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:
Having travelled to Tyrol, Vienna and Russia recently where I saw Goulash (Gulyás in Hungary) frequently on menus, once home I dipped into my recipe books of Hungary and found George Lang’s Cuisine of Hungary to be the most informative and detailed.
I have been making Gulasch (in Triestian, dialect of Trieste) for a long time. As a child I lived in Trieste and not very far back in time Trieste was part of the Hungary – Austrian Empire and Gulasch is now part of the cooking of Trieste.
I have a fair few recipes of the cuisine of Trieste and all are made with meat, onions and paprika. Mostly the onions and meat are browned with lard and olive oil, bacon is not used, none have peppers or potatoes or any other vegetables or are thickened with flour. Some recipes suggest using caraway seeds, some a little tomato paste. None suggest adding red wine.
The main differences in my version of Gulasch as made in Trieste are:
I use wine or alcohol often in my cooking and have always added red wine to Goulash. Perhaps my mother did this and I have never questioned it. I always use herbs in my cooking so I add bay leaves, as these seem to be the most appropriate. I also use a mixture of hot and sweet paprika.
I do not add potatoes to the braise and prefer to present then separately, either Patate in teccia or creamy mashed potatoes with lashings of milk and butter. However, I am more likely to present it with Polenta, a favourite accompaniment in the cooking of Trieste. Below Goulash as presented in a restaurant in Tyrol. It was accompanied with braised red cabbage.
George Lang says that that a true gulyás should contain no spice other than paprika and caraway. Lard and bacon (either one or both) and chopped onion are absolute musts.
Never use and flour, Never Frenchify it with wine, Never Germanize it with brown sauce. Never put in any other garniture besides diced potatoes or galuska (dumplings).
But many variations are possible – you may use fresh tomatoes or tomato puree, garlic, sliced green peppers, hot cherry peppers to make it spicy and so on.
This recipe Kettle Gulyás comes from “The Cuisine of Hungary” by George Lang (Penguin Books, 1971).
2 tablespoons lard (or substitute canola or other vegetable oil)
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
2 1/2 pounds beef chuck or round, cut to 3/4-inch cubes
1/2 pound beef heart (optional), cut to 3/4-inch cubes
1 garlic clove
Pinch caraway seeds
2 tablespoons paprika
1 medium-sized ripe tomato
2 green frying or Italian peppers
1 pound potatoes
Peel onions and chop into coarse pieces. Melt lard in a heavy 6 to 8-quart Dutch oven. Add the beef cubes to the oil and brown. Work in batches if necessary, removing cubes as they are browned. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Add onions to the pot. Heat should be low in order not to brown the onions. When onions become glossy, add back the seared beef. Stir.
Meanwhile, chop and crush the garlic with the caraway seeds and a little salt; use the flat side of a heavy knife.
Take kettle from heat. Stir in paprika and the garlic mixture. Stir rapidly with a wooden spoon. Immediately after paprika is absorbed, add 2 1/2 quarts warm water. (Cool water toughens meat if you add it with the meat is frying.)
Replace covered kettle over low heat and cook for about 1 hour.
While the braising is going on, peel the tomato, then cut into 1-inch pieces. Core green peppers and slice into rings. Peel potatoes and cut into 3/4-inch dice.
After the meat has been braised for about 1 hour (the time depends on the cut of the meat), add the tomato and green peppers and enough water to give a soup consistency. Add a little salt. Simmer slowly for another 30 minutes.
Add potatoes and cook the gulyás till done. Adjust salt. Add hot cherry pepper pods if you want to make the stew spicy hot.
For my recipe of Gulasch, as cooked in Trieste see:
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?
Iota (also Jota) is always a delight to eat and to talk about with friends, many of them surprised to discover that it is a regional and traditional Italian dish from Trieste, a town in the region of Fruili Venezia Giulia and north of Venice.
The fat content in Iota can be high, but there are ways to make Iota less fatty.
Borlotti beans, soaked overnight and then cooked.
