Sunday, December 20, 2009

Some Notes on Russian Cookbooks

Move over, Please to the Table; I’ve got a new Russian cookbook to play with. It's Anne Volokh’s 600-page The Art of Russian Cuisine, published in 1983. (Anya Von Bremzen’s 1990 Please to the Table, by the way, has been my main inspiration for this blog.)

I haven’t had a chance to try any of Volokh’s recipes, but I’m impressed by the scope of her book. All the usual Russian foods (borsch, pelmeni) are well-represented, but so are lesser-known dishes such as seledka pod shuboi (herring in a fur coat) and Napoleon (tricky but popular layered cream cake). The chapters on making your own rye bread and pickling and preserving fruits and vegetables are extensive. Volokh’s recipes are more detailed than Von Bremzen’s, and she included handy diagrams for work-intensive dishes such as vareneki (dumplings) and multi-layered pies.

If there’s a downside to the book, it’s that Volokh spends a bit too much time on 19th-century Russian haute cuisine. (The amusing author photo in my edition shows Volokh wearing what looks like a 19th-century hat and gown.) Has anyone in Russia cooked dishes like poached sturgeon with cream sauce and Veal Prince Orlov between, say, 1920 and 1995? There’s little from the former Soviet republics with the exception of the most well-known dishes like plov, the Uzbek lamb and rice stew.

Von Bremzen, too, includes grouse and such in her book, but she also extensively covers the foods of every USSR satellite nation from Estonia to Tajikistan. I like that she notes Soviet-era food shortages and adaptations 20th-century home cooks have had to make. Unfortunately, Von Bremzen's recipes often need some tweaking and her ingredient proportions tend to be off.

I've heard from blog readers that Volokh's recipes are more precise, so I'm looking forward to perusing her book and trying some of her recipes, starting with pickled mushrooms.


Katrina said...

thanks for the tip off, Yul. i'm sure you are aware of Goldstein's book 'the taste of Russia'? (I'm planning to make Kurnick out of it - ever attempted it?)

same issue though - a lot of old school dishes..i haven't done a lot of research into this yet, but there must be good books on newer influences on Russian cuisine??

Julia (alias Yulinka Cooks) said...

Katrina-I've heard of Goldstein's book, but I haven't really looked at it. Never made kurnick, but I'd like to...Of course, I'd like try make about a dozen recipes right now. Von Bremzen's book is by far the best I've found on modern-day Russian cuisine.

Katrina said...

have found Von Bremzen on amazon - I wonder what my xmas present to myself will be;)..

I'll be making Kurnick for my old new year's eve party, will let you know..

p.s. what do you think of my Olivier? see my blog

Julia (alias Yulinka Cooks) said...

Katrina--Could you send me a link to your blog? Your profile is unavailable. thanks!

Katrina said...

how strange that it doesn't link up to my blog! it's ('Around the world in 80 markets')

Anonymous said...

I bought this book last week after reading this post... I can't wait until it comes in!!

Sofya said...

Now this is a very interesting bit of information. Now I want that book!!!!!!

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