The cuisine of Russia is often forgotten but it is distinctive and unique, with a variety of flavours often influenced by the country’s connections to Europe, Asia and the Middle East. There are many traditional hearty dishes with recipes including vegetables, meat and dough all with the intention to warm (thanks to the cold temperatures that can often reach -30°C!)
No Russian menu is complete without this vibrant soup. Served hot or cold, it is traditionally made from beetroot (which provides its trademark colour), cabbage (with other vegetables) and beef broth with sour cream. There are many variations of borscht, some of which add meat or remove it entirely, making it vegetarian.
The soup originated in the Ukraine but was quickly adopted as a Russian special, acting as a delicious belly warmer on Moscow’s colder days. It is hearty enough to serve as a meal but often enjoyed as a starter.
For a soup far less likely to stain, try solyanka. Believed to be an affective hangover remedy, solyanka is a spicy and sour soup so hearty and thick it’s more like a stew. It comes in three basic varieties: fish, meat (typically beef, pork or chicken) and mushroom and contains pickled cucumbers cooked with brine, giving it a salty taste and vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, olives and cabbage.
Shashlik is Russia’s take on the classic shish kebab. Meats such as lamb, beef, chicken or salmon are marinated overnight in vinegar, herbs, spices and dry wine, skewered and then grilled. Served with unleavened bread and pickles, shashlik is traditionally prepared and served for events with lots of people.
Named after Count Alexander Grigorievich Stroganoff who specially prepared the meal for the guests of his dinner parties, beef stroganoff is a wholesome and hearty no-fuss dish perfect for Sunday lunch. Strips of beef are sautéed in a sauce of butter, white wine, sour cream (called smetana in Russia), mustard and onions, often served with pasta.
The national dish of Russia, pelmeni are filled dumplings made from thin, unleavened dough. Traditionally, pelmeni are stuffed with minced lamb, pork or beef alongside onions and mushrooms. They can be served solo, slathered in butter or sour cream, added to a broth or combined with rice or mashed potatoes.
Blini’s are Russia’s answer to the French crêpe. A round, thin wheat pancake rolled with a variety of either sweet or savoury fillings such as jam, chocolate syrup or apples, cheese, sour cream, caviar, minced beef or onions. They are enjoyed as a dessert, a snack or sometimes even as the main course.
Blini’s are a huge part of Russian cuisine. Symbolising the sun, they represent the shape and the warmth sun brings and are eaten at the Russian festival, Maslenitsa which celebrates the beginning of spring.