Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cacio e pepe (pecorino and black pepper pasta)

I'm giving up my attempts to make this pasta look attractive in the picture, but I have to say: from all the pasta I got to try in Rome cacio e pepe was definitely the best. Now (five minutes after eating it) it actually feels like the best pasta in the world. All in all Rome has three 'big' pastas: carbonara, amatriciana and cacio e pepe. Cacio e pepe is tagliolini dressed with only pecorino cheese and black pepper. You can throw it together in a matter of minutes. So to add to its beauty it is incredibly simple. You just need to get your tree ingredients right.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Roast duck with quince

My body just knows that winter is around the corner and it won't let the calendar fool it. After around two years when I didn't want any meat or fish at all, I came to eating almost just those. And given the cold, the greasier they are the more I want them. So I've been in serious relationship with salmon and duck during the last two months. I kept roasting duck for Christmas for many years and it looks like this year it will also happen. There is something extremely family uniting in sharing one good bird for a Christmas dinner. And nothing goes better with it for me than sweet spices and sour fruit.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Chocolate fondant

It's been so long since I said something here... I can't tell you how much I missed it. Somehow Christmas hustle started early for me this year and I was to busy and tired to produce any kind of warm and positive content. Now finally I have a lot to say and chocolate fondant will be good to start with. This little chocolate cake which oozes out melting chocolate as you break through its crust with your teaspoon contains highest quality happiness in incredible intensity. Especially if you serve it with a melting scoop of vanilla ice-cream on top. Approaching Christmas is perfect timing for it.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


It seems that I found something strong enough to heal a broken heart, which is almost magic. I only made baklava a couple of times and I'm not going to pretend I know everything about it. There are people who learn to make baklava throughout their lives and hopefully I'll once have good talk with one of them. But right now I can say for sure that you can make it very well from the very first attempt and enjoy both the making and the eating just extremely.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Carrot halwa

Carrot halwa was the first Indian dessert I got to try. Since then I tried many more, but it remained my favorite (not sure whether it is a coincidence). It is something comforting, warm and sweet. Something rich and mild. Something I'd never expect from the carrot. Like in English carrot cake it works in some magical way here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Salade aux chèvre chaud (French salad with hot goat's cheese)

This post has been due for at least two years now. When I just came to Fontainebleau I immediately fell in love with salade aux chèvre chaud (literally salad with hot goat's cheese) and it stayed my absolute favorite throughout the months of my residence. Though very simple to make it is incredibly rich in flavor and texture. Just imagine savory hot and melting goat's cheese with sweet fig jam, crispy toast and walnut over crunchy chilled salad leaves dressed with honey and French mustard.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Almaty (Kazakhstan) - a personal food guide

I was lucky to visit Almaty, the historical capital of Kazakhstan, this summer for the first time. That was also my first visit to Central Asia and the gastronomical side of it was full of discoveries. Horse meat, qurt cheese, lagman noodle, beshbarmak noodle, manti dumplings, tapchans (arbours where you eat seated on pillows at a low table), beautiful mountains under sparkling sun - all felt like being Alice in a wonderland. That's my first take on the city of Almaty and I'm sure it won't be the last one.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Home made Kazakh dinner and Beshbarmak


While I was planning my recent trip to Almaty I wrote an email to my Insead friend Gulnazi. Gulnazi originates from Almaty and moved back to work there some half a year ago. She invited me to her house for dinner made by her mom. That was how I tried the Kazakh beshbarmak for the first time.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Caprese salad


I already wrote about Caprese salad, but since Sergey started bringing the proper mozzarella to Moscow things changed. I started making it more and more. And more, so now it evolved enough to say another word about it. You can also regard this as my farewell to the summer. It's time even for me to admit that summer will very soon be gone together with the proper tomatoes. So I find myself making it one more last time. And one more...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Moroccan mint tea and stuffed dates


I absolutely adore Moroccan mint tea. After a tagine dinner there is nothing better than this hot and aromatic lightly sweetened drink. You pour it (in an ideal world from a silver pot into colored glasses) and sip it throughout the evening. It relaxes you and makes you smile. Moroccan meal doesn't really need a substantial dessert to follow it. However once I tried these dates stuffed with pistachio marzipan along the mint tea and it turned out that these two really work magically together.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Chocolate and cherry birthday trifle


I love the idea of English trifle. It is a perfect stress free dessert, where you layer moistened cake slices with fruits, jam, custard and cream, choosing all the combinations as your mood suggests. You let it sit in the fridge for a bit and dive in. It's perfect if you are feeding many people as you can easily make a lot of it. And if you assemble it in a glass serving bowl you get double pleasure.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Green bazaar in Almaty, Kazakhstan


Green bazaar is the largest farmer's market in Almaty. It is very central, located right next to Zenkov Cathedral (a wooden architectural wonder) and to Panfilov park. With all its special local products (horse meat, local dairy etc.) to me it was one of the strongest impressions of our trip.

