Russian Easter is the most important religious celebration in the Russian calendar, more important even than Christmas, and as such is accompanied by a table groaning with wonderful traditional Russian dishes. Not just a feast for the tummy but a feast for the eyes as well.
Two of the main features of the Russian Easter table are paskha and kulich. Paskha is a large pyramid consisting, mainly, of a mixture of cream cheese, dried fruit and nuts – but the end result is heart-stoppingly out of this world, and I believe is one of the all time great desserts.
Kulich is a domed cakey/bread cylinder, standing tall, crowned with a simple icing or dusted with icing sugar, it is the textural and taste antithesis of paskha – but oh my how these opposites attract. Traditionally eaten together at the end of the banquet.
Other traditional dishes found spread across our table are hand painted hard boiled eggs, various marinated and smoked fishes, chicken, duck and ham, all served cold. These are accompanied by a vegetable salad, vinegret (Russian – not vinaigrette) and dill pickles also cold, but don’t worry the vodka will keep you warm. My grandfather (a lieutenant in the Tsar’s army) always drank “Stolichnaya”. So to this day it has remained our family’s sentimental favourite.
Years ago (courtesy of a Martha Stewart article) I found a brilliant way to visually present your bottle of vodka at the table. It’s not difficult once you’ve stolen a few flowers, and I’m pretty sure stolen flowers enhance the flavour of the vodka… and doesn’t it look a treat.
Each year, for a little surprise, I prepare a non-traditional dish. This year it was chestnut soup (I’ll include the recipe in my next blog). Chestnuts have been wonderful this season and although fiddly are well worth the trouble. Of course this dish would never be served in Russia at this time of the year, chestnuts being only available in autumn and early winter.
Family and friends ate and drank their fill. No one sparkled the next morning – living proof that vodka works. Now we can look forward to next year, and another unforgettable religious food experience.