What we ate in January – Recipes from the 15 post-Soviet states

Dear ones, have you recovered? Are your minds still sifting through the memories of potatoes and bacon, deep fried wonders and sour cream with everything?

I wish I had an audio recording of Laura’s sigh after she was so full she couldn’t move. Seriously, I could sell that sigh. Satisfied, a little sleepy, with just a hint of a regret in the base note.

Thank you everyone who took part in what was generally agreed to be our most challenging theme to date. Some people had no trouble with their recipes, while others told tales of stove-side swearfests. Lisa described the sense of awe that blossomed in her during her two-batch struggle to perfect her grandmother’s family-famous pirukad. “I have a new, deeper respect for her. She worked full time, volunteered, gardened, had a really active social life AND made these from scratch for every special event.” Many people had stories that connected them to the dish they’d brought, and how someone else’s dish reminded them of another time when they’d eaten something just like it. Val’s Grahi Varivah, with slow-cooked beans (that she thought would NEVER cook) and hearty pork hock flavour, could have been something my grandmother made. Brandy had fond memories of a soccer mom who would bring a small vat of potato pancakes to every game. Jeremy was perplexed and annoyed (swearfest) when the pork dumpling dough refused to behave. He’d watched his grandmother make them countless times – how dare they not turn out! Kim became so immersed in the culture that she became her own country among the ‘stans.Lisa brought a collection of Estonian items from home, including beautiful leather work, bead work, sweet little dolls, and of course, Estonian recipe books.

In total there were five dishes containing BACON, and to no-one’s surprise, our President of Bacony Delights was in no way intimidated by this, despite the array heavy starches into which the BACON was embedded. She was later found growling under the table, but eventually emerged, smiling in bacon-induced delirium in time to forget her coat.

Here they are – as close to her Vana Ema’s pirukad recipe as she could get. She told me that by the end of rolling out the dough for 48 of these little beauties, she was hunched over the rolling pin and talking to herself just to make it through. Deep fried and served with dipping mustard, these were sooo good.

It was a good thing Lisa brought cucumbers in sour cream and dill & cucumbers in vinegar & dill. This wise woman, noting the volume of potatoes and bread in the pre-meetup Facebook discussions, thought to herself “we’re going to need something with some acidity.” Sure enough, those salads went with just about everything.

Laura’s apple cake was like soft apples nestled in custard. I could eat it everyday.

Betty brought what I have taken to calling The Borscht. She makes it with a full pound of butter and more than a litre of whipping cream. I get all dreamy just looking at the photo.

Peter and Dorthea were inspired by Latvian Lunchroom to make these Small Maizites, open-faced sandwiches. Normally theses call for little fish called sprats on dark rye, but they used Pumpernickel, fresh goat cheese, sardines in mustard sauce, pickles and fresh daikon.

Kim’s made a map to help us navigate through her collection of dishes inspired by the ‘stans: Sweet Onion Salad (Uzbekistan), Turcoman Flatbread (Turkmenistan), and Chickpea & Onion Stew (Tajikistan). The stew, which was served with yogurt, had a wonderful subtle spiciness to it, and Kim said the flatbread only took five days to make!

Tracy, your Nachynka was so good! Tracy wasn’t keen on her Ukrainian cornmeal stuffing, but others were. And it had BACON.

Denise took us to Armenia with her Borek. They were delicate and rich at the same time, with a bit of nuttiness from the sesame seeds on top. Oh yes.

Both Maureen and I made the potato-laden Lithuanian Kugelis, with butter and cream and BACON and onions. Would make again. Would be a great accompaniment to corn on the cob.

Rich with potatoes and BACON and packing a lovely outer crunch, Nick’s Pannileib was a total hit. There was much discussion of it’s awesomeness during the lingering-in-a-food-coma-daze part of the evening.

These are the Pork Dumplings in Mushroom & Shallot Creme Fraiche that so vexed Jeremy. There were no leftovers.

Mirjana called on her family’s Bosnian heritage with her Knedle Sa Slijuuma (Dumplings with plums). But they had a Summerland twist – she sautéed them in Maple Roch maple syrup. Yum.

Kathleen’s Ukrainian Kotleti! Breaded meatballs? Yes please. These were gluten free. I forgave them.

Georgian Kharcho (Beef stew)
A strange stew with rice and dill and even lemon juice. But lovely. Would make again.

Brandy’s Pankuka didn’t last long – I got the last one. So good, served with sour cream and green onions.

The surprise dish of the night for several people – Janice’s Latvian Cottage Cheese Biscuits. Because they were kind of savoury and kind of sweet, with this amazing buttery, soft, flaky texture. Very subtle flavours, but golly.

Jean’s Armenian Boyrek. Pastry filled with feta and egg? Um, yes. Imagine one of these with a beef stew.

My photo does not capture the Yum that was Val’s Grahi Varivah – Croatian bean soup. It’s the kind of soup that tastes like it’s taken time. Soaking the beans, slow cooking with the pork hock for maximum flavour. Three cheers to Tony’s meats for their excellent contribution to this dish. It’s usually served with crusty bread and a nice beer. We didn’t have the beer but Val did bring a Baltic sourdough for dipping.

Tina and Laura both made Russian Piroshki, swapping out the cabbage and egg filling for seasoned beef. A perfect winter dish. I dipped them in sour cream. I pretty much dipped everything in sour cream. Can you believe we had no cabbage at this meetup?

Wendy and Manfred brought these soft, just-sweet-enough Russian Sugar Cookies. I’ve already started craving them again, so yes they were very good.

And to top it off, Brandy brought me muffins to take home!

That’s all the news from our January potluck extravaganza. I hope I haven’t forgotten anything. Massive thanks to Lisa and the Summerland Waterfront Resort for hosting our foodie adventure evening.

I don’t have anything planned for February yet, but it looks like we’ll be back in March with “French Canadian” at Maple Roch.

Thanks, everyone!

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