Thursday, 5 April 2018

#readcookeat recipe : Shashlik kebabs (Soviet Milk)

I recently read a novella from Pereine Press, Soviet Milk by Nora Ikstena (click through to read my review), which focuses on three generations of women in Latvia under Soviet rule. Living under a totalitarian regime, all aspects of life are hard, so food is depicted as frequently scarce and generally basic, but there are nevertheless several foodie references that piqued my interest.

p12 We would then head for an Aloja Street café and eat solyanka soup and kupati sausages, and she would add caffeine from an ampoule to her coffee.

Solyanka soup sounds like it would be a great candidate for the #KitchenClearout linky as it is a real throw-in-whatever-you've-got recipe, containing everything from cured meats and sausages to olives, capers, pickles, cabbage, carrots and sour cream. The idea of adding pickles to soup intrigued me and I told Madhouse Daddy that we'd be having a "strange-sounding Russian soup" for dinner very soon, but sadly, it was never to be. I definitely want to give this recipe a try but I'm breaking the Madhouse kids into the whole idea of globe-cooking gently at the moment so it will have to wait for a while.

p32 There Serafima would pray to the Mother of God for a baby. She often came to visit us, always bringing a treat : cabbage-stuffed pirogi, vareniki dumplings, meat patties or borscht.

One thing I've noticed about globe-cooking is that recipes often can't be restricted to one country because culinary traditions and influences have no respect for borders. Borscht and pirogi are both things that I tried in Poland. Click here if you want my recipe for Cheese, Onion & Potato or Cabbage & Pork Pierogi.

Other dishes sound vaguely reminiscent of British retro food that wouldn't have been out of place in a 1970's UK dinner party :

p45 The year 1977 was giving way to 1978. On festive tables, you would be sure to find potato salad and sausage, and Sovetskoye shampanskoye - Soviet champagne.

p55 A glass of warm milk and over it a freshly formed skin. Milk soup. Fruit jelly in milk. Those were my worst trials at school.

p86 Once my grandmother came to visit us and I was left in her care for the evening. She was making a buberts - a sweet concoction of beaten egg, cream of wheat and milk floating in cranberry sauce.

p92 My grandmother had prepared tasty treats for the trip, while two evenings in a row, my step-grandfather took us to the dining car. There you could get not only chicken Kiev but also stroganoff and shashlik and kupaty sausages.

I'd never heard of Shashlik so I went to investigate and discovered that it means "skewered meat" and is, to all intents and purposes, what we frequently buy in French supermarkets over the summer months for cooking on the barbecue : chunks of meat (traditionally lamb but often now also beef or pork) threaded onto a skewer with alternating pieces of meat, fat, and vegetables, such as red/green pepper, onion, mushroom and tomato. I had some pork in the freezer and some veggies in the fridge so this sounded perfect. I decided to go for plain meat, as the kids would be eating it, but the BBC Food website has a great-sounding Hairy Bikers' Shashlik kebabs with sour cream dip and plum sauce recipe, that includes a marinade using wine, vinegar and spices.

Shashlik kebabs

ingredients :

cubes of pork
wedges of onion
chunks of green/red pepper
mushrooms, halved
drizzle of olive oil
sprinkle of paprika

To serve :
sour cream

Thread cubes of alternating meat and veggies onto metal or wooden skewers.

Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle over a little paprika.

I cooked them indoors on the Optigrill but they would be great on the barbecue too.

Serve with sour cream mixed with dill and the accompaniment of your choice - I opted for rice mixed with vegetables but summer options like potato salad and tomato salad would work well too.

Linking up with the #readcookeat challenge over at Chez Maximka.

Fancy trying some more Russian cuisine? How about these? :


  1. Shashlik looks so tasty! I haven't had it for many years, but yes, it's very popular in Russia and former Soviet republics. There's a difference between pirogi in Russia and Poland, as the Polish pirogi are boiled in water (and in Russia they are called vareniki), while the Russian pirogi or pirozhki are either fried or baked. Milk soup I also remember, it is considered to be a children's dish, mostly small sized pasta cooked in milk, and I think it is known in Italy as pastina. It's not as awful as it sounds, and depends on how it is cooked. I have a vegetarian solyanka recipe on my blog, a very old post, but still visited. All the quotes from the book made me rather nostalgic. I absolutely love solyanka. And I should also dig out my Optigrill.

    1. Ahh I was looking forward to your insight and you didn't let me down ! I shall investigate further :)

  2. Look delicious!


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