Words and Photos by Ren Behan
I’m moving on in our virtual Foodie World Cup tour to Russia; a country and cuisine I’m very familiar with, as Poland are their next-door neighbours and there’s a very strong similarity with many Russian dishes and those of my ancestral kitchen. We’re firmly in hearty, Eastern European food territory; the sort of food that will keep you going both in hard times and in cold times! There’s also a Baltic influence, so there’s plenty of fish, such as salmon and herring, as well as “food of the land”, like wild honey, berries, mushrooms, rye and buckwheat… and the obligatory glass or two of Russian vodka!
When it comes to hospitality, a Soviet welcome can be hard to beat, with large portions of merriment and food alike. For my Russian World Cup snacks, I’ve opted for some classic Blini – small, yeasted pancakes, traditionally made with buckwheat and very often served in Russia either for breakfast or as a welcoming snack for visitors. For the Slavs, these little round pancakes represent the sun, which is perfect as the sun always seems to be shining in Brazil!
Blini toppings usually involve smoked salmon, caviar or herrings, but really, you can add anything you fancy. I also enjoy making a few sweet versions, too, with fruit jams, sour cream and honey.
Russian Blini recipe
- 100g buckwheat flour (I used wholegrain buckwheat flour by Doves Farm)
- 70g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon quick yeast
- 1 egg, beaten
- 250ml tepid milk
- pinch of salt
- Cream cheese, smoked salmon, caviar (optional), dill or chives to garnish.
- Chicken liver pâté with picked cucumber or finely chopped green peppers
- Sour cream with half a teaspoon of jam, such as wild blueberry, damson jam, or cherry jam, served with fresh berries
For the topping
Take a large bowl and whisk all of the blini ingredients together until you have a smooth batter. Cover with clingfilm and leave the batter to stand for around an hour. After an hour, stir the mixture again – it should have thickened slightly.
Heat a large pan with a small amount of vegetable oil. Using a teaspoon, drop a small amount of batter into the pan to make small, round pancakes – they should be bite-sized and the batter should be thick enough to drop easily from the spoon but not spread out too much once in the pan. You’ll need to cook them in batches – around eight should fit into a large flat pan.
Cook them for up to two minutes on each side then flip over until both sides are golden in colour. The first side will bubble a little.
Carefully transfer the cooked blini onto a plate and repeat with the remaining batter. This recipe makes 32 small blini.
Top the blini with the savoury and sweet toppings suggested above, or any toppings of your choice!
You could also serve these blini with my homemade citrus-infused vodka – find the recipe here.
If you are in London and want to sample some Russian flavours, take a look at the supper events by The Russian Revels who offer “Russian feasts with Slavic generosity and British humour”. It was the Russian Revels who inspired me to host my first Polish pop-up, with food from my own Eastern European kitchen. At their supper events you’ll be able to sample Russian zakuski – a selection of small dishes similar to Spanish tapas. I also have good memories of their potato and herring salad with rye bread, and a Georgian aubergine stew. If you want to try your hand at a sweet version of Russian pirozhki dumplings, you can find my recipe here – they are filled with blueberries and served with cinnamon whipped cream.
For more countries from Jamie’s Foodie World Cup, click here.