Let them Eat Cabbage!

9 November 2017

This week saw the 100th anniversary of Russia’s October Revolution, which led to the creation of the Soviet Union. To mark this momentous occasion in world history, Knidos Cookery Club has turned to a soup made from the close relative of a vegetable that was at the heart of Soviet cuisine – the humble cabbage.

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KCC’s cabbage soup with brown bread

The cabbage, and soups such as shchi that were made from it, was a mainstay of the Soviet diet. I remember hearing jokes about it when I was a lad such as this gem:

Q. What’s three miles long and eats cabbage?

A. A Soviet meat queue.

We’ve used Chinese cabbage as a twist on the traditional recipe that uses the more familiar member of the Brassica family and spiced up the mix with a few Shiitake mushrooms and some chilli powder.

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It makes a great accompaniment, along with a few shots of vodka, to October: Ten Days that Shook the World, the classic 1928 Soviet silent classic directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein and Grigori Aleksandrov (which is available on BBC iPlayer until the end of this November).

The film was based on John Reed’s book of the same name, which told the story of the revolution from the abdication of the last Czar to the Bolshevik seizure of power. Another good read on the same topic follows Lenin on the Train, an account by Catherine Merridale of Lenin’s trip back to Petrograd on the eve of the revolution.

Ingredients (serves 4)

300 g shredded Chinese cabbage

2 medium onions

1 green pepper

4 dried mushrooms (rehydrated)

2 garlic cloves

2 medium tomatoes

25 ml cooking oil (sunflower or another neutral, refined oil)

1 litre vegetable stock

1 bayleaf

Pinch of black pepper

One teaspoon red chilli flakes

Dash of soy sauce

Rye bread (or a similar hearty brown bread)

Method

You’ll need a good hearty stock for this soup, so prepare some in advance or use stock cubes. Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and then add the chopped onions and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes or so over a medium heat – while it’s cooking chop up the mushrooms and green pepper and then add to the mix,

Stir and cook for five more minutes then add the chopped tomatoes, black pepper, chilli flakes and bayleaf and cook until the tomatoes start to collapse. Then add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil.

Next add the shredded cabbage and cook for ten minutes or so until the cabbage is tender. Add soy sauce, remove the bay leaf and serve with brown or black bread and a shot of vodka!

Viva la Revolution, comrades!

 

 

 

 

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Olivier with an Edge

12 January 2017

Welcome to the first Knidos Cookery Club of the new year. While many of us have returned to the daily grind, it’s still party-time in some parts of the world.

in Russia, people are preparing to celebrate New Year’s Eve on 13 January – the Orthodox Church still follows the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar, which Russia adopted after 1917’s October Revolution. This switch created a 13-day lag between the calendars so, for followers of the Orthodox faith, Christmas Eve falls on 6 January and 13 January marks the end of the old year.

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KCC’s take on Russia’s classic Olivier salad

A centre-piece of Russian tables on this day, as people prepare to welcome in novy god, is the Olivier salad – a concoction of boiled potatoes, pickled cucumbers, peas, eggs, carrots and boiled beef or chicken in a mayonnaise dressing. This version dates from Soviet times as all the ingredients could usually be procured even in the depths of winter and despite chronic shortages.

A version of the salad, omitting the meat and eggs, is made in Turkey where it’s known as Rus Salatası – we’ve made our own veggie version that replaces the meat (Olivier purists look aside now, please) with black and green olives and uses sour cream in place of mayonnaise.

When I lived in Moscow in the 1990s I got it into my head that Olivier salad should include olives (mistakenly thinking that Olivier referred to olives rather than the salad’s originator!) and I was disappointed when it came minus olives – so now I finally have a chance to put this right!

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

150 g potatoes

150 g carrots

150 g peas

150 g pickled cucumbers

150 g black and green olives

two hard boiled eggs

150 ml sour cream or natural yogurt

pinches of salt and black pepper

Method

Boil the whole carrots and potatoes until cooked but not going mushy and boil the eggs for 5 minutes or so. While they’re all cooking, chop the pickled cucumbers and olives into small cubes.

Drain the potatoes and carrots and cover with cold water to stop them cooking. Do the same with the eggs. Chop the potatoes, carrots and eggs into small cubes and arrange around the side of a large serving dish in separate sections with the olives, peas and cucumbers.

Pour the sour cream or yogurt into the middle of the bowl and season with salt and pepper. Now mix all the ingredients thoroughly, making sure they all get a good coating of sour cream or yogurt.

Leave in the fridge before serving alongside other Russian-themed salads, such as this veggie take on caviar made from beluga lentils, and wish a hearty S Novym Godom with shots of vodka and/or a glass of chilled Sovyetskoye Shampankskoye (if you can get hold of it in your local offie!) as you prepare to welcome Old New Year in true Russian-style!