When one talks about Russia, one should remember that it is a very large country and over a period of time, the nature and constituents of the country has changed. It is also a country that runs over two continents and for a time, existed in three continents. The vast area has brought it to a situation where there are different cuisines in different areas and alterations to the cuisine are even done on a local basis. So, the comment on this cuisine has to be general to be reasonably accurate.
There are four aspects that have been discussed in this article, and we shall go from one to the next.
Geographical location of Russia and why it have an affect on the Russian cuisine?
When a thought comes of a Russian kitchen what are the first associations that one gets? Is it Vodka with caviar? Or, is it vinaigrette meaning the "Russian salad" which has patties stuffed along with jam or mashed potatoes and also that of mushrooms and onions? (Insight into the history of Russian cuisine) Traditional Russian cuisine is an important part of Russian national culture. There is a lot of interest both in Russia itself and all over the world regarding Russian cuisine. Some of the recipes are the center of attention and they are also the most popular and interesting culinary instances of its vast repertory. It is important to know Russian national cuisine, with all its authenticity and originality. Some of the recipes are very ancient and go back to hoary antiquity, while others have developed later, in the 18th and 19th centuries. (Russian Cuisine: www.russianlegacy.com) The most important ingredient is bread or bred and this has always played a key-role in the Russian kitchen. The most famous is rye bred which is quite unpopular elsewhere, and also rolls, buns, "blini" and pancakes. All these appeared at the end of the 9th century in Russia. (Insight into the history of Russian cuisine)
There is no dinner without bread according to the Russian saying. Wheat loaves are available in dozens of varieties. As to rye bread, Russians eat more of it than any nation in the world and the item itself is a peculiarity of the Russian diet. (Russian Cuisine: www.russianembassy.org) In earlier years, grain composed of wheat, rye, oats and millet was the main foodstuff used in Russia. Russian people have been engaged in cultivation from time immemorial and that is why bread played a very important part in their diet. A festive table in old time Russia could not be imagined without pies and other pasties. Pies were cooked with that of cook cereals, as also pancakes and baked puddings. Cattle-breeding was also popular in Russia as that of hunting. This provided a large choice of meat dishes which was inclusive of the wild animals and fowl. (Russian Cuisine: www.russianlegacy.com)
Large areas have always been covered by woods and forests, particularly in the north of Russia, and these are abundant in berries and mushrooms. These provided the wealth of 'gifts of the forests' on the Russian table. One should also not forget that there were many fish courses. Russian cuisine has always been famous for diverse delicacies, particularly refreshments which are made of fish. Russian rivers, lakes and seas yielded much of this type of tasty and useful type of food. Then centuries have passed and there were growing contacts with Western countries. This led to many changes in Russian cooking. During the times of Peter the Great the use of contemporary cookers became widespread in Russia as also the use of saucepans, frying-pans, straining spoons and other indispensable kitchen utensils. At the beginning of the nineteenth century Russian cooks developed different sauces and dressings for which French cuisine were earlier famous. These changes led to new items to become a significant addition to traditional Russian spices - horse-radish and mustard. All these changes definitely enriched Russian cookery. (Russian Cuisine: www.russianlegacy.com)
Thus it can be seen that Russian cuisine has absorbed several other culinary traditions like that of Tatar-Mongol, Italian, English, French and the American. There are still some differences in usage, and it is not customary in the Russian kitchen to mix various ingredients together like as is done in the West. In earlier years, people ate just one variety of vegetable at one time. The vegetable may be fresh, boiled or baked cabbage, pickled, peas, radish, or cucumber but, they will be served for table separately. These dishes were made piquant with spices, and all types of oil. Only after this meat dishes started coming into the Russian kitchen, like that of the Caucasian shashlik, Siberian ravioli, and ultimately Russian beef Stroganoff. (Insight into the history of Russian cuisine)
Influences of various groups on Russian cuisine:
A lot of items used in Russian cuisine originate abroad and vodka originates from Italy. It was brought to Russia only during the 14th century. Caviar rarely available and normally is not served on the ordinary days. (Insight into the history of Russian cuisine) Yet, as per Russian custom, a festive table is not worth its name without having a bottle of vodka. Russians are from the early days hearty drinkers and due to this for them good whiskey shall come from Scotland, and port from Portugal, while Russian wheat vodka is the world's best. There are an amazing variety on offer, from the clear, colorless Moskovskaya and Stolichnaya to all types of bitters having herbs and spices. Similarly, vinaigrette and other types of salads were being borrowed from that of Europe and became part and parcel of the Russian culinary tradition only during the 19th century. (Russian Cuisine: www.russianembassy.org)
It is only patties that belong to the traditional Russian cuisine. Another Russian custom is after-meal tea-drinking, which has similarities in China where tea drinking continues throughout the day. The Russian tradition goes back to the second half of the 6th century when Astrakhanskoje and Kazanskoe khanates had merged with Russia. During the Soviet period Russian cuisine was developed through culinary traditions of other allied republics of the union. At the same time, some of the dishes became delicatessen during that time due to shortages. (Insight into the history of Russian cuisine)
Practical and social rituals associated with Russian cuisine:
Original and varied, Russian cuisine are known for exotic soups, cabbage schi and solyanka, which are made of assorted meats. Russians are fantastic lovers of pelmeni, which are small Siberian meat pies being boiled in broth. Every housewife having experience develops her own recipes for pies, pickles, and sauerkraut. There is also a wide choice of recipes for mushrooms, which is available in abundance in the Russian woods. They are being fried, pickled, salted and also boiled. There are many folk soft drinks, and kvass is the best-known. This is made from brown bread or malted rye flour, and is best on a sultry summer day. When chopped-up meat and vegetables are added, it becomes okroshka, an exquisite cold soup. (Russian Cuisine: www.russianembassy.org) Thus the choice is generally left to the preparer of the food.
Ingredients, seasoning, styles, and cooking procedures attributable to the Russian region:
For this purpose, the entire spectrum cannot be covered and let us choose one area to discuss - entrees. Among these, the most famous is Pelmeni. These are done in many ways, but what is being discussed here is the Russian way of doing it. Pelmeni is the Siberian Meat Dumplings. For preparing 6 dozen of them you need 1 teaspoon of salt, 3 eggs, 1 cup of water, and 4 to 41/2 cups of all-purpose flour. Then a large mixing bowl is used, where the flour and salt is mixed with a deep well in the center. In the well, drop in the eggs and water and, with hands or a large spoon, the flour and the liquid ingredients slowly but thoroughly mixed until the mixture can be gathered into a compact ball. Then the dough is transferred to a lightly floured surface and kneaded by folding it end to end, then pressing it down and pushing it forward several times with the heel of the hand. The dough has to be sprinkled with extra flour when required to prevent it from sticking to the board. Kneading should be continued for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Then the dough should be shaped into a ball, wrapped it loosely in wax paper, and left at room temperature for at least 1 hour. (Russian Cuisine -- Entrees)
For the filling one requires 2 tablespoons of butter, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, 1/2 cup of finely chopped onions, 6 ounces of lean top round or beef chuck which has been ground twice, 6 ounces of fresh pork fat which also has been ground twice, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, and 1/2 cup of melted butter or 1 cup of sour cream. The butter…