I was in Russia recently and I came back to Australia with a yearning to make Russian Salad.
I ordered it in a restaurant in Saint Petersburg and in one in Moscow and in both cities it contained beetroot.
My mother’s Russian salad was simple and contains potatoes, carrots, french beans, peas, giardiniera or citriolini (pickled vegetables and cornichons), hard boiled eggs and egg mayonnaise.
When my mother was still alive and still capable of cooking Russian Salad was something that she made often as an antipasto . This and Zuppa Inglese (dessert) were two dishes that were particularly popular in restaurants when we left Trieste before we came to Australia. Both continued to be presented frequently in Adelaide where we lived on special occasions or for birthdays and when we invited guests for Sunday lunch – the preferred time to have a long lunch followed by a game of cards while the house shivered to the sound of opera.
Interestingly, not all my recipe sources include beetroot as an ingredient for Russian salad as made in many parts of the world including Russia. The majority of the Russian recipes prefer French dressing seems to be preferred rather than mayonnaise and some recipes contain turnip; this makes sense as root vegetables are common in Russia.
Variations of one particular recipe as served by the Russian nobility (probably those who spent time in France) contains a melange of flavours, either or a combination of ox tongue, lobster, ham. Truffles or cooked mushrooms also feature. Some of the French like chicken meat. Capers and anchovies in some.
The Belle Époque is over: I think that keep it simple is my motto, and egg mayonnaise is the wow factor.
For recipes and more information of INSALATA RUSSA, MAIONAISE (mayonnaise in Italian) and other recipes with egg mayonnaise:
Sometimes, some recipes are just so simple that I do not bother writing about them, but then I buy a new cookbook and notice that simple recipes are what we like and want…and besides, not everybody grew up in an Italian household and they may not be familiar with this style of cooking.
One simple way of cooking some vegetables, for example eggplants, zucchini or mushrooms is afunghettoinbianco ortrifolate.
A funghetto, translates asmushroom, i.e.in the style or method of how you would cook mushrooms – simply sautéed in extra virgin olive oil with garlic and parsley.
Inbianco translates as inwhite, i.e. without tomatoes. Photo above is of king mushrooms cooked afunghetto.
This style of cooking is a common way to cook either of these three vegetables throughout Italy, but it is typical of the Veneto. I grew up in Trieste, so I identify with this style of cooking very much.
Once again,I will write this recipe as an Italian – no measurements. The recipe is so simple, and the photos tell the story so who needs measurements!
eggplants/aubergines, cut into cubes
extra virgin olive oil,
cloves of garlic, chopped (to taste)
pepper and salt
extra virgin olive oil
Use gentle to medium heat throughout the cooking – the ingredients are not fried, they are sautéed till softened.
Heat a splash of oil in a frypan (I like to use a frypan with a heavy base).Add the garlic and stir it around for a very short time so that it begins to soften.
Add the eggplants and stir often until they have softened and have coloured. Add pepper and salt.
Add the chopped parsley and keep on stirring through for about 30 seconds…and I hate to say it…until it has softened.
Eat hot or cold – fabulous as a starter, side dish….as a dressing for pasta?
No exact quantities, just like an Italian. You can tell from the photos how easy it is to make Caponata Palermitana. Unlike Caponata Catanese there are no peppers (capsicums) in this caponata but the rest of the ingredients and processes for making any caponata are the same.
I used 2 egglants. Cooked each separately as I did not want the frying to be overcrowded. I use salt when I am cooking and not after the dish is cooked. I always use extra virgin olive oil.
A good heavy saucepan is good to use.
After the eggplants, sauté the onions and the celery. I used 1 large onion, 2 sticks of celery and some of the tender leavesof the celery. Add some salt.
When the onions and celery have softened to your liking, add green olives and capers.
I made a space in the centre of the saucepan, added a couple of teaspoons of sugar. Melted that and added about a quarter of a cup of red vinegar and evaporated it.
I made another space in the centre and added about 1/3 cup of passata.
Cooked it – you can see that there is very little liquid left.
Time to add the eggplants and combine all the ingredients.
This time I will decorate the caponata with fried breadcrumbs (day old bread mollica) toasted in a frypan with a little olive oil.
I could decorate the caponata with toasted pine nuts or almonds but I think the bread will add crunch but not too much taste so as not to compete with the eggplants. At this time of year, egglants are of excellent quality.
Mint rather than basil appealed to me more on this occasion.
There are numerous recipes for caponate (I can spell, it is the plural of caponata). Use the search button.
I am writing this post for a friend to demonstrate that making caponata is not difficult and I have therefore included many photos.
