As it happens every year between January 13 and 14, the Russian New Year is a traditional holiday to celebrate the new year in Orthodox countries. As a matter of fact, although Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Serbia and Montenegro have officially adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1918, the Russian Orthodox Church is still on the Julian calendar.
Surrounded by their families, Russians celebrate the New Year over many traditional dishes they prepare for days, and that can sound quite surprising for non-initiated. Here is a tour of the Russian culinary specialties, just to whet your appetite for the Russian New Year 2022, this January 14th.
To start with, families meet for a pre-dinner drink over a hearty buffet of zakuskis, typical hors-d’oeuvres as varied as diverse. Among the staple ones, vegetables and mushrooms naturally fermented; smoked salmon and trout put on slices of butter-covered white bread or black bread; or even sprats, small fishes rather unknown in France that look like herrings, smoked in oil; a specialty around since the USSR era. At the same time, nibble on sweet and sour pickles called ogurtsi, prepared malossol style with plenty of aromatic herbs.
Of course, you cannot start a festive meal worthy of its name without a bit of black sturgeon caviar, or grey beluga caviar on shaved ice, one of the country’s specialties, or even red caviar, namely salmon roe; a delicious dish, relatively expensive and coveted.
On the festive table also stand many salads; Russians are specialized in salads and they are a major part of the meal. Among the most famous ones, the Olivier salad. It looks like vegetable macedoine, but this salad has been created in the 19th century by French-Belgian chef Lucien Olivier who worked in a Moscow restaurant. It is based on eggs and vegetables – cabbage, beetroot, navy beans, cucumber – cooked and diced and seasoned with lots of mayonnaise.
Another great salad classic, invented in the 70’s by Soviet women, the selyodka pod shuboy, namely “herring under a fur coat”. Do not get mistaken, the herring is not placed under a layer of fur! The salty fish is diced and served under a “coat” made of several visible layers: grated vegetables (potatoes, beetroots, carrots), hard-boiled eggs, onions, thinly sliced fresh green apples, and once again, a good ladleful of mayonnaise. Among the other traditional salads, let us name the “vinaigrette” salad some salad based on vinegar beetroots paired with salty herrings and spices; or the mimosa salad, some salad based on smoked sprats, potatoes, carrots, egg whites and yolks placed in layers to look like a mimosa flower.
Before moving on to warm dishes, Russians take the time to enjoy more specialties such as piroshki. You may have heard about these small, highly popular fleshy turnovers filled with meat, cheese and vegetables – even sometimes the three of them at the same time. Kholodets – that may look like a lot to the French aspics or head cheese – are also dishes of choice. These appetizers are based on meat cuts – generally pork’s ears and trotters or beef’s tail – covered in meat broth jelly.
If you thought Russians would stop there… you are wrong; celebrating the new year is the occasion to have a great feast! It is now time to move to main courses! Although some families go for a whole suckling pig stuffed with buckwheat and roasted, served with horseradish and a glass of vodka, others go for the timeless beef Stroganoff to proudly stand on the center of their festive table. This recipe is probably one of the most famous dishes of the Russian gastronomy. Invented in the 17th century by Count Pavel Stroganoff’s French cook, this dish cooked in sauce is based on thinly sliced beef, cream, paprika, mushrooms, and onions. If you have never had some before, you should!
Some tasty bortsch, this beetroot soup with meat and vegetables, as comforting as can be, also does; so does a whole range of pies: chicken, fish, meat, with recipes often kept secret and passed on from generation to generation.
Now, let us move on to desserts! And why going complicated when you can go easy? One of Russians’ favorite desserts to beautifully end a festive meal is… nothing but a mandarin! Eating this citrus fruit on Holidays dates back to the Soviet era. Russians could not consider a holiday without this small fruit fills the air. But other desserts are served.
One of the most classic and most enjoyed desserts is the vatrushka, a bun tart with tvorog, a surprising ingredient halfway between cream cheese and fermented cheese. Similar to cheesecake, the vatrushka is often flavored with lemon and is paired with honey and jam. The smetannik, a fluffy tart with sour cream and jam, cinnamon or even almond; as well as syrnikis, small patties halfway between pancakes and buns are also very highly enjoyed desserts, especially children, but not only!
Last but definitely not least, a nice slice of prianik, the traditional gingerbread stuffed with walnut, dulche de leche, condensed milk or raisins is ideal along with a cup of Russian tea served in a samovar, or nice Chak Chak, small sticks of dough fried in oil and served in a dome covered in hot honey, so the Russians can wait for the clock to strike midnight and celebrate the new year, a glass of sbiten – warm hydromel – in hand!
Dates and Opening Time
From 13 January 2022 to 14 January 2022