Sunday, December 20, 2009

Meatball Soup

Soup with meatballs, rice, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and coriander

In Russia, soup is a staple dinner dish. It is always something you have before the main course. My 80 year old grandparents still have it every day.

I'm not a fan of soup. This is probably because I've had it every day of my childhood and never questioned it until we left Russia and I discovered that in other countries, people didn't have soup every day. Not being a fan of vegetables, I quickly decided I didn't want to eat it anymore. Only in the last few years, I have started to enjoy it occasionally.

When I saw this recipe, I thought I wouldn't mind trying it. I should've learnt from my other cooking experiences out of this book and halved the ingredients. After I finished rolling the meatballs, I realised there was no way they were all going to fit into my pot, not to mention adding potatoes and carrots later. I had to separate the soup into two pots.

As you can see from the photo above, there was not much liquid. Some of the meatballs ended up falling apart. I was very frustrated with the whole process because it was taking so much time and not turning out the way I expected. When my husband and I tried it, we were not impressed. Not to say it was bad, just not something I would cook again.

husband: 3/5
wife: 3/5

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Curry Chicken with Chang Hao's Basmati Rice

This recipe took ages to make but was worth it in the end. Finally, a yummy dish that we both enjoyed.

I did find there was a lot of sauce but it tasted delicious mixed with the basmati rice. It tasted just like something out of a (good) Indian takeaway shop. I never heard of green apples being added to curries but it added a nice tarty flavour. Mmm...

Ratings - Curry Chicken
husband: 4/5
wife: 4/5

Ratings - Chang Hao's Basmati Rice
husband: 4/5
wife: 4/5

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies

After my last recipe problems, I have decided to make something fun. The simplicity of the chocolate chip recipe seemed just what I needed to cheer me up and get me back into this project.

Everything was going fine, until five seconds after I tasted the first cookie. The chewiness and crusty edges with the melted chocolate chips tasted divine at first bite. However, after it has been swallowed, I could taste salt in my mouth.

The recipe calls for a teaspoon of salt. I am not sure what the reason for it is but I wish I didn't put any. Maybe my problem was that I used cooking salt and not table salt (which is not as strong). I don't know. All I know is that the salty aftertaste ruined what could've been very delicious cookies.

My husband (who's been quite critical of the previous dishes) loved them. He said he could be biased because of his affinity to all things sweet. However, my sweet tooth felt the salt. He said he could only taste the sweetness.

It wasn't just the salt in my mouth that wrecked them for me but also their very oily texture. I really had more hope for them. I'm starting to realise that Paullina Simons manages to make all Tatiana's dishes sound much more amazing than they really are.

husband: 4/5
wife: 2/5

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Meat dumplings

This dish was a total cooking disaster for me. It put me off making anything else. Tatiana's grandmother was right, it was "too much effort". Especially for a pelmeni novice like me.

First of all, the dough was too hard too roll. My arms were sore from rolling it to 1.5cm (at most). It was definitely a lot thicker in the middle. Then, my grandparents gave me a special thing that put the pelmeni together. Rather than making it easier for me, I ended up wasting a lot of the ingredients because I couldn't use this tool properly and having to fix the edges myself.

Since I rolled the dough too thick, I had a lot of filling left over with which I didn't know what to do. I ended up making a couple of kotlety (Russian meatballs) at my husband's suggestion.

When we finally tried the end result, my husband (having never tried pelmeni before) knew immediately the dough was too thick. It still had the real pelmeni taste so I wasn't too disappointed after all the trouble I had with the recipe.

I later told my grandma about my cooking episode and she said, "Don't you know, we always buy pelmeni. Making them is too much effort".

husband: 2½ / 5
wife: 3/5

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Meat Cutlets with Onions and Esther's Mashed Potatoes

Not the healthiest option to have for dinner but so comforting, especially when it's cold and rainy outside.

I didn't have a shallow frypan so used one with deep edges. The meat cutlets did not need to be fried for 7 minutes on each side. After about 4-5 minutes, they were close to burning. I made them a little smaller than tennis balls (as instructed) and flattened them only slightly which produced a crunchy crust and very soft and juicy insides.

Since the recipe said that Tatiana served them with mashed potatoes, I decided to use the recipe from the middle of the book. It even said that she served Esther's mashed potatoes with her meat cutlets. Perfect combination. I have to confess this was the first time in my life I made mashed potatoes.

I had no idea what a ricer was so when I googled it, I was happy to realise that we had it! My husband always talked how he couldn't find it in Australia so his Mum brought one for us from South America when she was there earlier this year.

I only made half the recipe portion because I didn't have a pot large enough to fit over 2kg (5lb) of potatoes, plus all the other ingredients that had to go in it. I used light cream (18% milk solids) as there is no half-and-half (12.5% milk solids) in Australia. I was worried the mashed potatoes would be too rich but even with the added butter, they were still a little bit dry.

When I tasted the final product, I even had seconds. My husband said he preferred my version of the meat cutlets (I bake them in the oven, rather than fry them and also add potatoes into the mince). For me, this was the best dish so far.

Ratings - Meat Cutlets with Onions
husband: 3½ / 5
wife: 4/5

Ratings - Esther's Mashed Potatoes
husband: 3/5
wife: 4/5

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Beef Stroganoff

Beef fried with button mushrooms and onions, mixed in with sour cream and served on buttered fettuccine

This was a quicker and easier dish to prepare than Lazy Cabbage. It tasted a bit better too. However, with more than four table spoons of butter, it was a bit too rich for me, although that's what my husband liked.

I did not use sirloin beef as was specified but I would suggest to use the best sort to get the meat as soft as possible. I also used light sour cream which probably made the dish a bit lighter but with all the butter, it was still a little heavy for my liking.

husband: 3½ / 5
wife: 3½ /5
(It was better than Lazy Cabbage but not quite "Yum!")

Monday, October 5, 2009

Lazy Cabbage

Cabbage with minced beef, crispy bacon and rice in tomato sauce with garlic in a soup-like consistency, with sour cream on top

I have decided to make the recipes in book order so Lazy Cabbage was first. I asked my Mum about it because I have never heard of the dish before and she explained that it was the same as stuffed peppers but without the peppers, hence being called "lazy".

I halved the ingredients because using a whole cabbage seemed too much and I was right. The mixture wouldn't have fit into my largest pan. I was also disappointed by a publishing mistake which listed garlic in the ingredients but was not mentioned in the directions. I ended up putting it into the tomato sauce but later my Mum informed me that it usually was cooked with the mince.

It took me around two hours to prepare and even though I didn't have high expectations of the result because I'm not a fan of cabbage cooked with tomato sauce, I was pleasantly surprised. The sour cream was listed as optional but for me, that's what gave the dish that extra complementing flavour.

Overall, I don't think I will be making this any time soon due to the length of cooking time not being worth the final product. Having said that, it did bring back memories of my grandma's stuffed peppers and a variety of Russian cabbage soups.

husband: 3/5
wife: 3/5

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Having finished Paullina Simons's Bronze Horseman trilogy and not being able to get my favourite love story out of my thoughts, I have decided to cook the dishes that Tatiana made throughout her life as detailed in Tatiana's Table.

These recipes cover many origins from Russia to America. Being from a Russian background myself, I have a special interest in making them and can't wait to try them out on my South American husband. We will rate them from 1 to 5 as follows:

5 - heavenly
4 - yum!
3 - it's ok
2 - no, thanks
1 - disgusting

I'm looking forward to creating over 60 recipes mentioned in the book so I can have the taste of this delicious fictional world linger just a little longer.