In my first book, Sicilian Seafood Cooking I have written a whole chapter about making various caponate (plural). This one is Catanese, as made in Catania, and the main ingredients are eggplants and peppers, but there are other caponate where the main ingredients are either eggplants or pumpkin or potato or celery (called Christmas caponata). I have also made a fennel caponata.
All caponate need to be made at least one day before to let the flavours develop. Caponate are eaten at room temperature.
Caponata Catanese is made with eggplants, peppers, celery, onions, chopped green olives and capers. A little sugar, vinegar and a splash of passata are used to make the agro- dolce sauce. Toasted pine nuts (or almonds) and fresh basil make good decoration and add extra taste. Caponata Palermitana, from Palermo, does not include peppers. I used roughly 1 kilo of eggplants and 1 kilo of peppers, 3 sticks of celery (pale green from near the centre), 1 onion. I used about 125g of capers and about the same amounts of chopped green olives. A true Sicilian making caponata would never weigh ingredients and may at times use more eggplants than peppers; these are rough amounts as a guide to illustrate ratios of ingredients. Always use extra virgin olive oil and as much as needed to prevent the ingredients sticking; access oil can always be drained off but bread makes a fine accompaniment to all caponate and the oil is particularly flavourful.
Each vegetable is fried separately but I usually combine the celery and the onion at the same time. the vegetables have different rates of cooking and you want to preserve the individual flavours as much as possible.
A frypan with a heavy base is good to use. I am making large quantities this time to take to a gathering so I am using my heavy wok (Le Creuset).
Fry the eggplants in some extra olive oil and add a little salt. Drain the eggplant in a colander with a container underneath to collect any oil. In the same pan add some new oil and the oil that you have drained from the eggplants. Fy the peppers and add a little salt. Drain them as you did the eggplants, collect the oil and add this to some new oil in the same pan.
Fry the celery and the onion.
When they have softened but the celery still has some crunch add the green olives and capers. Salt may not be necessary for this component of the dish.
Make a small depression in the centre of the vegetables and add about a flat tablespoon of sugar – this varies, some add more, some add less. Melt the sugar (caramelise it) and then add about 3 tablespoons of wine vinegar. Evaporate on high heat.
Add a splash of passata. Mix through the ingredients in the pan and cook it for a few minutes.
Incorporate all of the ingredients .
The caponata is now cooked. It needs to be placed in the fridge in a sealed container till you are ready to eat it and it will not suffer if it is made 3-4 days beforehand.
Decorate it with toasted pine nuts and fresh basil leaves when you are ready to present it.
There are other recipes on my blog for caponate made with different vegetables.
A zucca in Italian can be an overgrown zucchino (singular) or a marrow, therefore to differentiate a pumpkin from a marrow a pumpkin is called a zucca gialla (yellow).
Not all Sicilian caponate are made with eggplants. For example there are celery, fennel, potato caponate and pumpkin can also be used as the main ingredient (Caponata di zucca gialla).
The principle for making any caponata is the same: onion, celery, X ingredient (eggplant or eggplant and peppers, fennel, potato etc.), capers, green olives, sometimes a splash of tomato puree, toasted pine nuts, or almonds and agrodolce – caramelised sugar and vinegar.
The ingredients a fried separately. Pumpkin first – sauté and then set aside.
Sauté onion and celery. Add olives and capers.
Add sugar, thenvinegar and salt to taste. Add the fried pumpkin and toasted almonds (or pine nuts).Let rest overnight or for at least half a day.
The other popular Sicilian way to cook pumpkin is also in an agrodolce sauce.
For this recipe, slices of pumpkin are also fried. I bake mine and it is not the traditional way of cooking it. The recipe book you can see in the background of the photo below is Sicilian Seafood Cooking – now out of print.
The recipe is called Fegato con sette cannoli. To see the recipe and find out why this recipe is called Liver with seven reeds:
My mother would often say that I was ‘fissata’….fixed, almost obsessed….and I guess I am at the moment with making terrines and pâtes. And the many I have made lately are turning out just fine. (I have made three terrines and two pâtes in two weeks – all taken to friends’ places)
I think that one of the many things I like about making the above is that weights and measurements are not important. You can have a rough idea about the meats you want to buy, the herbs you would like to use, the alcohol you wish to use as a flavouring, texture you wish to achieve (layered strips of meat, shredded, minced, mousse) and off you go.
For the terrine above I used minced chicken, minced pork and twice the amount of yearling beef (low fat – I hate beef fat!) – all free range and preservative free. At times, I have used my food processor to mince different meats. Quantities were roughly 450g of pork, 450g of chicken and about 800g of yearling.
