Thursday, 3 October 2013

'I am not a glutton - I am an explorer of food!'

As Erma Bombeck once said, 'I am not a glutton - I am an explorer of food'. In this respect good old Erma and I are one in the same. I am of the 'try anything once' mentality and would gladly swap a night on the town for a meal out any day.

In the last week, the Russian autumn has turned bitter. Last Friday, it was 1 degree and snowing and, with slim improvement (an average daily temperate of around 3-4 degrees), coming back to a home cooked meal has been a great way to warm my bones! It is quite clear to me that my landlady, Galina, is trying to provide me with extra layers of insulation for what promises to be an even harsher winter.

People are often curious about the food here in Russia, so what better way to showcase it than a food diary in pictures?


Breakfast is a fairly western affair - my daily porridge with apricot jam and bread and cheese goes down a treat before my half hour walk to uni. Anyone will tell you that I am not a morning person. Rising any time before 11.30am leaves me dazed, confused and grumpy - hence why there is not an illustrative picture of my daily fare (I am usually too bleary eyed to remember to take one).

For your general enjoyment, however, here is the McMuffin poster I pass on my way to uni.


Due to the epic portions that my land lady (Galina) provides for breakfast and dinner, I tend to try and avoid lunch (except on the weekends when Galina cooks me all three meals!). Sometimes temptation takes me however and I give in.

One of my go-to lunches here in Russia is Pelmeni. These gorgeous meat-filled dumplings are just what you want when your fingers are frozen. Smothered in smetana (soured cream) or butter and usually topped with dill (unfortunately), they are a popular feature of the famed business lunch (cheap set menu lunches). This meal, with peach juice, set me back a mere £2.20 - way better than your crummy Boots meal deal! Fear not vegetarians, you can also get a friendly veggie alternative called Vareniki, stuffed with potatoes.

One thing people are often struck by on their first visit to the Motherland is the popularity of sushi. The sheer number of sushi restaurants and takeaways is unbelievable, and its fairly reasonably priced to. Here in Voronezh, a favourite sushi haunt is Tanuki. However, some of my fondest memories of St Petersburg centre around Sushi Wok and its bargain super set takeaway - perfect if you're doing some summer sight seeing and fancy a picnic.

Our lovely Russian culture lecturer Tatiana ushered us in to her classroom this week to help her demolish left over salad, which in Russia, as you can see, has mayonnaise as its constituent ingredient more often than not. With a side of black bread (sort of comparable to Rye), this impromptu lunch was amazing! 

Of all my weekend lunches, these have to occupy the Number 1 spot. Russian blini (pancakes) are world renowned and with both sweet and savoury fillings available you are never short of choice. These ones, lovingly made by Galina, were stuffed with egg and cabbage - a tasty if obscure combination. Perfect with a little dollop of smetana.


Dinner is usually quite a bulky affair, served at 7pm on the dot without exception. Occasionally things like spaghetti and meatballs appear on my plate but on the whole things seem to be quite typically Russian.

This is a prime example of standard dinner size. Main course, salad (non negotiable) and sweet treats in copious quantites all washed down with a cuppa (no milk, no sugar). This particular meal is quite a staple: chicken with Гречка (which I think in English is buck wheat). Russians go crazy for the stuff - Galina (who isn't very well today) ate a whole bowl covered in sugar for dinner (minus the chicken, obviously) . She said her mother used to give it to her as a child - I can't see the attraction personally. Though she did also say she likes macaroni with sugar, so I wouldn't take her as an example of a typical Russian!

Chicken Meatball and Rice

Under all that carrot sauce is a piece of rather boney fish on top of pasta. In our house once fish has been cooked, it isn't reheated so this is fine on day 1 but on day 2 and 3 it leaves much to be desired.

This may look like your standard frankfurter, veg and chips, but you are wrong...

It is also handy reading practice (yes that is a word that you can see on my sausage!)...perhaps a Russian equivalent of alphabet spaghetti??

Пирожки, пряники и печенье

Little sweet treats are a favourite of Galina's and she tends to make a small mountain of them next to my dinner plate. They are usually left untouched until she guilt trips me in to taking them on a plate to my room 'for later'. She likes to bake so there is always some kind of sweet treat laying around. 

Galina's apple cake

Baking Пирожки...

Sometimes, however, these little treats come with a twist. I was told that these пирожок where stuffed with apple. After accepting a tasty apple treat, I later bit in to one which was filled with egg fried rice...nothing is as it seems!


The wonderful world of Russian snacking is an interesting thing to explore.
Behold my corner shop offerings:

This round bread is my savoury craving saviour - its so big that it will last me a couple of days and for 50p who can argue. 

Crisps here are a minefield with normal Walkers flavours ranging from crab to caviar to smetana with dill. I thought maybe these small croûton snacks would be a nice alternative. I opted to try the Shashlik flavour. All I will say is pieces of stale bread that taste like kebab are not the way forward. 

So there you have it - a weeks worth of my food adventures in a nutshell...

If all else fails, there's always vodka...


1 comment

  1. Oh, I like apple pies very much!
    You are lucky to live with Galina!
    As for macaroni with sugar - I used to eat such a thing when I was a child. Children always love sweet food :) But this is only for kids...
    PS The plural for 'пирожок' is 'пирожки' ;)


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