As you enter the Green bazaar, you see lots and lots of herbs sold in the market, but as you look closer it turns out they have more relation to medical usage than to cooking. Fruits and veggies are also in the front section. They are not exotic, but some (like peaches, melons, watermelons etc.) are just extremely tasty - I don't think I ever tasted something like those in Moscow. Then you can move deeper to the back section of the market to look into horse meat, and then to the left to see amazing local dairy products.

Horse meat

Horse meat is something I should start with. Overall it is the preferred kind of meat in Kazakhstan. It is more expensive than beef and lamb and is considered healthier and tastier. The whole back section of the Green bazaar is about horse meat.

One of the most popular ways of preparing horse meat is kazy (a special kind of sausage, which is part of traditional beshbarmak noodle dish). This lady, Elemes, located number 1 in row 6 has been a kazy master for 20 years and she kindly explained the process to me.

She started from cutting a shoulder part and cut it into long thick blocks. She also cut some horse fat into thinner blocks. During our visit in Almaty everybody would tell me that horse fat is good for you and it is less heavy than that of lamb, so did Elemes. On top of that the fat makes the kazy much tastier.

Having done the cutting Elemes arranged the meat and fat to approximately shape the future sausage. She generously salted the meat and fat, covered it with minced garlic and ground black pepper. Than she pulled the guts on and formed the sausage, closing it with toothpicks from both sides.

If you are buying fresh kazy as we did, it is meant to be boiled. Elemes advised us to let kasy stand at room temperature at least for 4 hours before cooking. If you need to store it longer before cooking it is better to refrigerate or freeze it. Then it needs to be simmered for 3-4 hours to get ready.

You can also get some hot or cold smoked kazy at the Green bazaar as well as some other kinds of horse sausages, dried horse meat and smoked horse meat. Sellers will definitely offer you a taste before you buy something and you won't regret tasting. I'm not at all a meat lover, but I was really impressed by how good all those things taste.


Local dairy products are also very special. Like the meat preparation methods, many of them emerged because of nomadic life Kazakh people used to live in the past. Many of them can be stored for a really long time (months) at room temperature.

Qurt (front row in the picture) is a kind of cheese. It is extremely dry and firm, way firmer than, say, mature parmesan. I wouldn't be able to break a piece of qurt with my fingers, but it is possible to bite into it. Qurt is available salted or unsalted. As far as I got it is mostly eaten as a snack (say, with beer) and rarely is added to some other dishes.

Irymshik (back row in the picture) is another popular thing and it is absolutely delicious. It is made of milk, which went sour. The milk is evaporated slowly for a long time till it turns very thick sweetish chewy and yellow. Apart from qurt irymshik has more relation to sweets, sometimes eaten on its own, sometimes used as an ingredient (e.g. those brown balls in the picture are made of crumbled irymshik mixed with condensed milk and something else).

Kumis is a drink made of mare's milk. It is quite sour and very refreshing. It tasted amazing to me, especially when it was hot outside.

Bread and pastry

The kind of bread I saw most often in Almaty are these round flatbreads, sometimes plain, sometimes seasoned with herbs. Those we got at Green bazaar were extremely fresh and good.

Samsa (samosa) (a kind of meat stuffed pastry popular all around Central Asia) is also available from small pastry shops in the market and around it.

Rakhat chocolate factory

Accross the street from the market you will see a very large pale rose building of Rakhat, the national chocolate factory. As we entered its store I felt like I came back to soviet time stores of my childhood.

The light blue chocolate bar "Kazakhstansky" is considered the classics of the factory. The locals also really appreciate these 65%, 70% and 80% dark chocolate bars and prefer them to imported foreign brands (for, say, baking purposes).

Apart from the chocolate bars the factory, of course, produces all kinds of chocolate sweets. To me they taste similar to those produced by Russian factories.


