Russian cuisine is known around the world for its hearty nature. Of course, the country’s diet is adapting to modern life and international influences, but its traditional fare is based around meat, dairy products and cold-weather vegetables like turnips, beetroot, cabbage and carrots.
Borscht. Beet and beef soup topped with sour cream and dill. © Liz West(view the recipe).
It’s cold in Russia
The cold climate of Russia also means that grains like barley, rye and buckwheat are used a lot, as these cereals grow well in the cold. Fresh fruit and vegetables aren’t a big part of the Russian diet, as they can be hard to come by and grow in harsh weather, so you’ll find that a lot of fruit, vegetables and fish are preserved or pickled.
Russians, like many people, eat three main meals a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner. The breakfast is the heaviest meal of the day, and dinner (or supper) is lighter. The average Russian diet has a bit more full-fat dairy, especially cream and sour cream, sugar and starch than is recommended, but then the Russian weather is colder than most people would recommend!
Shchi, a Russian cabbage soup. © Olga (view the recipe).
Soups and stews are a big part of Russian fare, and they’re often served as the first course. The best-known Russian soup is borscht, which is a beetroot soup. It’s served hot or cold, sometimes with a dollop of sour cream, sometimes with thin noodles, and sometimes with a few shreds of beef in. There’s also shchi, which is a cabbage soup. Soups and stews are usually sprinkled with greens, or dill.
A typical Russian’s dinner
Classic beef stroganoff. © Olga (view the recipe).
The main course of a Russian dinner is daunting! You’ll get a good strong combination of chunky meat and vegetables, like beef Stroganoff, which is a steak stew served with noodles or rice and a creamy mushroom sauce. You may also get pelmeni, which are small dumplings filled with minced meat or vegetables. Piroghi are well known throughout Eastern Europe – they’re small pastries that are filled with meat and vegetables, or sometimes hard-boiled eggs. These are very filling and are a popular choice.
Olivier, a Russian salad. © Olga (view the recipe).
Russians enjoy good filling side dishes, too, and these are often based around potatoes, carrots or mushrooms. A popular salad is salad Olivier, which is potatoes, olives, pickles and hard-boiled eggs in mayonnaise.
Desserts aren’t a big deal to Russians, and meals are often finished with a selection of thin buckwheat pancakes called blini. They are usually spread with jam, honey or sour cream. Blini have become popular outside of Russia, too.
Kvass is a very old traditional malt drink. Flour, malt and water are combined to make a dough that’s fermented, which makes a slightly alcoholic drink (0.5% or less). Fruit juices and flavorings are often added, with berry flavors being especially popular, as well as mint or ginger.
Sbiten is similar to kvass, but is made from honey, water, spices and fruit juices. It was very popular at one point, but has been overtaken by hot chocolate. Mors, sweetened fruit juices and water, is also a common drink.
Modern Russians are very fond of tea, with black tea being most popular. Green tea is growing in popularity, though. Russia is one of the world’s largest consumers of tea.
And how about coffee?
Coffee is also a common choice, but not as much as tea. It’s usually brewed using European methods, like cafetieres or percolators, and occasionally Turkish methods, like boiling the grounds in pans.
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