Memoirs of Russia

the fidgety foodie_memoirs of Russia

Would you like a menu with that?

With the World Cup starting in three days (thanks to work I’ve been counting down for a year) I thought it highly apt to dig back into my Russia files. I’ve raved about the Georgian food in Russia and a brilliant cooking class in Moscow, but what else did I take away from visiting the world’s largest (and often most provocative) country? Well mainly food of course…

the fidgety foodie_memoirs of Russia

A snapshot of Russian history told through vodka.

Vodka
And vodka obviously. Vodka is drunk like water in Russia. So it’s no surprise when you learn that the name stems from the Russian word for water, ‘voda’. It’s everywhere, and I was warned not to buy the dodgy cheap stuff, i.e. 1/2 litre for anything less than 200 Rubles (or about AUD$4.50!). That stuff can actually kill you. The ‘good stuff’ is still a quarter of the price you pay in Australia so what the Russians regard as expensive was still a bargain for me.

the fidgety foodie_memoirs of Russia

And even more vodka…

Naturally I had to check out the Vodka Museum which was a shrine to the stuff and told of its history and the role it has played in society and history. Take the tour and you get a complimentary shot of vodka (for research purposes only of course).

the fidgety foodie_memoirs of Russia

Choose your poison and your fridge.

And it wasn’t uncommon to find a vodka fridge next to a soft drink fridge. Even the Russians need to stay hydrated.

the fidgety foodie_memoirs of Russia

Picking pickles leaves me pickled pink

Pickles
I do love myself a pickle. I took great joy in fishing out pickles from salty brine while in Estonia and was happy to see a similar attitude to pickles in Russia, i.e. bring them out for every meal and feel free to snack on them in between. The pickles always hit the right balance of tartness and sweetness with me, and I even enjoyed the rogue dill fronds that would inevitable be wrapped around each one.

the fidgety foodie_memoirs of Russia

My favourite cranky Russian stall holder and her pickles.

There were entire pickle counters at the food markets where I managed to extract a couple of samples from a perpetually cross looking matron. Then of course there were plenty of tubs filled with homemade pickles lining the streets in smaller towns. I loved how it was entirely acceptable to buy a couple of pickles and eat them as you went about your day. Read More

9 more reasons to love cloudberries

the fidgety foodie_ 9 more reasons to love cloudberries(22)

Fresh cloudberries in the flesh

It’s been almost two years since I announced to the world that cloudberries are my crack. Since then my dependency has grown worse, exacerbated by a recent trip to the northern hemisphere where I had more access to the goods than I could handle. I’m literally on a cloudberry high as I write this.

I’ve waxed lyrical about these babies before. Their rarity. Their delicacy. Their sweet, sweet, but tart taste that has my eyes lolling in my head. My habit started with cloudberry jam in London and peaked with fresh berries in Helsinki. I’m too far gone to stop now.

But this year I took it to a whole new level. Cloudberry yoghurt? Yep. Cloudberries and fried cheese? All over it. Cloudberry soap? Absolutely (but only topically mind you – even I have limits). Cloudberries found their way into my world no less than nine times this July.

the fidgety foodie_ 9 more reasons to love cloudberries(15)

Delicious yoghurt flavoured with Swedish cloudberries

Cloudberry yoghurt

Clouberries are called hjortron in Sweden, pronounced ‘you-tron’. I don’t even have to hint to my Swedish friends anymore, they know how much I love them. On my first morning in the northern Swedish city of Sundsvall, I was greeted with a delicious breakfast spread by my adopted Swedish mother, Ing-Mari. Amongst the crisp rye bread and västerbotten cheese was a carton of hjortron fjäll – a thin rich yoghurt flavoured with my favourite berries. What a way to start the day!

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Cloudberry jam is where my addiction started

Cloudberry Jam

This is how is all began for me and is probably the most well known and well travelled cloudberry product. If you’re lucky you can even find it at IKEA (if you live in Sydney don’t even bother trying the Tempe store, I generally clean them out). It’s ubiquitous in Sweden and I had to start restricting my purchases as it’s not very practical to transport around the world.

the fidgety foodie_ 9 more reasons to love cloudberries(18)

the fidgety foodie_9 more reasons to love cloudberries

The unbelievably tasty combo of fried camembert and cloudberry jam

Cloudberry jam… with cheese!

Cheese and jam is a winning combination, nothing makes me go weak at the knees like a hunk of blue cheese stacked with quince jam. That was until the day I discovered fried camembert with cloudberry jam at a street market in Skelleftea, up in Swedish Lapland. The fried cheese had a crispy exterior, gooey cheesy interior, and worked delightfully with the heady sweetness of cloudberries.

the fidgety foodie_ 9 more reasons to love cloudberries(23)

Cloudberries are a cornerstone of Swedish dessert menus

Cloudberry dessert

It’s not uncommon to see cloudberry jam or sauce featured on Swedish dessert menus. The ante was upped, however, on a dining experience in Umeå, where I came across rullrån with mascarpone and cloudberries. Crispy cigar wafers were filled with mascarpone and served on a bed of macerated cloudberries and it was a sensational combination. Can’t wait to recreate this one at home. Read More