Monday, August 22, 2011

IKRA, i.e. caviar.

Caviar - IKRA!

Caviar is the food of the Tzars....not anymore. It used to be though. Now, anyone can buy it in Kazakhstan. I am sure same goes in Russia. The caviar on the picture below is from the Caspian Sea that washes the western part of Kazakhstan.

I am not sure if Kazakh caviar can be exported. I believe local government put restrictions around selling it outside of the country. I do not know all the details. But, we were lucky enough to have this tasty caviar sandwich in Almaty in the spring of 2011.

Ikra sandwiches are served on New Year's Eve celebration, on the weddings, and on the banquettes. It is a sign of one's well being as it happens that Ikra is quite pricey to say the least. Ikra is served on baguette looking white breads cut in thin pieces and on a thin slice of butter. Sometimes, Ikra will be served on small round pastries baked from phyllo dough. The Russian name IKRA is very reminiscent of IKURA, i.e. a Japanese name for the caviar. The Russian word's might as well been inherited from the culture of the Rising Sun :-)

How about you? Do you like Ikra and have you tasted one in Russia or in Kazakhstan?


Potato Pancakes, Latkes, Draniki...and so on and so forth. There are so many names of these wonderful, cozy, comfort food patties. I can't tell you exactly where they originated from. You can look it up on wikipedia. com. But, I know for sure that they cook them all over former Soviet Union. Theses pancakes cross cultures and borders and are served on the table in Ukraine, Russia, Belorus, Caucauses and Central Asia.

What you will need:
1. 5 medium potatoes. Any kind will work. What I did is I mixed up 3 medium golden potatoes with 2 medium Russet potatoes...just wanted to play with the texutre.
2. Salt pepper to taste
3. 1 egg
4. 1/2 cup of flour
5. Oil to fry pancakes.

1. Peel and wash potatoes. Put them in cold water so that they won't turn brown after being exposed to air.

2. Grate potatoes using large wholes of your grater. Salt and pepper to taste. I am not a huge fan of salt. Yet, I used slightly less tan 1 teaspoon of salt. It just tastes better that way.

3. Add 1 whole egg.

4. Add flour and start mixing potatoes really well. (In Costco I purchased a bunch of plastic gloves that are used to handle food. I normally put those on and mix potatoes).

5. This is what the potato mixture looks like.

6. Heat up oil. Split the potato mixture in 8 equal servings. And start frying until golden on both sides. Make sure not to burn yourself. Also ensure that DRANIKI are thin enough so that they will get cooked through. You don't want to end up with beautiful looking DRANIKI with uncooked potatoes in the middle. Therefore, you should be cooking on MEDIUM heat. It takes me about 8-10 minutes per side.

7. Here is what cooked DRANIKI will look like. VOILA! Enjoy them with sour cream as a standalone dish or as a side dish. We had them with baked chicken. And it was delish!


Friday, August 12, 2011

TGIF! Thank God It is a Borscht Friday! - Borscht Recipe.


Happy Friday to you All! Well, it is a Borscht Friday in our family. Let me ask you how many of you tried and liked Borscht? ...Oh, I see that not so many as I expected. Let me tell you one thing for sure. If what you tried before tasted like cold beet juice...get ready to learn how to cook yummy, hot and wholesome caleidescope of flavors. Let's give this wonderful chicken vegetable soup another try and...let me know if you tried anything like this before!

What you will need:

1. Whole organic chicken. Washed and dried. ( I prefer organic chicken, because it tastes better)

2. 3 medium size raw beets ( I bought a bundle of organic beets in Whole Foods market. It weighed about 1.28 lbs)

3. 1 small organic cabbage. About 2 lbs.

4. 1 medium yellow onion.

5. 1 package organic mini carrots. About 2.25 ounces.

6. 1 Bundle of organic cilantro

7. Organic sour cream. 1 tub.

You don't have to buy everything organic. It is your choice. However, I just think that organic chicken tastes better than non-organic one.

Step 1: Put the chicken inside Qazan or any other pan. ( For years I cooked with this wonderful Central Asian cast iron dish. Everyhing I cook in it, even Russian Borsht comes out wholesome. I will write more about this pan. Stay tuned for more tips and tricks.) Add peeled and washed beets. Add water so that it covers the chicken and the beets. Boil on medium heat for 1 hour. During boiling turn chicken twice to ensure it cookes through. Make sure that your chicken is completely defrosted before cooking. Make sure to skim your broth!

Step 2: wash and dry the cabage.

Step 3: Cut the cabbage in half.

Step 4:Cut each half in thin strips.

Srtep 5: Cut each strip in half.

Step 6: Here is what cut cabbage should look like.

Step 7: Chop onion

Step 8: Grate carrots

Step 10: Saute onions until golden color.

Step 10: Add carrots and saute 10 more minutes.

Step 11: Remove cooked chicken and beets from the broth and let them cool down. In the meantime...Cut the chicken in small pieces.

Step 12: Add cabbage to the broth. Cook for 20 minutes on slow heat.

Step 13: Add sauteed onions and carrots. Add cooked and cut pieces of chicken.

Step 14: Grate beets.

Step 15: Add beets to borscht and mix the soup. You will see how borscht is "taking in" the pink color and at the same time the beets are retaining the color.

Step 18: Add cut cilantro or any other greens you may have.

Step 19: Mix. And VOILA! You have a nice pot of Borscht!

This is what it looks like when served.

Add sourcream if you'd like.

Add salt and pepper to taste. My sister brought a nice Rose, which nicely accompanied our Borscht.