Pork Hock, placed in cold water and simmered until soft and used to make broth. Add potatoes about 30 minutes before the end of cooking. Remove the lean meat and use this for the. Skim the fat off the pork hock broth.
Use the broth to cook the sauerkraut . When the sauerkraut is cooked add half the borlotti beans and potatoes and with a potato masher mash the contents.
Add more whole beans the rest of the potatoes (cubed) the pork hock meat and the Wedding Sausage (I like this because it is lean meat).
And there you have it – a lean Iota.
There are other posts for making Iota and these include quantities of ingredients:
As a child, I lived in Trieste with my parents, and Ragusa, Catania and Augusta were the towns in Sicily where my Sicilian relatives lived. Both Trieste (located at the head of the Gulf of Trieste in the region Friuli-Venezia Giulia) and Sicily are at the extreme ends of Italy, and as you would expect, the cuisines are very different.
I grew up with both cuisines and appreciate them both for very different reasons.
Capuzi garbi (or crauti/krauti) is sauerkraut in Triestino (the Triestine dialect) and it is a very popular ingredient in Triestine cuisine especially when mixed in Gulash (made with pork or beef), or with a lump of smoked pork, or luganighe (Triestine) – salsicce di maiale in Italian, and pork sausages for us mere mortals in the English speaking world.
When you look at a map of Italy, it is easy to see why this part of Italy has common roots with the cooking of Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and Istria.
I have German and Polish friends and they too are fond of sauerkraut, and like my relatives and friends from Trieste, they tend to overcook it; my mother also did this when she cooked capuzi garbi.
But as we know, cuisine evolves and some of us have taken on new methods of cooking traditional foods.
In my kitchen, I cook sauerkraut for about a quarter of the time as the traditional method and at times, I also like to add a little fresh cabbage to lighten the taste and to add a different texture. A little flour browned in a little oil is added to the sauerkraut towards the end of cooking, but not me, and unlike my Triestine contemporaries I also add caraway seeds, bay leaves and a dash of white wine.
The ingredients are: pork sausages, sauerkraut, bay leaves and caraway seeds. Onion, extra virgin olive oil and pepper (the sauerkraut could be sufficiently salty). Fresh cabbage and a dash of white wine are optional.
Drain the sauerkraut and squeeze out the moisture. Soften some onion in a little oil (in Trieste lard is also common and added to the oil).
Adding a little white or savoy cabbage is optional.
And with the cabbage also add the sauerkraut and the rest. A dash of white wine will keep it moist while it cooks.
Cover and cook for about 15- 20 minutes on low heat until the sausages are nearly cooked and the flavours have had a chance to meld.
Remove the sauerkraut and slightly brown the sausages – only for appearance.
Sousing fish was a way of preserving it before refrigeration by saturating the fish with acid – vinegar in this case which, like salt, prevents the growth of microbes. Sugar is also added and to create an agro dolce dish (sweet and sour). The fish is first fried in olive oil and then marinaded in the vinegar base. Slowly sautéed onions are a common ingredient in soused fish and different flavourings are added to the pickling mix. My Sicilian grandmother would put mint, bay leaves and slivers of garlic in her vinegar marinade (pisci ammarinatu in Sicilian), but the pesse in saor made in Venice and in Trieste where I lived as a child, has raisins and pine nuts in it. Pesse is Triestiane for pesce – fish in Italian.
Soused fish is found all over Italy, for example pesce alla scapace is cooked in central and southern Italy and the Molise version is flavoured with saffron, minced garlic and sage. Pesce in carpione from Lombardy has celery and carrot for flavourings, the Ligurian scabeccio has garlic, whole pepper and rosemary, and the Sardinian marinade has chilli, garlic, and tomato sauce.
Soused fish is also common in other cultures – Nordic countries thrive on soused fish and different versions of escabeche are found in Spanish, Portuguese, French and in North African cuisines. I have a German friend who also cooks soused fish – he adds coriander seeds to his.
My maternal grandmother always had soused fish (in pottery terrines and covered with plates as lids) in her kitchen in Sicily.
