Originally written as part of the World Cup 2014 cooking project.
The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 lead to the creation of a new football team in 1992 under the flag of Russia. Its first ever game was against Mexico, which it won 2-0. Since then Russia has qualified for two previous World Cups, in 1994 and 2002, but has not managed as yet to make it beyond the first round.
One of the most high profile Russian exports to the English Premier League was Andrey Arshavin who transferred from Zenit St Petersburg to Arsenal for a record club fee of £15m. He joined with much promise, and at times was an outstanding player, but never really fulfilled his potential. My stand out memory of him though was his one-man show scoring 4 goals in a league game away at Liverpool. Arshavin had some success in Russia’s national team, particularly in the Euro Championships; but when it comes to the World Cup much less so. Unfortunately, he has been omitted from Russia’s squad in Brasil.
Russia drew 1-1 with Korea Republic in their first World Cup game and is still favourite behind Belgium to qualify for the second round. Fabio Capello, the ex-England manager, has developed a balanced style of play, emphasising teamwork rather than individual brilliance. I would expect the key game to be against Algeria, and on paper Russia should win that one. However, as this World Cup has shown no team is safe…isn’t that right Spain.
The iconic and widely popular street food of blini is my dish to celebrate Russia’s presence in Brasil. In short they are steaming hot pancakes topped with anything from vodka infused cherries to the eggs of the sturgeon and sour cream. Blini differ from regular crepes and pancakes in that they use buckwheat flour and yeast which give them a nutty flavour, and depending how you cook them can range from very thin to a light and airy texture.
Looking in to the brief history of the blin (plural is blini) to see where and why this became Russia’s equivalent of fast food, it appears that they are linked historically to the pagans and in particular the sun festival Maslenitsa. The sun festival celebrated the end of winter and the coming of spring, a week in which people ate nothing but pancakes. The round yellow appearance of the blin symbolised the sun. This tradition was adopted by the Orthodox Church and is still practiced today. Blini have however, made it much further afield than the Orthodox church and can be found in cities all over Russia, mainly in the ubiquitous Teremok stalls that serve most Russians their on-the-go blini.
Blini with Citrus Cured Salmon - RussiaPrint
- ■ 300ml whole milk |
- ■ 4 large egg yolks |
- ■ 1½ tsp. dried yeast |
- ■ 1 tsp. white sugar |
- ■ 130g buckwheat flour |
- ■ 130g strong white flour | This is a baker's grade of flour.
- ■ 6 large egg whites
- ■ pinch sea salt |
- ■ seasoning of sea salt and ground black pepper |
- ■ 2-3 tbsp. cooking oil |
- ■ 25g butter |
- Serve with toppings of choice.
Warm the milk in a pan until just short of boiling. Let it cool a little. Add the egg yolks, dried yeast and sugar to a bowl and whisk until smooth. Slowly add the warm milk whisking whilst you do so. Now slowly incorporate the buckwheat flour and the white flour and whisk until you have a thick, smooth batter. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and set aside in a warm place for an hour to prove.
In a bowl beat the egg whites and pinch of salt until the egg whites forms stiff peaks. Bit by bit gently fold the stiff egg whites in to the proven batter until all is incorporated and the batter is smooth.
Heat all of the butter and 1 tablespoon of oil in a large non-stick frying pan, over a low to medium heat. Now there are two ways to go about cooking the blini:
1) Pour half the batter in to the frying pan to make a large blin. When the surface starts to bubble flip the pancake over and cook the other side. This will give you a large thin blin which you can cut smaller ones from using a biscuit cutter.
2) Pour a small ladle of batter in to an egg ring (those for creating round fried eggs). Cook until the surface starts to bubble, flip and cook the other side. This produces a small blin that has a light, airy and cake like texture. It is not the classic blin texture, but it is one that I think works really well and what you see in the photo.
Repeat to cook the rest using some more of the cooking oil if required.
Serve steaming hot with your favourite toppings. Here I have served mine with citrus cured salmon, sour cream and lumpfish roe.