Add Roma tomatoes from my sister's garden were delish too!

Kids LOVE this Borscht!

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Did you know that it was a long Kazakh tradition to eat late at night?

There is an anekdote about Kazakhs..."Normal people go to bed to sleep...Kazakhs go to bed to eat" :-) So true. For centuries, Kazakhs would serve dinner late. Which, given the nomadic lifestyle, made sense. Imagine, you are working all day, taking care of hundreds of sheep in the steppes or in the are on your feet all day long. Dinner is the time to relax and eat a nice meal. Ahhhhh!

So dinner would include "beshparmak" only those occasions when Kazakhs were having guests over. And it takes hours to cook "beshparmak". It is not labor intensive as it is more time consuming to cook "beshparmak". So before it is ready, guests will have tea with snacks. Someone will entertain by playing dombyra. It will take a couple hours to cook all meat, roll skinny strips of skinny, you can almost see through them, peel onions and make a nice broth to pour over meat and pasta. Yummmm. The Kazakh in me is demanding a nice beshparmak. How about I make one this coming weekend and posts the pics here?

Until then have a good day!

Say Bolynyzdar! Good Bye!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Is Kazakh food spicy?

A lot of people ask me "Is Kazakh food spicy?"...I guess, I know why would people ask this question. Because Kazakhs, including me, look asian. And the question is fair enough...we all tend to judge on appearances first...until we get to know people closer.

So, is Kazakh Food spicy? Answer is "No, it is not". Kazakhs never ate spicy food, because, number 1: Kazakhs historically did not farm the land and, therefore, didn't grow fruits and vegetables nor any spices up until late 19th century. They would get dried fruits in exchange for meat products from settled nations like Uzbeks. (I am not a certified historian. But I was educated in kazakh language for 15 years and passed my history class with flying colors ;-)). 2. Even if they would decide to grow spices for a crazy reason... instead of tending to their life stock...the spices like hot chili peppers would not survive in some mountaneous areas as well as in the steppes. I hope this explains why Kazakh food is not spicy.

What did Kazakhs eat for centuries? Kazakhs bread sheeps and horses. In some southern areas they bread camels and in some areas cows as well. They call these four types of animals "Tort tulik mal". Which means "4 main(sacred)" animals. So their main diet included meat of these animals, milk and milk products (yougurt like drink called "Airan", cheese products "Qurt", "Irimshik", "Suzbe", "Qatyq", etc.), wheat and other whole grains that Kazakhs grew in some parts of Kazakhstan, tea they would get from the main trading route on "Silk Road" and dried fruits and vegetables they would get in exchange for meat and leather products on the same trading route.

In the last century the diet of Kazakhs would change due to influence of other nations in the Soviet Union. Russian, Ukranian, Korean, Uzbek, Uigur, German cuisines would be introduced and would be mixed in. So, namely, the workers of the Soviet Union will have to be fed at factories, plants, daycares, schools and colleges. There would be one standardized menue approved by Ministry of Health in Moscow. Someone who studied and worked at the facotry near Moscow will be served exactly the same boiled borsch, fried cutlet and mashed potatoes for lunch at 2 pm as someone in Kazakhstani factory. And even with the total sovietization the food didn't get any spicier. Because the spiciest thing in Russian cuisine is black pepper.

So, you won't find hot chili peppers, cayenne peppers, jalapeno peppers and not even a paprika in Kazakh and, not even in Russian cuisine.

The simplest way to describe flavor of Kazakh cuisine is - rich to the extent being heavy sometimes, but not spicy.

Sau bolynyzdar - Good bye!

Monday, August 8, 2011

This is how we set up our tables at FRUA camp.
We had a few picnic tables by the lake. So we took a couple tables, covered them with table clothes and arranged everything we needed on the table: trays, gas stove, frying pan, cutting board, oil, rolling pin, flour, etc.

Kids are excited to cook BAURSAKs!

This is what the dough looked like.

We flattened the dough with a rolling pin and cut it in square shapes. Then we fried the dough in the hot oil.

Here is what BAURSAKs looked like after they were cooked on the stove.

BAURSAKs are redy to be served!

Serving yummy BAURSAKs to curious kids. They had BAURSAKs with raspberry and cherry preserves. No leftovers were left since kids also wanted to share their BAURSAKs with parents. Every single person liked them!

Thank you to all at FRUA Seattle chapter for having me over this past weekend. It was great to meet you all and your beautiful kids! By popular demand I am posting the recipe of Kazakh "doughnuts" called "BAURSAK" in Kazakh language.

1.5 lbs flour
1 cup warm milk
1 cup warm water
3.5 table spoons of oil
0.35 ounces which is about 1 and 1/3 packets of dried active yeast
1 tea spoon of sugar

Mix flour, dried active yeast, salt and sugar in a bowl. Add warm milk, warm water and oil. Mix everything until smooth. Set aside in a warm place for 1.5 hours and let it rise. After 1.5 hours knead the dough again and set it aside this time for 0.5 hours. After half hour passed. Flatten the dough with fingers or rolling pin about 1/3 of an inch. The dough is sticky so make sure to sprinkle flour, but don't over do it! Cut different shapes with a cookie cutter or just cut "diamond" shapes with a knife. Heat the oil high, then reduce the heat to medium and start frying BAURSAKs on both sides until golden.

Serve with your favorite fruit preserve. Can also be served with honey, powdered sugar or as is.

"As damdy bolsyn!" - "Bon Appetit!"