doesn’t want to change anything – so many bushes and trees enter the winter with green leaves and flowers. In Scandinavia autumn is an artist with a great fantasy, and she is also mind and cheerful. In London it is impossible to understand when autumn comes, she seems to be so anxious to start that she comes in several times in the summer… And of cause every autumn smells differently: with pumpkin pies, apples, cinnamon, tea and coffee… and so many things which people gather in their gardens and store in their kitchens to provide their family with another dinner surprise. The following posts will be all about autumns, and the first one, Russian, smells with Sharlotka!
DSC_0640
Time of preparation: 1 hour    Difficulty: Easy
Ingredients:
Wheat flour_______1 glass
Sugar ___________1 glass
Apples ___________2-3
Cinnamon________2 tea spoons
Eggs ____________3
Salt
It’s better to pick up a little bit sour apples, otherwise pie will be too sweet
1. Cut apples in a very thin slices, place in the oiled dish for baking, and powder with cinnamon.
2. There are two ways of making the dough: very easy and a little bit more complicated. First variant:  whip sugar with eggs quite well in a deep bowl, then add flour and half of a tea spoon of salt. Mix well.
Second variant: mix just yolks with sugar, adding step by step flour. Then whip egg-whites in foam and add in the dough, this way the pie will get a wonderful crust. But in this case – don’t open the oven until the pie is ready, or it will go down. Pour the ready dough over the apples.
3. Bake in the oven on 180C (350F) around 35 minutes.

The Every-day Venice

Gallery

 

“Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased,” Polo said. “Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it, or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.”
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
So never to loose My Venice, I will never ever tell about it… Just show you some pictures from it’s everyday, simple and cracking life

 

 

Literature inside out

Standard
Daily prompt: When reading for fun, do you usually choose fiction or non-fiction? Do you have an idea why you prefer one over the other?
I doubt if in whole my life I read more than 5 non-fiction books. I am humanitarian in my nature, I love good literature and then it was just the way I was brought up – in Russian school you have an extensive literature program, I believe I had around 6-8 hours of it per week. Moreover, I had a truly amazing teacher, and when you are in school this factor is always among the most important to make one love or hate a subject.
It is very interesting though, how the same topic is viewed from inside and outside the country. For example, if I ask a foreigner, whom of the Russian writers does he know, the answer will be Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. Who on earth would read it in Russia? Of cause they are included in the school program, so you are supposed to spend days and days reading how Raskolnikov in the fever was going around the city thinking about killing the old lady. To be honest, I didn’t – I had a period of rebellion (better don’t ask me against what – now I can hardly understand what one can prove not reading Dostoyevsky, but teenagers are strange). The other curious think is that if I ask a foreigner, what was the main claim of Raskolnikov, his idea, his doubt, reflecting the whole idea of the book, nobody would answer. In Russia this phrase is one of the most popular aphorisms (whether I am a trembling creature or whether I have the right). Dostoyevsky is very hard to read, he was an outstanding thinker and philosopher but not a great writer. His style is heavy, hard to follow, oversaturated and moreover the language is outdated, so it is very hard to follow. Please forgive me my claim, but his books are simply untranslatable in English: in Russian with the help of prefixes and suffixes we can express tens of slightest variation in the meaning of a word. In English it is impossible. Example: my name is Anna. In Russian people may call me Anya, Anechka, Anyutochka, Anyuta, Anyutka, An’ka etc. Each of this has a slightly different meaning and will be used by different people to address me. In English the only possible expression to translate it all is little Anna, which is not true – I am adult and tall. Moreover, passive voice is quite untypical for Russian and very typical for English – this also makes something get lost in translation.
Ok, when it comes to Tolstoy wise people say you should read him after 30. So I listened to wise people and skipped him as well from my program. I am very decisive to come back to him at the proper age.
If you ask a Russian person, who is the most important figure in the literature, without any doubt the answer will be Pushkin. He is Shakespeare of our language, his Eugeny Onegin is known by heart by many Russian-learners, and trust me it is an amazing books. Though it is poetry, which takes us back to the same problem – hard to translate. Once I had a chance to read a peace in Swedish, and it was very good, I was quite surprised.
When it comes to the titles, the two most popular books in Russia I guess are 12 Chairs and Master and Margharita. The former, written by Il’f and Petrov, is a humoristic story of a very entrepreneurial young man, and it is quoted on every corner in Russia. I don’t know how much a person without a relevant cultural background and solid knowledge of Russian history can understand the humor, but this work is of exceptional importance. The second mentioned book is written by Mikhail Bulgakov, it is a mysterious novel, where Devil is coming to Soviet Moscow to check the state of the capital. The plot is developed simultaneously in several époques, and thus there are several main heroes (the charming Cat on the picture is one of them). On contrast with 12 chairs, it is not place and culture specific reading, so if you’d like to read someone Russian but lighter than Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky – you know what to grab.
Is there any underestimated or not that popular abroad book in your language? What would you recommend?
P.S. When my friends come to visit St Petersburg, I take them on the walk on Raskolnikov’s traces and show where each of the heroes lived. I forgot where the flat of the old lady was supposed to be, so each time I show a different window and they happily take a picture. So if online you find a lot of very different pictures of the flat, well, that’s my fault.
P.P.S. When I just moved to Italy, I was reading Dostoyevsky non-stop. It was my own way of missing Motherland.
P.P.P.S. I decided to list the most important of Russian writers, in case you’d like to go deeper in your research. These are the must of all school programs, the basics and the “pillars” (not in chronological order, just a brainstorm listing):
1. Pushkin: Stories of Belkin; Eugeni Onegin 2. Lermontov: Hero of our days 3. Gogol: Shinel, Dead Souls, The night before the Christmas 4. Chekhov: plays, Cherry Garden, Unkle Vanya, Three Sisters etc. 5 Bunin: A man from San-Francisco 6. Turgenev: Asya,  Garnet Armband 7. Leskov: Left-handed 8. Pasternak: Doctor Zhivago 9. A. Tolstoy: Killer Whale 10. Sholokhov: Quite Don 11. Solzhenitsyn: Gulag archipelago 12 Zamyatin: We 13. Dovlatov: the foreigner and so much more.. but it is a good list for a start 🙂
There are three eternal questions of Russian reality were formulated by Herzen, Chernyshevsky and Nekrasov and are, respectively: Who is Guilty? What to do? and Who has a good life in Russia? (The names of their epic novels).
P.P.P.P.S. If you go to the Russian Wikipedia and look for “Russian Literature” you will see Pushkin, “the greatest Russian poet, the creator of the Russian literature language” Guess who is on the English article main picture? Tolstoy and Chekhov 

