Unusual Fact: Belarus lowest point: Nyoman River 90 m above sea level
Welcome to country number 20, Belarus! With twenty countries down and 170 something to go this vegan (but not quite vegan) recipe made me a bit nervous to try. But that was before I started cooking it. Once I started cooking I was fine. Seeing how the food was put together relaxed me and trying along the way helped as well. Lets face it, the sound of cold beetroot soup doesn’t appeal to every one in the first 5 seconds.
Dad was away but we had our friend Heidi over to sample the Belarusian delights.
Usually while looking for recipes I will look up which spices are used most commonly in this countries cuisine. After looking at Belarusian food for just one minute I knew it wasn’t the spices I needed to look up, it was the vegetables. Honestly the amount of vegetables in this recipes, will make any Belarusian farmer jealous. There was onion, potato, beetroot, carrot, turnip, cabbage and tomato. There is no way that the medieval Belarusians got scurvy.
So what did I even make. Well there was borsch/borscht soup. That is a multi vegetable soup with the main ingredient being beetroot. Also on the menu for Belarus was Draniki which are potato pancakes. Wikipedia told me that these were Belarus’ national dish.
Firstly the borsch/borscht soup. There were two hot debates about this soup the first one on how its served. Hot or cold. Cold beetroot soup, sounds delicious. After some serious googling we worked out that it optional hot or cold. We decided on hot. The other debate was on wether or not it should be pureed. I wanted it to be kept chunky, mum wanted it to be pureed. Mum did some more serious googling and worked out that even though lots of people puree theirs, the traditional Belarusian way is chunky. Though I did admit that I could chop up my vegetables a bit smaller. This soup is very healthy and vegetarian. The website I got it off said it was vegan if you left out the sour cream. It did not say this but to be truly vegan/vegetarian you would have to swap the beef stock for vegetable stock. I got this recipes of a “cook my way around the world” blog called Global Travel Adventure. Though she is much further ahead of me, Uzbekistan. You can see her blog here. This soup was delicious and it makes heaps so you can be eating Belarusian all week! The main flavours were tomato and beetroot. You get the tomato first then the beetroot afterwards. Then when you start chewing say a piece of potato you get a lovely creamy texture. The sour cream on top was a must have for me. It brought all the flavours together and toned them down a little as well.
Dad and I had a small problem with this recipes. We went into the supermarket, and they don’t have a very good labelling system and I don’t know what a turnip looks like. I walked around for a bit when I saw a sign that said “Turnip” so I grabbed two. Then after I had paid, I read the receipt and saw that the lady had charged me for two swedes and no turnips. I asked dad and he though it was a swede. We went back into the shop to look for some turnips, after peeling away the turnip label we saw that it said swede. That answered that problem, but what about our turnips. We bought some parsnips and figured that either the parsnips or swedes could substitute for turnips. As it turns out the swede we bought could be a turnip, because mum and our friend Kylie both thought it was a turnip. But we will never know because now it is in our stomachs as mush. In the end we ended up using the swede/turnip thing.
What I liked most about this dish:
All of the vegetables had something to add and all the flavours worked really well together. It was so easy as well, it really is just chop up and throw together in the pot. Just make sure you chop up all the veggies first before you start frying off the onions. Then just walk away but give it a stir every now and then. We served it with some home made bread and this just finished it off perfectly.
What I liked least about this dish:
The beetroots do stain if your not careful, so wash your hands quickly after handling them and cut up the beets last.
Now for the draniki potato pancakes. These are the opposite of the soup, not a health food at all. These were a bit fiddly and filled the house up with smoke. Mum and I got a system going in the grating, I peel the potatoes then she would grate. Make sure you potatoes are new and not bruised or going mouldy. After grating the onions you just mix it all together, leave it to drain in a fine sieve over the sink for a few minutes. These are a lot like a hash brown or potato rosti. We used a very very heavy based frying pan for this and it was perfect. I fried my draniki in ghee as it doesn’t burn. These are beautiful with sour cream, we added a bit of horse radish to our sour cream but I think I would have preferred it with out. We had these as an entree but only eat a few because they are very filling. Even though it says it yield about 8 pancakes, we made almost 15 or 16. I got this recipe off a blog called A Global Garnish. It is a blog. This is a family recipe. You can see her blog here.
What I liked most about this dish:
They were really easy to fry and no fuss. Delicious with the sour cream, so make sure you do a big dob. But I would leave out the horse radish. They would be a great party food
What I liked least about this dish:
These little draniki were very greasy and oily. They made me feel a little sick so only eat a few. After I took them out of the pan I put them on some paper/scotch towel to soak up the oil. Also grating the onions was horrible, so horrible that mum ended up doing it for me.
Draniki – Potato Pancakes
Draniki Potato Pancakes
Yield: About 8 pancakes
2 pounds potatoes, russet, or about 6 potatoes
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper, black, or to taste
oil, canola, for frying
1. Peel and finely grate potatoes. Draniki are best made by grating by hand with a grater. Alternatively a fine food-processor blade may be used.
Place in mixing bowl. As the potato will begin to brown once exposed to oxygen, work quickly to minimize browning.
2. Peel and grate onions and add to bowl; peel and mince garlic and add to bowl.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste. Beat egg and mix in the potato batter.
4. Drain excess water from the batter by letting the batter sit in a colander lined with cheesecloth or paper towels or by draining in a fine sieve. Drain only for a few minutes. Removing too much water will make your batter too thick.
5. Heat oil in heavy frying pan. When hot, drop spoonfuls of batter into pan.
6. Cook until edges are just beginning to turn golden and turn pancakes. Cook on the second side until golden brown.
Draniki are best served in the traditional Belarus manner — with sour cream.
This soup is popular all over eastern Europe, specifically in the Ukraine. This version hails from Belarus where they add big chunks of potatoes. The longer it cooks, the happier this Borshch tastes.
1 large onion, chopped
1-2 large russet potatoes, as desired
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 beets, diced
2 carrots, sliced
2 turnips, diced
1/2 a green cabbage, sliced thinly
6 oz can of tomato paste
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp vinegar
salt and pepper
32 oz beef stock
water as needed
sour cream, for garnish (optional, leave out for vegan)
1. In a large pot, cook onion in vegetable oil until soft and slightly golden. Add the rest of the ingredients, except sour cream. Add water as needed to “cover” all the veggies.
NOTE: I had to wait a few minutes in between each set of veggies as there wasn’t enough room in the pot
3. Bring to a low simmer and cook for at least an hour. I simmered mine for a couple of hours and the flavour was wonderful.
4. Ladle into serving bowls and top with a dollop of sour cream.
Here is how I chopped my beetroot and turnip
дранікі (Draniki), Belarus and My Family, 2013 A Global Garnish, accessed 17 August 2013, <http://aglobalgarnish.com/2012/03/07/%D0%B4%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%BD%D1%96%D0%BA%D1%96-draniki-belarus-and-my-family/>.