Salt & Time: Recipes from a Russian Kitchen, written by Alissa Timoshkina, features 100 traditional and modern recipes from Russia paired with beautiful stories and memories. Some highlights include Koulebiaka Salmon Pie, Plov, Blini with Curd & Apricots, Kvass, Honey Pickled Daikon, Potato & Caviar Soup, and more. I will also be sharing her recipe for Siberian Pelmeni Dumplings following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Interlink Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Alissa was born in the industrial city of Omsk, Siberia and moved to England at the age of 15 for school. Inspired by her great-grandmother Rosalia (who lived through the Russian Revolution as a child and was a Jewish-Ukrainian Holocaust survivor), Alissa found herself drawn to history and establishing a connection to her family through food. She earned a PhD in Soviet Holocaust and Film History, but her passion for cooking eventually led her to leave her career in academia and create KinoVino, an event and catering company. This is her first cookbook.
Salt & Time
Chapters are divided according to course: Introduction; Ingredients & Pantry; Appetizers, Sides & Salads; Soups; Main Dishes; Pickles & Ferments; Desserts; and Drinks.
Before getting to the recipes, Alissa writes briefly about the history of Siberia and life there from the intense climate to the melting pot of culinary traditions influenced by surrounding cultures. She states, “For many, Russian food remains a mystery, tinted with the stereotypes of the Cold War and obscured by the complexities of contemporary Russian politics.” I particularly enjoyed all the memories, descriptive stories, and traditions to help add soul to the recipes.
The beautiful photography is provided by Lizzie Mayson. Most of the recipes are accompanied by a 3/4-full page photo, usually of the finished dish along with a few of the Siberian landscape. Titles are written in English and/or Russian. Measurements are listed in US Customary and Metric. Each recipe begins with a headnote with background information, personal stories, helpful tips, and serving size.
Salt & Time is a great pick for those interested in Russian cuisine, with an emphasis on Siberian recipes along with Ashkenazi and Central Asian influences. There is a nice balance among the courses from appetizers all the way to desserts and drinks. Many of the meals come together relatively easily while others include more prep such as wrapping dumplings, assembling pies, and hands-off long fermentation times.
Alissa includes a basic guide to the Siberian pantry with descriptions of notable items, how they are used, and where to find them. I have been able to locate most of the ingredients in the average American grocery store. A few that may require further searching include buckwheat, dried shiitake mushrooms, dried mint, matzo, Eastern European mustard, daikon, harissa paste, Asian or fiddlehead ferns, Russian rye bread, and dried sour cherries.
Siberian Pelmeni Dumplings
I was so excited to see a recipe for Pelmeni (Пельмени) with not only one, but three different filling options! Siberian Pelmeni are small round dumplings traditionally eaten in the winter. I prepared them with the mushroom filling. Mixed fresh mushrooms are finely processed with onion, garlic, and parsley. The mixture is cooked for a few minutes to remove excess moisture with a splash of soy sauce before folding in pine nuts (wonderful contrast in texture) and allowing to cool to room temperature.
To form the Pelmeni, roll out the rested dough on a lightly floured surface or use a pasta machine to make a thin sheet. Use a shot glass or round cookie cutter to cut out discs about 1 1/2-2 1/2 inches wide. Place a teaspoon of the prepared filling in the center of each disc. Be careful not to overfill or you won’t be able to seal the dough. Fold the circle in half over the filling to make a half-moon shape, pinching well to seal. Bring together the two edges to create a rounded shape to the dumpling. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
This recipe makes a decent amount of Pelmeni, particularly due to their smaller size- about 200 in all. It is enough for 10 servings (maybe less if you have a love for dumplings like me). If not using them all at once, the Pelmeni can easily be frozen in a single layer after assembling. Boil straight from the freezer, but you may need to add a couple of minutes to the cooking time.
Either serve the Pelmeni with the cooking broth topped with fresh herbs, sour cream, and black pepper (my personal favorite, especially on cold winter days) or use a slotted spoon to drain the Pelmeni from the water, transfer to a bowl, then enjoy coated in butter with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkling of fresh herbs and black pepper.
Alissa also includes an option for the popular meat (ground pork and beef) filling along with fish (salmon, trout, and cod).
