S Rozhdyestvom Hristovym! or Merry Christmas!!
Today is Christmas Day for those whose religious calendar is set according to Gregorian style aka Orthodox Christians, and everyone who lives in those countries. What I am trying to say today is Russian and Ukrainian Christmas. 🙂
We celebrate Christmas on December 25th in our family but we usually acknowledge Russian Christmas in one way or another as well. After all, who doesn’t love to prolong holidays! This year, however, we also exchanged presents since we spent Christmas in Canada and decided not to bring them with us and then take them back to England. The kids are so excited! Even though they get the same amount of presents as every year they feel like they are getting more. That was a brilliant idea!
What I am mostly excited about is the fact that I am bringing my fellow Russian and Ukrainian bloggers to share their family favourites.
I am sharing a roasted pork recipe that is called “Buzhenina” in Russia and Ukraine. It was the dish that my mom made every single year, without a fail and the dish I was looking forward to the most. What is so special about it you might ask? Well, it’s just a piece of meat that’s been shown lots of love, that’s all.
What I am remembering most is Soviet Russia…the period of shortages. It’s not that there was no food or anyone went hungry…it’s just food wasn’t found in stores. People always had to know “the right people” to access it. I think my parents did know them and my mom also had the resilience to hit the shops after a full day of work just in case something was “thrown out”…it was literally the term for when food or especially meat would show up in the shops.
That meat, however, was rarely of high quality, usually cheap cuts that made their way behind the counter but that’s where the ingenuity of Russian women shone brightly. My mom would lay the meat out on the kitchen table to prep it for roasting complaining the whole way about fat and bones and connective tissues she’d have to cut away but the result would always be absolutely stunning. A juicy piece of pork studded and flavoured with slivers of garlic, fresh parsley and rubbed with aromatic spices.
The moral of the story is that you don’t have to spend a day’s worth of salary to enjoy a good meal. This roast was the cheapest I found-it’s a boneless shoulder joint…definitely not the prime rib but after everything I’ve done to it…OMG…Can I say it? Or will you judge me? Oh well…OMG!!
Anyway, if you buy a roast that’s been tied, untie it and lay flat on a cutting board. The main trick I learned from my mom about getting the most flavourful roast is to prick the pork all over with a tip of a sharp knife and insert sliced garlic into those little pockets.
Then sprinkle with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, and a spice rub of your choice. My mom often used freshly ground black pepper. I used Shashlik spice that is easily found in most Russian stores. The Shashlik spice is a combination of onion, hot paprika, coriander, marjoram, nutmeg, allspice, black pepper and salt. Basically, throw a kitchen sink in there for good measure and you are good to go.
Next step is to generously sprinkle it with chopped parsley and roll it up tight. Tie with a piece of kitchen twine and rub with your rub of choice. Hint, hint…find that Shashlik spice. 🙂 Transfer to a roasting pan, tuck a couple of bay leaves under the twine and pop it in the oven.
Preheat the oven to 475F-500F and roast the pork for 20 minutes, then bring the temperature down to 375F and roast 1 hour 10 minutes or until the meat thermometer registers 145F-150F. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes and serve with mashed or roasted potatoes.
Buzhenina is great eaten right out of the oven but it’s also delicious when served cold. Keep it in the fridge overnight, which allows flavours to meld together, then slice thinly and serve as cold cuts with cheese and salami. That’s how my mom always served it as a starter.
- 5 lbs pork shoulder joint or pork loin
- 4 garlic cloves sliced
- 2-3 tbsp shashlik spice rub or your favourite rub
- 1 bunch of flat leaf parsley chopped
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 bay leaves
Preheat the oven to 475F/220C-500F/230C.
If you buy a roast that's been tied, untie it and lay flat on a cutting board.
Prick the pork all over with a tip of a sharp knife and insert sliced garlic into those little pockets.
Then sprinkle with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, and a tablespoon of spice rub of your choice.
Generously sprinkle it with chopped parsley and roll it up tight. Tie with a piece of kitchen twine and rub with your rub of choice.
Transfer to a roasting pan, tuck a couple of bay leaves under the twine and pop it in the oven.
