When a resident of Moscow gets up in the morning to have breakfast, his compatriot in the far east of the country is finishing his dinner. It is precisely these 9 hours of time difference that can give us an idea of the geographical and human diversity of this vast territory, this continental country that stretches over seventeen million square kilometers.
Tatars, Mongols, Chuvash, Buryats, Bashkirs, Ukrainians… more than one hundred and fifty million inhabitants of about fifty different origins inhabit Russia.
In the 9th century, Scandinavians from the south of the Baltic settled between the Don and the Dnieper. Then they founded the first Russian state: Rus, in which they ruled until the 17th centurye century descendants of Prince Riurik, then the Romanov dynasty.
Whoever says Russia, obviously means Moscow. From Pushkin to Tchaikovsky via Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov and Dostoyevsky: there are many Russian musicians and writers whose life and work were directly connected to Moscow.
However, Peter the Great does not share this attraction for this commercial city under permanent construction. In 1703, he founded St. Petersburg, which would overshadow Moscow until 1918. Renamed Petrograd, it was then renamed Leningrad before returning to its Christian name in 1991.
Khlebosolstvo is hospitality in Russian. It is derived from the words khléb, bread, and salt, salt. In the past, there were always reserves in the Russian house to welcome an unexpected visitor. Also, the landlady decorated the table with a beautiful collection that delighted the eyes and the heart.
This snack is zakouski in Russian. Back then it was salted gherkins, marinated mushrooms, salmon eggs, salted meat, pickled herring… And all with a glass of vodka*, of course!
And then, little by little, the snack became a buffet, with the pomp we know today. Elaborate dishes such as eggplant caviar and tout court caviar, tarama, fish and meat in jelly, salads and the famous pirojes were added.
During large feasts, guests stand around the prepared buffet and toast their hosts. Every sip of vodka* that calls for a bite of zakouski and, conversely, every sip of zakouski calls for a sip of vodka*… That’s enough to last for hours!
When Moscow was inspired by Paris
At 19e century, in the private villas of the capital, we like to see the famous Montmorency chicken inheriting zakouski, while champagne is mixed with vodka. Down to the last emperor, there was no socialite who was not proud to have a French chief in their service. Paris launches fashion, Moscow brings it back to its table.
Thus, the festive meals reflect an authentic complicity between the two gastronomy. Ingredients and knowledge come together for the best and create absolutely perfect French-Russian cuisine. However, it should be noted that no feast deviates from the rule of snacks, which serve as an appetizer and change parched throats.
Borscht and its various pirojki, salmon kulibiyak, Pozharsky cutlets and beef Stroganoff remain reliable values of Russian gastronomy. Okroshka, a frozen soup with pieces of fish, arrives in summer. This is followed by fresh cheese vatruska, fruit kissel and sweet vareniki with coffee.
Land of fish!
Fishing is practiced along 47,000 kilometers of coastline and in many inland lakes and rivers. Ural is known for carp and pike, Kamchatka for crayfish. Odessa and Astrakhan grow pearls… black gold or caviar.
The party includes mackerel, eel and herring. They occupy the cold waters of the Baltic or the brackish waters of estuaries. They are salted, smoked or pickled.
Pike and bream abound in the shallow salty waters of the Black Sea. When they go up the rivers to breed, the inland population looks forward to this divine day.
Cod becomes cod when dried. It is easy to store and transport, it can be cooked in soup, in court broth, in the oven or stewed with potatoes and horseradish. Cod eggs are used to prepare tarama.
Kamchatka crab is a delicacy. She was packed onto a ship equipped with giant furnaces about 45 minutes after capture.
Rivers in the north of the country that have escaped pollution have become a refuge for entire schools of crabs. Prepared in biscuits, they are a real delight.
And of course, there is caviar!
Beetroot, mushrooms, cabbage…
Over time, cabbage soups have been enriched with new flavors. So tomatoes and potatoes came along with good old roots such as turnips, Jerusalem artichokes, rutabagas.
Today, eggplant and pepper are grown in the southern part of Russia. They are marinated in garlic and presented in puree.
Beetroot takes center stage! It softens the acidity of the cabbage, dampens the strong flavors of the game and gives the borscht its perfect pink color. Its young leaves are used to prepare soups.
The mushroom is a vegetable par excellence. It remains the basis of many sauces, added to soups, marinated in oil and vinegar. In addition to porcini mushrooms, chanterelles and other porcini mushrooms, cured meat products enhance milk scallops, fresh or dried.
Cabbage, the essential cabbage, is suitable for all kinds of preparations. Refrigerated from autumn to spring, it is consumed fermented or in brine the rest of the year.
Sorrel is mixed with spinach and nettle. Black radish enhances sauces and fillings. The pumpkin is placed in a gratin, and the turnip can be cooked over embers, stuffed or eaten boiled. Rutabaga and Jerusalem artichoke are suitable for excellent au gratin and delicious salads.
*Alcohol abuse is dangerous to health, consume it in moderation.