Thursday, 22 March 2012

Seledka pod Shuboy (Herrings in Fur Coats)

First hand knowledge of the world will beat theory, every time.

From reading books on the subject as a schoolboy, I was aware that the Earth tips on its axis, so that we have seasons. I was also aware that towns near the north and south poles enjoyed long hot summer days and suffered long cold winter nights. But what I was not aware of, was that even though the sun may shine twenty four hours a day in July, it is impossible to get a tan during those Russian 40c summers (it may have something to do with magnetic forces, but I didn't get to that chapter in my geography textbook - I was too busy passing notes to Lindsay, the hottest girl in class).

Forty degree Russian summers! Who would have thought it? Before I met Mrs Ribeye, who is from Syktyvkar near the Ural mountains in northern Russia, my knowledge of Russia was almost entirely confined to Rocky IV. Completely ignoring that it was high summer in 2011, I genuinely believed that I would fly in a twin-propeller plane to a deserted airstrip, and then take a snowchain-wheeled Mercedes to a snowy log cabin in the middle of nowhere, to meet my wife's parents, clad in fur - in the middle of July.

I though everyone would be amazing at chess and that I would be eating potatoes and drinking vodka every morning for breakfast. I thought that all women would be either hard-faced, super-skinny and wearing stilettos, or hefty, mono-browed and carrying a discus.

I thought we would be skiing to the shops and speed skating down the local river. I thought the cars would all be eastern bloc Trabant-like crap heaps. I thought that I would bump into Uzi-wielding groups of Ivan Drago lookalikes at every corner.

All wrong.

Syktyvkar in Russia is actually a bit reminiscent of an American 1950's small town, as portrayed on the big screen in Back to the Future, not Rocky IV. There is a town square. Everyone seems to know each other. Everyone looks middle class. There is one of everything - one cinema, one restaurant, one hospital, a park with swings, a river and a small forest. The girls are neither hefty or super skinny, the guys are neither particularly tall or blond or with a flat top haircut, and there are children everywhere. Everyone owns a Toyota.

I'm very much looking forward to visiting the in-laws in the depth of winter at the end of this year, when some of my Rocky IV fantasies may actually come to fruition.

Today's recipe is, I have been assured, a stereotypical Russian summer dish, and is similar to the famous Spanish tapas dish, which I raved about in one of my earlier posts: Insalata Russa. My mother-in-law made Seledka pod Shuboy when I visited last year, and I absolutely loved it. I'm sure you will too.

Cost-wise, this recipe is a bargain at £1.50 per serving.

Serves 4


275g jar of herrings in sweet dill marinade with chopped onion, finely chopped
4 medium-sized floury potatoes, peeled, boiled and cut into 1cm dice
250g tin of carrots, finely chopped
4 large beetroot, peeled, boiled and finely chopped
4 eggs, boiled and finely chopped
250g mayonnaise
Crusty bread, to serve

In a serving dish, mix together the herrings with onion, potato, carrots and beetroot until everything is well amalgamated. Top the mixture with the egg, then a thick layer of mayonnaise. Refrigerate to allow the flavours to combine, and the mayonnaise to re-set. Serve in thick slices.

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