The herbs are fresh thyme and sage.
The alcohol was white wine and brandy. The only type of brandy I had at home was Vecchia Romagna, too good to cook with, but never mind.
I used nutmeg and salt and ground black pepper. I added pistachio nuts and more thyme.
I mixed it all up and left it overnight, but is OK to macerate just for a few hours.
Bacon is an important ingredient in terrines – moisture and fat. I trimmed the bacon and lined the terrine with the strips. My bacon rashes were not long enough to hang over the side, but this did not matter as I used other bacon strips to cover the terrine
I added the minced meats on top.
And placed more bacon to cover it. I used baking paper and a lid from my other terrine mold and placed it in a baine -marie, i.e. a hot water bath – mine was made with a roasting pan large enough to hold the terrine and deep enough for the water to come at least half way up. The purpose of cooking food via a bain-marie is that it creates a gentle heat around the food and results in a uniform cooking process.
I cooked it on 195C for two hours.
When you take off the lid and paper you will notice that the terrine has shrunk and there will be liquid around the meat. All good news – the liquid will turn into very flavourful jelly and the meat will need to be pressed. This is easily done by putting a wight on top.
I used a new piece of paper and an another terrine pan filled with water to press it. At other times I have used bricks and stones – be adventurous (another reason why I like making them).
Leave it overnight in the fridge for the flavours to mature (longer if you wish). When you are about to serve it, run a knife around the edges, turn it upside down and WOW.This one was taken to a holiday house at Balnarring Beach, Terrines are just so portable!
OK, it may not be Sicilian butI think that Sicilians would like it. if you wish to make a Sicilian Terrine see Gelatina:
Those of you who have been around as long as I have and were making terrines in the 80’s may be familiar with using finely minced chicken (mousseline) as a binder for layering vegetables.
My bible at the time for making terrines was Terrine, Pâtés & Galantines. It is one of many books in this Time Life Books, The Good Cook.
I had not used this book in years as terrines and pâtés have dropped out of vogue in Australia but I was in France the year before last and particularly in Paris terrines were very much still eaten and I have wanted to make a terrine or pâté ever since. Today was my chance and I am taking this one to a friend’s place to eat on her balcony while we celebrate Christmas eve – terrines are very portable, great for picnics too.
When I looked at this book I also found a number of magazine cut outs with recipes inserted between the pages and on one of them was this very same recipe (published 1981), but it was accredited as being a recipe from Fanny’s restaurant in Melbourne (opened in 1960 and closed in 1993). There was no mention or credit given to the origins of this recipe. The original recipe is called Chicken and Vegetables Terrine and is as cooked in the three star restaurant Les Frères Troisgros, in Roanne, France.
I used chicken fillets for making the mousseline. Cut them into chunks. Place in a food processor and blend until broken down and smooth. Egg and flavourings are added to the pureed chicken; it is the main component of the terrine and used as a binder for the vegetables.
The original Les Frères Troisgros recipe is in six layers. The vegetables are parboiled for a few minutes and cooled. The chicken puree is divided into 3 bowls – in one bowl the carrots are added (cut into batons); in the other the green beans and the third is plain. The vegetable mixtures are then placed in layers – plain, carrot, beans, a thin layer of black olives in a row in the centre, plain, carrot, beans.
Now that I am looking at the original recipe I am wondering why I am giving you all this information – mine is quite different, but let us give credit where credit is due and it did provide inspiration and brought back fond memories of making terrines.
I used my Le Creuset, Enamelled Cast Iron Pâté Terrine w/ Lid that I bought in the 80’s, and is still being produced by Le Creuset. If you do not have one of these pans, use a loaf pan (roughly 20cm/x10cm).
What I did.
5-6 chicken fillets cut into chunks
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
5 spring onions sautéed in a little oil (original recipe used shallots)
1 tablespoon white wine or champagne vinegar * I used sherry vinegar (softer tasting)
a handful of green beans, parboiled for 1-2 minutes and cooled, (*I dressed them with a little vinaigrette)
a handful pitted black olives (*mine were marinaded In fennel seeds, oregano and extra virgin olive oil)
*a handful of pistachio nuts
*juice and grated peel of ½ lemon
* ground pepper (I used pink peppercorns)
*fresh sage leaves to line the bottom of the pan
* ½ cup almond or hazelnut butter = grind nuts into meal with oil to make a paste (I used this for taste but also because my friend is allergic to diary)
Sauté chopped spring onions in a little oil and cool.
Mince chicken fillets in a food processor. Add ¼ cup of the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Add cooked spring onions, egg, lemon juice and peel, marjoram, almond or hazelnut butter and puree until very smooth.