When she visited us in Trieste she did the same and our kitchen then also smelt of fish and vinegar. She particularly liked to souse eel – eel was good in Trieste. We would walk to the Pescheria together, she would choose the eel she wanted from a big tank and the fishmonger would kill it and chop it into pieces.
I did not much like this part, but I liked going to the Pescheria on the waterfront in the bay of Trieste. The imposing building is now home to Eataly.
Triestine pesse is mostly made with sardines and is often eaten with white polenta (yellow polenta is usually an accompaniment to meat).
Traditionally, the fish is lightly dusted with flour and salt before it is fried in very hot, extra virgin, olive oil. Although the flour helps to hold the fish together, the oil used to fry the fish will need to be discarded (the sediment will taint the taste of the oil) and the flour coating will often come away from the fish in the marinade.
On my way to Adelaide from Melbourne I drove through Meningie (at the northern end of the Coorong on the shores of Lake Albert) and I bought freshly-caught Coorong mullet. On this occasion I used them instead of sardines to make pesse in saor.
2-3 fish per person /12-16 fresh sardines or small fish (sand whiting, mullet, garfish, flathead, leather jackets), cleaned and filleted with heads and backbone removed.
plain flour and salt for dusting
olive oil for frying
2-3 large white onions, sliced finely
1 cup of raisins
1 cup of pine nuts, toasted
sufficient white wine to soak the raisins
250 ml of white wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
Dust the fish fillets in a little flour and salt, shake off as much flour as possible and fry them in plenty of oil until golden and crisp. Place them on kitchen paper to remove excess oil and set aside.
Soak the raisins in the white wine for about 30minutes.
Sauté the onions gently in some olive oil until they are soft. Add the vinegar and pepper and cook the mixture for a few minutes. Set aside.
Select a terrine deep enough to hold the fish, ingredients and vinegar marinade – a narrow, deep terrine is best. Place a layer of fish, add some onions (dig them out of the vinegar mixture), raisins (drained) and pine nuts. Continue layering the ingredients, finishing with a layer of onions, raisins and pine nuts on top. Pour the vinegar over the layers. Cover it, place it in the fridge and allow to marinate at least 24 hours before serving. Serve at room temperature.
The simplest of ingredients can give so much pleasure.
I have always liked Italian fresh cheeses and while in Venice and Trieste I ate as much fresh mozzarella, burrata and stracciatella as I could. The tomatoes have been excellent also.
Fresh mozzarella whether made from cow or buffalo milk (di bufala) is fairly easy to find in other countries apart from Italy, burrata is more difficult to
find but it is very speedily finding fame and fortune in other countries and replacing the very popular Caprese salad that had dominated menus for places where tourists gather.
Stracciatella is a soft cream almost runny cheese, a combination of shredded fresh mozzarella curd and cream. Straccia (“rag” or “shred) from the verb stracciare“- to tear.
Burrata, like mozzarella can be made from cow or buffalo milk. The outer layer is made of fresh mozzarella – a pulled or stretched cheese – but the centre is filled with oozing, creamy and delicate tasting stracciatella. Cut it open, and wow… you get that double whammy!
Because I love the Italian language I want to tell you that burrata (buttered) is derived from burro – butter. Burrata hails from southern Italy, from the Puglia region where orecchiette come from. Rather than being filled with stracciatella it can also be filled with heavy cream – this of course is what becomes butter.
In the photos there are two types of burrate (plural of burrata), the rounded shape or sealed sphere, and the one tied together with vegetal string. Both burrate delicious and both enveloping a creamy filling.
Burrata is eaten as fresh as possible – ideally within 24 hours of being made and is usually sold in its water like whey.
So when you find heirloom tomatoes and very tasty ordinary or cherry tomatoes and burrata you get a triple+++ whammy…. mild acidity of tomatoes, basil super-duper good quality extra virgin olive oil and you have pretty much ecstasy.
I actually made this tomato and salad in Paris… from Italian ingredients (apart from tomatoes and basil and a little red onion from the countries around the Mediterranean.
or Radicchio Triestino, a small-soft-leaf radicchio.