Roast the pork for 20 minutes, then bring the temperature down to 375F/190C and roast 1 hour 10 minutes or until the meat thermometer registers 145F-150F.
Let it rest for 10-15 minutes and serve with mashed or roasted potatoes.
Alternatively, cool it in the fridge overnight, slice thinly and serve it cold as a starter.
Now let me introduce another blogger who is oh… so… adorable-Natasha of Natasha’s Kitchen.
This girl’s blog was the first Russian/Ukrainian blog I found and fell in love with. She doesn’t know it but her blog is partially to blame for me starting up as a blogger. One inspirational lady…ahem…I mean girl…she is really young.
Today Natasha is sharing one of the cornerstones of Ukrainian Christmas dishes. This dish Kutia is steeped in century old traditions. Here is what she writes, “Kutia (Kutya) is a traditional Christmas wheat berry pudding with dried apricots and toasted almonds. It is popular in Ukraine, Russia and various other parts of Eastern Europe. It’s a very special dish that is served on Christmas eve. We’ve been working on developing this recipe for the past few years to recreate a childhood memory from Ukraine. “
Kutia is usually eaten in the beginning of a long Christmas Eve meal.
This girl is all about simple, accessible recipes for busy moms that don’t like to compromise on taste. Natasha and I met in London when she was visiting Europe and had lovely time together. One of the perks of this blogging thing is meeting new friends and kindred spirits all over the world. Natasha’s got a gorgeous family, beautiful smile and a bucketful of authentic Russian and Ukrainian recipes. Here is her take on the famous pierogi. “One of the most common foods you will find in Eastern Europe is Pierogies. The choice of fillings is insane, some are made mostly in the summer and the ones with potatoes are usually made as comfort foods in the winter time. They were a fancy treat for us growing up as kids, especially on Christmas day. Now that I am a mom, I love recreating those memories with them.”
Here is Katya of Little Broken, my newest discovery.
I love her blog-fresh, healthy and delicious recipes coupled with charm and good sense is always a great recipe for success. Katya is sharing with us something sweet-Rugelach.
That’s how she describes why this recipe is special to her. “Poppyseed Rugelach is one of my favorite holiday desserts! Brings back many memories from my childhood, especially around the Christmas time when my mom would start bright and early in the day by making the dough and the filling, usually consisting of nuts and some type of dry fruit. It was usually a whole family affair! Everyone had a task and was involved in some way or another. I went with a traditional poppyseed filling for this specific recipe, which is another traditional Russian favorite. This is a simple dessert but festive at the same time. Make it your own by creating your own filling!”
And here is another version of Rugelach or as it is called in Russian Rogaliki brought to you by Tatyana of Tatyana’s Everyday Food.
This young lady is so talented she’s made appearances on NBC’s Today Show to share her love for Russian and Ukrainian food and now maintains a popular YouTube channel. Here she writes about why this recipe is so special to her. “Rogaliki cookies always bring back warm, Christmas memories of my mother and I shaping these cookies together in our small kitchen! We would make a huge batch of cookie dough and work together for hours. The sweet aroma of rogaliki would waft through our kitchen and I usually had half a dozen before they even cooled off! These buttery and sweet cookies were always served with tea after dinner on Christmas Eve in our family! Fill with your favorite fruit preserves and watch my video tutorial for step-by-step instructions!”
And finally here is Marina of Let the Baking Begin.
Marina and I never met in person but we talked enough to know that if given opportunity we’d become fast friends. I am also a huge fan of her blog-jaw dropping photography and delicious recipes with clear, step-by-step directions. This recipe for “oreshki”-buttery walnut shaped cookies filled with dulce de leche or cream- is dear to every Slavic person. We all grew up eating them for special occasions. “These oreshki were always part of the dessert trays around holidays or big celebrations. As a teenager I re-wrote my mom’s recipe book so that when I get married I didn’t have to call my mom for this or that recipe. The oreshki recipe was the first one I made sure to write down. Not too surprising though, when I was a kid I wanted to eat the Dulce de Leche filling by the spoon… “
So here you have it. An array of authentic dishes from our virtual table to yours. We hope your Christmas is merry and bright!