Almaty (Kazakhstan) - a personal food guide
Home made Kazakh dinner and Beshbarmak

London gastronomy markets and shopping
A walk around La Boqueria Barcelona market
Kiev (Ukraine) food: a personal guide

More Gourmet travel guides

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Simple and amazing 30 minute jam

It looks like after many years I am moving to a different way of making jam. I used to prefer the long way, which takes over a day and produces the classic varenie. However once I had a kilo of leftover apricots I didn't want to bother with, so I tried this simple 30 minute jam. Like varenie, that jam  kept intense apricot flavor and aroma very well, while the texture was like jelly, marmalade and thick syrup at the same time, so it would almost hold its shape. In one week all I made was gone and since then I'm addicted.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Babbo's eggs (poached in tomato sauce)


I love poached eggs overall, but this particular Italian way of making and serving them was a great finding for me. I learned it in London from Katie Caldesi and since then I keep making it as a breakfast, appetizer, light lunch or dinner. Somehow the tomato sauce complements the egg really well and brings is up to a balanced meal. Moreover, poaching an egg in tomato sauce doesn't involve any stress associated with poaching eggs in water.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Seafood paella

I have serious emotional attachment to seafood paella since I first tried it in Barcelona. I had it many times in restaurants before I finally visited a Catalan cooking school. That was double luck: the paella we made at school was even better than those really good ones I tried before. Simultaneously I figured out how to make it. The recipe performed really well both at our family kitchen and at our Moscow cooking classes for half a year and it feels like a good time to share it.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Apple cobbler with Cheddar cheese


I know it's not the season for apples, but what can I do? I have a favorite apple dessert. I first tried it at Coffee Bean cafe no less than 5 years ago and since than I kept coming back there for it. In parallel I made several attempts to to recreate it at home from time to time and this time it really worked. Not that it tastes the same, but it is equally good. It would make me stay at home.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Singapore food: a personal guide

Hot pot

I was lucky to once spend a couple of months living in Singapore and since than it is always there at the back of my mind as a place I'd love to once move to. Food is one of the reasons and an important one. In addition to Singapore's own amazing flavors you can get great quality food from all over the South East Asia and China so easily and so inexpensively.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

London food: a personal guide

I already posted many stories about London, but now it's time to bring it all together. Once again, I'm not pretending it is comprehensive as that would be impossible with such a city. These are just the great places I discovered in London during my first trip. It still has so much more though, that I think I'll keep coming back forever.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Barcelona food: a personal guide

Barcelona is one of my favorite places on earth. I've been there several times and it seems I'll keep coming back forever. Food-wise to me it is first of all tapas and hot chocolate shops (with churros!), but  there is of course so much more than that. Barcelona's gastronomic restaurants once opened my eyes on what's going on in the world gastronomy. It's markets are insanely tempting and cooking classes are wonderful. I also have to say that even for me there is something above food in Barcelona. It is Magic fountain light show and what's inside Sagrada Familia. Now back to food.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sweet vareniki (Ukrainian dumpling) with cherries or with cottage cheese


We came back from Kiev right when the fresh cherries started actively selling at our nearby market. So we made our beloved vareniki with cherries, that we didn't do for many years. In the process the venture extended to also include cottage cheese vareniki. I'll never be able to tell which one of these two sweet vareniki versions is better. It is not like with savory vareniki, where mashed potato is my absolute first choice.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Palak paneer (Indian spinach and cheese)

IMG_3827 copy

That day I woke up thinking about palak paneer, because, please don't laugh, I dreamed about it at night. Of course I had no spinach in my freezer, so I went out almost in my slippers to get some at a store nearby. Guess what, they didn't have it either. But I wanted it badly, so that didn't stop me.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Kiev food: a personal guide

Sometimes I just feel like travelling easily and spontaneously with no advance planning and no headache with visas. In those cases I end up deciding between Saint Petersburg and Kiev, which I chose this time. However much I visit Kiev, it always stays a marvelous place for me. It is a summer city with fascinating farmer's market, high quality food (Ukrainian or not) at half the expected price, picturous hills, walking streets, beaches and green parks along Dnieper river.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Making Ukrainian borsch


A bit weird that I'm writing this 1.5 years since I started blogging as this could well be the first post. This particular borsch is something women in our family make for no less than four generations. There are as many right recipes for borsch as there are families living in Eastern Europe and this is our recipe. We always make it vegetarian and we use no stock whatsoever, but you will be surprised how much flavor this amazing soup has. Especially now, when the newly harvested vegetables are at last available, shiny and irresistible.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Home made strawberry jam (varenie)

For the second week already Moscow markets are full of strawberries. These are the first summer strawberries from Krasnodar region. Farmers are saying that this year they had record +35C temperatures in May and the strawberries came very early. They smell of summer and of my childhood. I just finished making the first portion (around 4 kg) of jam (varenie) and it feels like it is just the beginning.