The Most Amazing Apple Pie

Standard
I guess you can't even imagine how good this pie is unless you try it!

I guess you can’t even imagine how good this pie is unless you try it!

My boyfriend, who happened to be Italian, always wondered what do I have to do with all these apples and why on earth someone in general would like apples? When we moved to London, to this cold, humid and always windy place, where neither peaches nor figs grow, but die, I guess he understood. Apples are not just the fruits, they are the mood.
It is so amazing, you go to your garden, shake the trees, and then gather them. Or if you have no garden, all you neighbors passing by give you a box of rosy apples – because in severe St Petersburg climate apple trees are the only plant that for some mysterious reasons show fantastic productivity. You kitchen, and in a while the whole flat reminds the branch of the apple-refining factory, and when you pile the last for today apple you get a call from your mom, saying they gathered 15 boxes of apples and she is going to pass by to drop at least half of the trophies. From apple-lover you turned into an apple-maniac, you made chutneys, jams, compote, you start thinking if apples go well with the eggplants, or maybe spaghetti? And you use all your creative reserves to invent new pies. Your bf can’t consume this amount, you go around and give pies out to the neighbors, who so carelessly happen to give you apples… And then you sit next to the window, on your cozy sofa, under the warm blanket, and with tea, feeling the smell of the freshly-backed apple pie with cinnamon… And you are happy. You are the winner in this pitiless apple war.
Inspired by sweet, touching and funny post of GaH and several other bloggers, praising autumn 🙂
Dough:
Butter_______225 grams
Sugar_______1 cup
Eggs_______ 2
Backing Powder__1 table spoon
Salt________1/2 teaspoon
Juice of a lemon
Flour_____ 3 ¼ – 3 ½ cups
Feeling:
Apples___ about 10
A little bit of lemon juice
Raisins___ a cup
Sugar____ ¼ cup
Cinnamon_ 1 ¼ teaspoons
1. Whisk butter with sugar till fluffy, approximately for 2 minutes.
2. Add eggs and keep on whisking till mixture is light and airy, so for approximately 3 more minutes. Add lemon juice and mix.
3. Combine flour with baking powder and salt and gradually add into the batter. It may require slightly more or less flour, so don’t add all at a time. The dough will come out very soft and not sticky.
4. Divide the dough into two parts, form squares, wrap into food cling and put into the fridge for at least two hours.
5. Pile the apples and cut the cores, dice into small pieces. Add lemon juice, raisins, sugar and cinnamon, mix well. You may try the feeling and adjust to your taste, adding cinnamon, sugar or lemon juice.
6. Grease the baking dish. Roll out one of the squares of dough and put in the baking dish. Put the apple feeling, spread equally. Roll out the second part of the dough; cover the pie and seal edges. Grease the top with water and sprinkle sugar. Make several cuts with a sharp knife.
7. Bake on 180C (350F) for 60-80 minutes. The ready pie will become golden.

