Tuesday, May 27, 2008

From Russia, with recipes.

May 27 ...

Cookery is a constantly evolving and adapting art and science, and it can be difficult if not impossible to determine the roots of many dishes – even the fiercely national ones. Most dishes are like mongrel dogs, with a little bit of a lot of influence. Often the Anglicised names of dishes are a clue. There must be twenty different spellings of ‘pilau’ in old English cookbooks, for example. Sometimes a recipe would simply be designated ‘in the Spanish style’, or ‘the French way’, or ‘Italian fashion’. By the nineteenth century, a few cookbooks started to appear that proudly demonstrated and promoted ‘foreign’ food.

A ‘coulibiac’ is, according to the OED ‘A Russian pie of fish or meat, cabbage, etc.’ The cabbage appears again, I see – which is ironic as this post arose out of my need to balance Pushkin’s ‘national monotonous diet’ idea.

Here are a couple of ‘Russian pies’ à la English-language cookbooks - one simply named, the other accurately enough. Both without cabbage.

Russian Fish-Roll.
Chop some cooked trout and white fish, and mix with ½ cup of boiled rice. Season with salt, pepper and all kinds of herbs minced fine. Then make a rich pie-paste and roll out very thin. Fill with the mixture and make into a roll. Sprinkle with bits of butter and let bake until brown. Serve hot with wine-sauce.
[365 Foreign dishes, a foreign dish for every day in the year. 1908]

Coulibac. (Russia.)
Make a paste as for baba pudding or Savarin, and roll it very thin. Cut into a large square, fill it with a forcemeat of veal, rice, eggs, herbs, butter, stock, and mushrooms, and roll it up like jelly cake. Dust the top with crumbs, and bake it 1 hour. Serve with hot wine sauce, in slices.
[With A Saucepan Over The Sea; Quaint And Delicious Recipes From The Kitchens Of Foreign Countries, Adelaide Keen. Boston, Little, Brown And Company, 1902.]

Tomorrow’s Story …

Equal to an Egg.

Quotation for the Day …

Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good. Alice May Brock.


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Shay said...

Something of which you may already be aware; in South Carolina and such parts, a dish of rice with various additions such as onions, bits of meat, vegetables, etc, is still known as "perloo."

Liz + Louka said...

Well I've got recipes for Coulibiac, but mine don't mention wine sauce. Do these books give recipes for the wine sauce to serve with the coulibiac?

The Old Foodie said...

Shay - I have never heard of 'perloo' - it sounds very interesting. I will definitely explore it for a future post.
Liz&Louka - neither of the books have recipes for savoury wine sauces, although they do have the sweet variety to serve with puddings. I have had a quick browse of other books around the era, and mostly they seem to indicate a sort of gravy with wine added.

la petite gourmande said...

If you are interested in a modern recipe, look no further than the April 2008 issue of Saveur magazine:


There is a lovely article on the complexities of making Kulebyaka (she basically tracks down one woman who is willing make the traditional recipe, and then spends hours watching her do it only to be then left alone in the apartment with the entire completed dish) included by none other than Anya von Bremzen, but it seems that you can't read the article online. Drat! I was so looking forward to posting a link.

Here is a synopsis, anyway:

The Émigrée's Feast
For one Russian expat, replicating a lavish 19th-century Russian banquet in a one-bedroom apartment in Queens, New York, becomes an epicurean adventure of the highest order. (Period costumes are required.) By Anya von Bremzen