It was unusually easy to pick out recipes for Belarus! Everything I read talked about potatoes, with draniki being the potato dish of choice. They were described as a potato-based pancake, which sounded pretty good. It seems that machanka is the most well-known dish to serve with draniki. It features bites of pork cooked in a sour cream based sauce, and to me it looked similar to stroganoff. Since I read about many meals starting with a soup, we picked that for our third dish. Borscht seems to be a common choice, but we went with the cold version of it that is usually served in summer–Khaladnik.
This was one of our first cooking experiences with beets… we attempted to grow them in our garden a couple years ago and ended up with a handful of pathetic looking beets that we made into chips. So we were pretty amazed by the vivid color this one beet produced when boiled in water.
We couldn’t find sorrel, so I followed the internet’s advice to substitute it with spinach and lemon zest. We weren’t really sure how to interpret the instructions to boil the sorrel (boil usually implies boil in water, but the descriptions of sorrel online suggested it might wilt into a sauce without water?) We ended up boiling the spinach in water, which I think was a mistake… there was a LOT of water left after the spinach was soft/wilted/slightly dissolving, so we kept it on the stove for 30 minutes or so to boil off the rest of the water.
We did all of these steps early in the afternoon since they needed to cool, and we went on a walk to enjoy the nice weather! No green growth yet, but clear blue skies!
When we got back, we tackled the rest of the khaladnik recipe. We put the food processor to good use shredding the beet and cucumbers then mixed all of the ingredients together. I try to follow recipes as closely as possible during this project, but in this case I did omit the egg. I don’t like taking chances with salmonella…
This recipe was pretty straightforward. Grate/shred the potatoes and onion (thank you food processor!). I started using the food processor blade that is specifically for grating, but since the recipe suggested that the potatoes should be somewhat liquidy, I pulsed them with the regular food processor blade for a little while to get some smaller/mushier pieces. This was mixed with the egg, salt, and pepper.
Then I dropped tablespoon-fills into a hot pan with the sunflower oil. I found that I had to spread out the batter drops with the back of the spoon to get more of a pancake shape. This process went pretty well at first, but I ran into my usual problem of smoking out the kitchen when I fry things. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong, but every time we fry foods in oil we end up with massive amounts of smoke filling the house…
I put these in the oven on a warming setting to keep them hot while we finished the rest of the meal.
We first cut the pork into bite sized pieces and browned it. Then it was simmered in beef stock for 20 minutes or so. This made it nice and tender!
For the sauce, we started with a roux–the recipe said to sauté the flour, and since it never mentions when to use the butter, we assumed this is what was supposed to happen. My experience has been that a lot of sauces started with a butter/flour roux. The stock and spices (the recipe didn’t specify type of spice, but other descriptions and recipes used bay leaves, so that is what we went with) were added to this, and in the mean time the chopped onions were fried in a different pan. Eventually it all got mixed together with the sour cream in an oven-safe pan.
It still seemed pretty liquidy after baking, so we put it back in a pan on the stove for 10 minutes or so, until it got a bit thicker.
This turned out to be another delicious meal!
The soup was very… unique. I can’t think of anything I have ever eaten with a similar flavor… the cucumber and green onion gave it a very light, fresh, and summery flavor. The beets, on other hand, kept it grounded with a very earthy flavor. It’s not a soup that I will find myself craving very often, but I’m definitely glad we tried it.
The draniki and machanka was wonderful. It is amazing how such a short and simple ingredient list can produce so much flavor. The draniki was very good by itself but even better with some of the machanka sauce. The pork was perfectly tender, and the machanka sauce had a great flavor… who knew you could get so much flavor out of some sour cream, beef stock, and bay leaves! It wasn’t the healthiest meal we have made, but I think it would be the perfect meal for a cold, winter night.
We get to stay and Europe and hop over a few states to Belgium next time!