How Traveling will make World a better Place

Standard
Every bird should have its sky!

Every bird should have its sky!

I was born in the USSR, on the other side of the iron curtain, in isolation, surrounded by enemies. White spot on the map in the knowledge of Western world, but it was largely perceived that in USSR people were hostile and life was tough. The same was true all the way around: Soviet people were persuaded that Uncle Sam hates us and dreams about erasing the country from the earth surface. And capitalistic countries’ citizens share his ideas. I think majority of Soviet people questioned the latter, and not because they were so nice, but simply because the very fact of American existence was rather a myth, a communistic version of hell. Did someone go there and saw it with his very eyes? No, so even if America existed, after all it was as irrelevant, as life on Mars. Yes, these guys may dream to conquer us one day, but as for now they did not show up – so let’s better care about something useful, for example what can we watch today from the theater.
More than 20 years ago Soviet Union collapsed, and the rests of Cold War were finally buried under its ruins. Travelling out became permitted, and later even common and affordable for an average person. Later the technology provided us with an opportunity to connect with the whole world. We started going around for studies, job or pleasure with frequency nobody could imagine 20 years ago and even staying home we can chat with, let’s say, Vietnam or Brasilia. My mom when she came to visit me in London first of all ran to the Tower. Why? As she told when she as a little girl studied English in school she could not even dream she may see Tower one day. The moon was more probable due to the advanced Soviet space program.
Thus, traveling became available for people from my Motherland and stopped being elite pleasure for selected only in general. That is truly pleasurable, but I believe it will led to something more, than only nice time spending.
Ironically enough, before those selected who could afford the travel were rich, influential and in many cases they were involved in politics. So basically they were the voice, transferring the opinions to masses: if they had told, let’s say so, Americans were idiots – who would have questioned them? They have been in America; they have seen Americans. All Soviet are underdeveloped and live in forest – yes, because no one from ordinary people went to Soviet Union to check. Now people who have travelled a while would hardly trust a single word of politic propaganda of any type: just as we visited many places ourselves and luckily we have a bunch of international friends, whom we can call and ask about what is going on there in your country? Without any doubts, we became more open-minded and more knowledgeable, thus less easy to manipulate and press. And I hope more human, as after all you see that people are the same in their core in every corner of the world.
But if we look at it in a long-term perspective, the very popular political tool of generalizing nations under one umbrella term, like Soviet – dangerous, Chinese – slaves, Americans – money-fixed etc. – will loose a lot in its power also because of… multiethnic couples! My partner is Italian, and I doubt our kids will think that there is nothing but mafia in Sicily and nothing but vodka in Russia. As we live in UK, neither will they have wicked ideas about this or any other country they will grow in. Moreover, at my partners job every couple is multiethnic, and he works with around 30 people. The very notion of nation in its aggressive, superior form of we-are-better-than-they becomes obsolete.
Moreover, one of the fundamental distinctive features of a nationality is language. But the younger generations start learning English from the early ages, and perceive it as almost a mother tongue; so many people use English at work on everyday basis or while traveling that we indeed are more cosmopolitan nowadays.
I trust in humanity and the common sense of people, and I am sure that all these changes will facilitate the better world. I trust, that the very notion of the Cold War is not relevant anymore, because it is not “we” against “them” anymore, it is “we” against “us”. Just imagine, how much money could be saved not producing another, more powerful atomic bomb and how much we accomplish with this money: we can cure the diseases, fight the starvation, give education for those who can’t afford it… All we need after all is to be more human and more open.