Oven to 180C
Lightly grease the pan you will use. Place fresh sage leaves on bottom for visual impact and taste. Sage and marjoram are doing well in my planter box and marjoram goes well with chicken, however other herbs, e.g. thyme, rosemary, tarragon will also be suitable.
Divide puree into 3 lots.
Place first lot on top of the sage leaves and spread it with a spatula to cover entire bottom surface. Place green beans keeping the beans in straight lines going in the same direction. Then cover with a layer of chicken mixture.
Place olives on top, add pistachio nuts. Then cover with a layer of chicken mixture.
Place pan in a larger pan filled with enough boiling water to reach about ½ to ¾ of the way up the sides of the pan. Set in oven and bake for 35 mins.
Remove the pan from the oven and let the terrine rest for about an hour in the pan. or until it is cooler. Run a sharp knife between the terrine and the pan to loosen it and carefully turn it upside down on a plate to catch any juices. Wrap in with baking paper, place a weight on top ( I used the lid of the Le Creuset pan) and let it cool in fridge for at least 3 hours or overnight to set.
The original recipe presents the terrine with a tomato vinaigrette. I made some egg mayonnaise – easier to transport.
I like making tomato salads like my parents used to make – with tomatoes, celery, fresh onion, basil or oregano, salt and good extra virgin olive oil.
And as the mood takes me, I sometimes like to accompany a tomato salad with one of the following simple dairy trimmings, like: bocconcini or mozzarella,treccia,ricotta, straciatella , burrata or marinaded feta or a panna cotta made with feta or gorgonzola.
Including the protein makes an excellent starter …..or as my parents did – eat a tomato salad with ricotta or bocconcini for lunch almost every day of summer.
I was in Gippsland yesterday and visited Bassine; they make a range of cheeses on the premises.
I have been there before and have purchased various cheeses, but yesterday I came home with some quark and thought that would experiment and make a savoury coeur à la crème.
Coeur à la crème is usually served with berries but I thought that I could accompany my savoury coeur à la crème with a tomato salad. Alternatively roasted (or charred) peppers or slow roasted baby tomatoes would also be great… or fried red peppers (peperonata) or lightly sautéed zucchini and mint could be terrific…I could go on.
You need muslin and a mold or container that allows drainage. I used a traditional ceramic, heart shape dish for making a coeur à la crème, but any container that is perforated with holes to drain off the excess moisture of the cheese or a colander can be used as an alternative.
I used the following ingredients:
250 gm each quark, 1 cup of Greek yogurt, 100g of marinaded feta, fresh thyme leaves ground pink peppercorns, 1 peeled clove of garlic, ½ cup pf milk, ½ cup good quality olive oil.
In a small sauce pan warm the milk over low heat. Remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes and then strain out.
Combine cheeses and yogurt – you want the mixture fairly smooth so use a food processor or work it with a spoon.
Add the thyme, ground pink peppercorns and infused milk.
Line the mould with muslin (enough to cover the mold) and sprinkle with olive oil.
Put cheese mixture into the mold, sprinkle with more olive oil and cover it with the left over muslin.
Place the mold into a container or tray to catch the whey (liquid that drains away). Stand overnight in the fridge.
Carefully turn the mold out onto a serving plate.
Serve with a tomato salad or anything thing else that catches your fancy.
Next time I make a ‘Coeur,’ I may try ricotta and herbs – no feta, no yogurt.
I love globe artichokes and I usually stuff, braise them and eat them hot or cold. If peas or broad beans are in season, they too are added to the braise. A mixture of fresh breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic and grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese is probably my most frequent stuffing, but at other times I have used minced meat, or added black olives and anchovies, or for a delicate stuffing I have used ricotta and almond meal. Each globe artichoke is likely to hold about ½ cup of stuffing and some of the larger artichokes hold more.
Once stuffed, the globe artichokes are placed upright and packed tightly into a pan and braised in white wine and/or stock. Extra virgin olive oil is an essential ingredient and it is used liberally.
Small artichokes are ideal to cook alla romana – as the Romans do.
The artichokes (carciofi) that are available and that are still in season in Melbourne are these little, purple, spiny ones. The globe artichokes that were in season prior to these have nearly finished, but there are still some of the baby ones around – those that will never develop into full size (like tomatoes at the end of the season that never ripen). These baby artichokes (carciofini) are usually preserved under oil.
For carciofi alla romana, use the smallest artichokes you can find, but the small, purple, spiny ones would be my preference. In this recipe, the artichokes are also stuffed, but lightly …about a teaspoon of stuffing for each.