I also made the Pirozhki, “Hedgehog” Meatballs in Creamy Mushroom Sauce, Honey Tiramisu, and Medok.
I paired Alissa’s paternal grandmother Baba Toma’s Pirozhki dough with the flavorful herbs and feta filling. After rising, the yeast-based dough is divided into individual buns, flattened and wrapped over the filling to enclose. I went with the more indulgent pan-frying method to cook the Pirozhki, but they can also be baked in the oven. Other filling options include creamy mushroom, cabbage and egg, and even the traditional Tatar version- Belyashi with spiced ground beef.
The “Hedgehog” Meatballs in Creamy Mushroom Sauce was a favorite with the kids. Ground beef is combined with onion, garlic, and basmati rice (for the hedgehog look), then pan-fried to set before simmering further in a creamy mushroom sauce. Alissa states that this dish “must be served with the fluffiest mashed potatoes and plenty of the creamy sauce to pour all over your plate.”
I had such a difficult time narrowing down which dessert recipe to make (the Zephyrs and Napoleon Cake are definitely high on the list), but I ultimately decided on the Honey Tiramisu. The traditional flavors of the classic Medovik cake are transformed into an easier, modern tiramisu-like dessert. Smetana (or sour cream), mascarpone, honey, and egg yolks are beaten until creamy, then layered with black tea-soaked ladyfingers. The mixture is refrigerated for a few hours before serving with a sprinkling of cinnamon.
Alissa’s recipe for Medok was inspired by her family vacations to Sochi where the drink would be served in a dumplings canteen. In her version, hot water is infused with honey, applesauce, and thyme with an apple slice for garnish. She also mentions that once the drink cools, it can be enjoyed with lots of ice and a shot of vodka.
Siberian Pelmeni Dumplings Recipe
Excerpt from Salt & Time
Siberian Pelmeni Dumplings
For the Dough:
- 3 cups (1 pound 8 ounces, 700 grams) Italian "00" flour plus extra for dusting
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup (200 mL) water
For the mushroom filling:
- 14 ounces (400 grams) mixed mushrooms wild mushrooms or a mixture of white and cremini mushrooms
- 1 onion quartered
- 2 garlic cloves
- Small bunch flat-leaf parsley finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- Dash of soy sauce
- 1 cup (5 1/2 ounces, 150 grams) pine nuts
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the cooking broth:
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 vegetable, fish, or meat bouillon cube according to your filling
- Unsalted butter if serving without the cooking broth
- Chopped fresh herbs
- Sour cream
- Freshly ground black pepper
To make the dough:
- Sift the flour onto a clean, dry work surface. Make a well in the middle and add the salt, eggs, and measured water, gradually mixing in the flour into it with your hands to form a firm dough. Knead well for 5-7 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. In the meantime, prepare your chosen filling.
To make the mushroom filling:
- Finely chop the mushrooms, onion, garlic, and parsley in a food processor. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the vegetable mixture with the soy sauce for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the pine nuts, salt, and pepper. Let the mixture cool before handling.
- The dough should be ready by this point. Take it out of the refrigerator and roll it out on a lightly floured work surface. For best results, use a pasta machine, since you need to make sheets that are about 1.5 mm thick, which you will get by using a number 7 setting on your pasta machine.
- Using a shot glass or cookie cutter, cut out discs of dough, 1 1/2-2 1/2 inches (4-6 cm) in diameter. Place a teaspoon of your filling in the middle of each disc and fold in half to make a half-moon shape, then fold again so that the edges of the half-moon are stuck together.
- The dumplings can be cooked immediately or frozen to be cooked at a later date using the same method as below, increasing the cooking time as necessary.
- Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil, adding the bay leaf and bouillon cube. Add the pelmeni, in batches, to the boiling broth and cook for 5 minutes per batch. You know they are ready when they float up to the surface.
- Ladle your pelmeni into soup bowls with the cooking broth, topping them with fresh herbs, sour cream, and black pepper. If you prefer to have them without the broth, transfer them to the bowls using a slotted spoon and add a generous dollop of butter, as well as the rest of the serving ingredients. This makes around 10 servings of dumplings, but if that's more than the number of mouths that you have to feed, they freeze well kept in flat layers in a freezer bag.