Friday, May 25, 2012

London bakeries and cake decorating


I got to visit just two bakeries so far, though London obviously has more. With all its amazing street food options it's hard to cover everything. But there could be no holiday without a good bakery in the capital of five o'clock tea.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Aidina's carrot cake for my granny

I happen to love carrot cake. From American style cakes this one is my favorite. For a long time I kept trying it in Moscow bakeries and I have to say I do like it almost everywhere. I figured out what an ideal carrot cake for me would taste like though. I love when the cake itself is very moist. It easily crumbles and I can recognize coarsely chopped crunchy walnuts. The cream cheese frosting tastes strongly of cheese and is even a little salty. And now, thanks to my beautiful friend Aidina I can make it at home.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Very British: pearl barley and cheddar risotto


This dish might truly surprise you. I never thought that one could get such a bursting flavor and such a lovely texture from pearl barley. The idea came from a British cooking class I took in London couple of weeks ago. I'm saying "risotto" here to refer to the technology of cooking a grain, which makes it creamy, and I don't mean to heart anyone. Anyhow my risotto loving family said this one totally counts.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

London gastronomy markets and shopping


After London's street food which just finds you on your way the second huge discovery for me were London's gastronomy markets. They are so pleasant to walk around, full of local farmer's products as well as of lovely artisan products from other countries. To add to that, they are also packed with delicious street food and casual eateries. Just one thing to remember - markets are open on market days only, so do check the opening times on their websites before going.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

London street food and casual eating


I paid my first visit to London just recently and I'm glad I did. It is better late than never. I had lots and lots of gastronomic discoveries and I thought why not share them. It feels like London is too large and too fast for any kind of comprehensive food guide. This is just my first take on this city. I thought everything will fit in one post, but it apparently doesn't. So this post is about all the casual food, street food and takeaway shops. Later on I'll come back with more about London markets, bakeries, restaurants as well as schools and guided tastings.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Mozzarella di bufala Campana, Kalamata oil and bruschetta


I'm still wondering how I deserved it, but yesterday two completely amazing products came into my hands. From the first contact I felt so much respect that I actually didn't dare to touch them till the next morning. I really wanted to try them with a clear taste. You might think I'm going crazy, but I'm now so happy I was alone when I tried them. I'd never enjoy in full if anybody at all was watching me.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Blackcurrant vanilla muffins (vegan version)


This recipe survived in my kitchen for a year and I thought it really is worth sharing. These are the simplest muffins from what I bake. After lots of trials with other muffin flavors I have to say they also taste the best to me. They are something I don't forget and keep coming back to, like these oatmeal cookies and this banana bread.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thai pineapple fried rice


It is hard to believe, but I definitely have more trouble finding time for writing now then before I left my full time job. Our little cooking school suddenly makes me even busier. But I'm still determined to keep writing whatever happens, this time - about fried rice. I always liked the whole idea of fried rice, which is to take some sad leftover rice out of your fridge (or even freezer) and give it a completely new life. Now I mostly cook fried rice thai style and this pineapple version is one of my favorites.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Falafel home making


I always thought it was difficult and time consuming but now I know it isn't. Making falafel at home turned out easy and fun. But even if it wasn't I'd still do that at least sometimes because nothing can compare to having that first falafel ball. It is yours right out of the hot oil before anyone even knows that falafel is coming. I mean, you have to taste when you cook, right?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Favorite caponata


You might well tell me that it is not the classic caponata and perhaps you will be right. It happened so that I tried caponata in different interpretations here and there and there was one I liked by far the most. It was at l'Osteria (tiny Italian restaurant of Toni Vianello in Paris). Since then I was dreaming to recreate it and finally it worked.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dal Makhani to die for


Just for you to know, I've been saying that I should start cooking Indian food at home since last January. Only a year and a bit and there you go, I made my first dal. I've never been to India and all my love to the food comes from my Indian friend from Insead. From the dal he made for himself and let me taste at our mutual home in Fontainebleau.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Baba ganoush (eggplant hummus)


Once we were discussing the Lent with Leo. It turned out that he keeps the fast so I asked, what he eats at this time. He just said "hummus" and I thought "of course!". Can there be any problem with getting through the Lent once you know about hummus? That must be one of the most nutritious and at the same time delicious, almost addictive vegan foods on earth. With all my love to hummus and to eggplants one day I had to start making baba ganoush.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Potato zrazy with mushrooms


These potato zrazy are another take from my grand grandmother's collection. I make them really rarely, because it is time consuming. Something has to force me and this time it was a Russian / Ukrainian cooking class I was preparing to give to a group of German ladies. My granny stuffed the zrazy with minced meat, but I prefer mushrooms especially given that it is Lent now.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thai green curry from scratch