For the stuffing for the number of artichokes I had (9) I used 1 large clove of garlic, ½ cup fresh parsley finely chopped, ½ cup fresh mint finely chopped, salt and pepper and all mixed with a little extra, virgin olive oil.
Carciofi alla romana are also braised, but they are placed upside down and I use greater amounts of oil in the braising liquid – a mixture of water and a little white wine, but the aim is to have very little, concentrated and flavourful liquid at the end of cooking, and this will be mostly oil.
Clean and prepare the artichokes as you would the globe artichokes. Use acidulated water (1 lemon). Peel off the tough outer leaves until you get to the softer paler leaves. The stems of my artichokes were not worth peeling, but it they are peel the outer layer of the stem and as is usually the way with this recipe, keep the stems attached to the base if you can. Cut approximately 1/3 of the top of the artichoke to remove the spiny leaves. Using your fingers ease the leaves apart in the centre of each artichoke to form a space for the stuffing.
Mix the garlic, parsley, seasoning and mint together with 1 tablespoon of oil. Stuff the artichokes with this mixture.
Place about 1 cm of olive oil in the bottom of a narrow pot and arrange the artichokes close together and side by side…. but upside down. Add a little white wine and enough water to reach about 1/3 from the top of the height of the artichoke. Add salt and pepper, cover and simmer over low heat until the artichokes are soft and can be easily pierced with a fork.
Check them occasionally and if they are too dry add a little water if necessary in small amounts.
When the artichokes are cooked, remove the lid, turn up the heat and evaporate the liquid until you have mainly oil. Remove the artichokes from the pot, drizzle the liquid over them and serve them at room temperature.
There are a number of recipes on my blog about artichokes and accompanying photos. Artichokes are not difficult to prepare and cook, and they are delicious. To find other recipes, use the search button on my blog and key in Artichokes.
I hesitate to write recipes that are just so simple, but recently I was reminded how a simple herb butter can enhance simply grilled or steamed fish, meat or vegetables, bread etc. Grilled vegetables seem to be the pick of the month – enhance them with a flavoured butter.
While in South Australia I ate and drank very well in a number of restaurants, most had unusual combinations of excellent South Australian produce, others like Skillogalee Winery Restaurant in the Clare Valley had simple fare, more conventional and perfectly geared to the wide range of people who visit wineries and can enjoy a relaxing afternoon.
Our group of four sat in the garden and one of the dishes we chose to share was Port Lincoln whole sardines served with lime and parsley butter with bread. We ordered 2 serves of these sardines.
So modest, but so delicious. Sometimes we forget how something so quickly and simply made can really enhance a dish.
Some of you may remember the craze for the Beurre Maître d’Hôtel, also referred to as Maître d’Hôtel butter or Compound butter – It is simply butter combined with herbs, pepper and lemon juice and typically formed into a cylinder and sliced. A circular disc of Maître d’Hôtel butter was centrally plonked on top of a grilled steak – a technique used by many high-end steak houses in the eighties and early nineties…. people in Adelaide may remember The Arkaba Steak Cellar.
With a little imagination, different herbs instead of parsley will impart different flavours and grated lemon or lime peel will boost the citrus taste.
To make lime and parsley butter sufficient for 4-6 sardines and bread begin with 1 cup unsalted good quality butter at room temperature, 1-2 teaspoons of lime zest, 2 teaspoons of fresh lime juice, 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley chopped very finely and a little salt and pepper to taste.
Use a fork to beat the butter in a bowl until smooth and creamy. Mix zest, juice and gradually add parsley salt, and black pepper into the butter until thoroughly combined.
Taste it and if it is necessary to alter it add more of any of the ingredients to make it to your taste. Rest in the fridge to return consistency and enhance the flavour.
If you wish to store it and give it that 1980’s shape, wrap it in foil or in baking paper keep it in the fridge until ready to use.
All grilled fish and not just sardines can be used, as all meat and vegetables.
Instead of parsley, add different herbs – rosemary, thyme, sage, dill, basil, fennel fronds, tarragon, chives, oregano, marjoram, coriander are simple examples.
Garlic, ginger, horseradish, paprika, pink pepper, spices….need I go on?
Only to say that I rather like finely chopped anchovy fillets combined in butter – begin with 1 tablespoon of chopped anchovies to 1 cup pf butter and add more if it is not to your taste.
For miso butter – begin with 1 tablespoon of white miso and proceed as above. Red or brown miso can also be used.
Recently I also tried mixing some chopped lavender leaves into butter to present with scones. Not too much lavender or it could taste medicinal.