My father grew Radicchio Triestino in his Adelaide garden but I have never seen it for sale in Australia.
These are some of the salad vegetables I am able to purchase at the Queen Victoria Market. Notice the pale coloured beetroot (I also cook the leaves like spinach). The beetroot I ate in Trieste was always pale in colour.
Next to the red radicchio is the head of speckled, pale radicchio (radicchio biondo= blonde/blond).
Fennel and the baby cabbage are also suitable salad vegetables, as is rocket – rucola in Triestine.
Helping my mother to make Insalata Russa was my job throughout my childhood and teenage years. It was a legacy from Trieste and a reliable antipasto served on special occasions. She kept making it well into the 80s and then it would re-appear intermittently throughout the years. She would present it before we would sit at a table for a meal, as a nibble… she would pass around a spoonful of Insalata Russa on a slice of bread from a French stick.
Those of you who are of a certain age may remember Rosso Antico (a red aperitif) or a Cinzano (vermouth) or a martini. Sometimes it would be a straight gin with a twist of lemon. Today you may prefer a different aperitif like Aperol or a glass of Prosecco or a Campari – you get the idea!
It keeps well in the fridge and is an easy accompaniment for drinks – I am thinking of those unexpected guests who may pop in …. a drink, a small plate of Insalata Russa and some good bread. If my mother was still alive she would probably be making it on Christmas eve or Christmas day.
Insalata Russa is made with cooked vegetables: peas, green beans, carrots and potatoes cut into small cubes and smothered with homemade egg mayonnaise. She always decorated the top with slices of hard-boiled eggs and slices of stuffed green olives. Sometimes she also placed on top small cooked prawns or canned tuna.
***** Modern Times…..Try it sprinkled with Yarra Valley caviar (fish roe) instead.
Ensaladilla rusa is the Spanish version of this salad and it is a very common tapas dish; It was certainly still popular as a Tapas in Madrid and Barcelona when I was there last year.
The Spaniards make it the same way, but the canned tuna is often mixed in the salad rather than being placed on top. Some versions have olives, roasted red peppers or asparagus spears arranged on top in an attractive design or just plain with boiled eggs around the edge of the bowl.
Making it with my mother, we never weighed our ingredients, but the following combination and ratios should please anyone’s palate.
This recipe (and the photos of the pages in the book) are from my second book – Small Fishy Bites.
2-3 medium sized potatoes, waxy are best
1 cup of shelled peas
3 hard-boiled eggs
3/4 -1 cup of green beans cut into 1cm pieces
1/2 cup of Italian giardinieria (mixed garden pickles in vinegar) or cetriolini (small pickled gherkins)
1 and 1/2 cups of homemade egg mayonnaise
Cook potatoes and carrots in their skins in separate pans; cool, peel and cut them into small cubes.Cook the peas and beans separately; drain and cool. Hard boil the eggs; peel them and cube 2 of them.Cut the giardiniera into small pieces (carrots, turnips, cauliflower, gherkins).Mix all of these ingredients together with a cup of home made egg mayonnaise.Level out the Russian salad either on a flat plate or in a bowl and leave in the fridge for at least an hour before decorating it by covering it with the remaining mayonnaise.Have a good old time placing on the top slices of hard-boiled eggs, drained tuna or small cooked prawns and caviar. Bits of giardiniera will also add colour.
My mum made maionese with a wooden spoon. I use a food processor or an electric wand to make mayonnaise:
Mix 1 egg with a little salt in the blender food processor, or in a clean jar (if using the wand).
Slowly add 1–1 ½ cups of extra virgin olive oil in a thin, steady stream through the feed tube while the blender or processor is running, Before adding additional oil, ensure that the oil, which has previously been added has been incorporated completely.
Add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice when the mayonnaise is creamy. If you are not making the traditional Italian version, it is common to add vinegar instead of lemon juice and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard.
As an alternative, the Spaniards like to add a little saffron (pre-softened in a little warm water). Add this once the mayonnaise is made.