While I was living in Singapore and Thailand my favorite thai food was always green curry, not tom yam or phad thai. There were whole weeks when I kept eating it day after day, craving for it, hunting and traveling for it. The best green curry I had in Bangkok - at a little thai restaurant across the street from Holiday Inn. We came there by chance, a happy one (I know now) because we missed our flight from Cambodia to Singapore.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Proper French onion soup


I always loved the French onion soup and for some reason couple of day ago I got obsessed with making it myself. I mean that full blown version where you start from making brown stock (which cooks for 5 hours), then you caramelize onions for 40 minutes etc. There was something so fascinating about this whole process of making it slowly and properly. The result tasted better to me that what I got to try in restaurants so far. I must have got really biased during those 5 hours.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sticky toffee pudding

Couple of weeks ago I entered a phase of heavy craving for dates. It's hard to explain, but I just can't help eating them. Some days - for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Weird, but those dates which look the most messy and jammed, as if a bear stepped on them, seem to be the tastiest. Anyhow, that day I woke up determined to make a proper sticky toffee pudding - soft and moist with gooey butterscotch sauce and melting ice-cream on top. Another idea was to give a class at Pinch about it, it didn't work. But the pudding itself! I can't find words strong enough to describe its beauty.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lunch & dinner at Ragout cafe (Moscow)


Some food is lovely just because it is simple, but the food at Ragout cafe is so good because it is sophisticated. It is not that often when I can't tell what exactly there is in the soup or the sauce I am eating. Even more rarely I do enjoy it...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Buckwheat galette with an egg


This galette is one of addictions I got while living in Fontainebleau. At first I had certain trouble eating French there with my vegetarian preferences. So very fast I switched from bistrots (common casual dining French restaurants, which were mainly meat dominated) to creperies. These were a true paradise with their menus filled with both sweet white crepes and savory buckwheat galettes. The galette with an egg was apparently the most sexy and always managed to beat everything else.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Kovrizhka, grandma's spice cake (vegan version)

I was thinking about the menu for a Russian food cooking class and this kovrizhka came to mind. Kovrizhka is a kind of spice cake, baked in Russia and Ukraine, which I loved to make when I was in my teens. Since then I somehow forgot about it, which is unjustified given how tasty and simple it is. It fit really well into the class menu, so I went to search for the recipe.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tom yam kung. Home made.

In a certain way I was really proud when I got this tom yam at home. I had many doubts that it was at all possible in Moscow. But after certain reading effort, couple of visits to an Asian store and some time around the stove I tasted it and (!) it was good. While in Thailand and Singapore I had so much tom yam everywhere possible that I got very clear - the right tom yam is pure red liquid magic that impresses you forever once you try it. However even in Asia you very often get served a very ordinary prawn "soup" instead of it. This home made one is among the two or three best tom yam's I tasted.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Gnocchi with basil and tomato sauce (vegan version)

Gnocchi is one of my beloved comfort foods I picked up last year. It turned out that in Moscow you still can't get them ready made in most of the supermarkets. It makes me complain before I make them, but it also makes me note each and every time how delicious they are when freshly made at home.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Homemade Italian dinner with Leo and Natalia: pasta fagioli, spinach lasagna and peperonata


Leo is an Australian, living in Moscow for several years. We've been friends for a while but only recently I found that he loves cooking. I'm still wondering how I deserved such a present, but last week Leo and his lovely wife Natalia invited me for a home made dinner. It turned out that Leo's grandmother was Italian from Naples region and she taught him many Italian recipes.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Quinoa, well, salad

I had two sources of inspiration for this - Corner Burger and leftover quinoa. It is something you can throw together in a matter of minutes and get a beautiful light lunch or dinner. It is one of those meals that are disproportionally rewarding for the effort you put in.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Lazy vareniki (cottage cheese gnocchi)


Just in case you were looking for a recipe to turn your kitchen into a real mess, I've got one for you. Trust me. It works. Lazy veryniki come out great from your very first attempt. They make an amazing breakfast, lunch or snack or even dinner. We kept making them for as long for as I remember myself. However, though I normally succeed in cooking clean, lazy veryniki always leave me with a mess at the kitchen. If you solve this - my respect.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Slow cooked vegetable tagine

I got used to eating tagine in Fontainebleau. The town though small has two or more Moroccan restaurants, one of which was almost next door to our house. We frequented that tiny hospitable place with dark red walls and always well made food. I loved the tagine there, but once I made it at home I realized it can be even better when you can afford to cook it really slowly.