When you think of Russian food, you may picture steaming bowls of fatty meat stew to ward off the winter cold. Many Russians themselves profess amazement at the concept of a vegetarian meal. At odds with perceptions at home and abroad, authentic, traditional meatless dishes actually abound in Russian cuisine, if you care to look for them. They are economical and also very widespread during Lent. This beetroot cutlet recipe is a fine example, replacing the meat content of a main meal.
- Four beetroots
- 4tblsp semolina
- Small bunch of spring onions
- 2 cloves garlic
- Large handful fresh mixed herbs, e.g. parsley dill and chives
- Pinch ground coriander seed
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 egg, beaten (optional)
- 200g brown breadcrumbs (dark rye works well, but don’t use pumpernickel)
- Sunflower oil for frying
- Wash the beets, dry them and puncture the skins carefully with a fork. Place in the oven at gas mark 5 and bake until cooked through (about an hour). Alternatively, put them in a large pan of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 40 minutes. In this case don’t pierce the skins.
- Once the beets are cooled, peel them and put them through a meat grinder, or into a blender, until they are well minced. Mix the semolina in an leave it to soak up the moisture from the beets.
- Crush the garlic, top, tail and finely chop the spring onions. Gently fry for a couple of minutes in a little oil, adding the garlic about 30 seconds before adding most of the spring onions (be very careful not to let the garlic catch and burn, or it will ruin your cutlets). Add this to the beets, along with most of the finely chopped herbs, coriander and seasoning. Mix thoroughly.
- Now form the mixture into round patties, a smaller and thicker than a hamburger, patting it in well to make it self-contained. Dip each patty in the egg, and then roll it in the plate of breadcrumbs to get a good covering
- For those who don’t wish to use egg; this stage isn’t actually necessary, it just makes it a bit easier to get the crumbs to stick to the cutlets. If you’re worried abut this, use a teaspoon of potato starch dissolved in water in place of the egg.
- Heat the sunflower oil in a good frying pan, until a crumb dropped in sizzles but doesn’t burn. Cook the cutlets for 4-5 minutes on each side, until a sweet dark crust has formed, and you’re happy that they’re cooked through. Sprinkle over the remaining herbs and onion to serve with maybe a dollop of sour cream or some horseradish relish (khren). They work well with cabbage salad, potatoes or whatever you fancy.
For added interest, you can place a slice of cheese in the centre of each patty as you form them. This melts down to a beautiful filling.