Russian cuisine excels at taking simple, natural ingredients and putting them together in interesting ways. This recipe is simple, tasty and attractive enough to serve for guests in any situation. It makes a novel alternative to roast potatoes with a joint of meat, or can be the main feature of a weekday supper.
- 12 medium-sized potatoes
- 200g fresh mushrooms (the best flavour comes from wild, but any will be fine)
- 50g dried porcini mushrooms (failing this, increase the fresh mushrooms and use a stock cube)
- 1 medium white onion
- 1 slice bread (dark rye is preferable)
- Fresh cranberries, a small handful / 2 tblsp cranberry sauce
- 1 tblsp honey (omit if using cranberry sauce)
- 4tblsp Smetana (sour cream)
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 1tblsp sunflower oil
- Approx. 25g butter
- Dill, dried or fresh
- Salt and pepper to taste
- First, rinse the dried mushrooms quickly and soak them in 200ml warm water. Leave this to sit for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, clean and dice the fresh mushrooms, finely chop the onion and mince the garlic. In a frying pan on a medium heat, sweat the onions in the sunflower oil until soft, then add the garlic and fresh mushrooms and continue to cook. Drain the dried mushrooms, taking care to keep the soak water – you will need it later. Inspect the mushrooms and rinse for any remaining dirt, then chop them up and add them to the pan. These will give your stuffing real depth of flavour.
- 5 minutes later, add the cranberries and honey. Squish some of the berries so they release their juice. Now season with salt and pepper (by the way, natural soy sauce goes really well in this in place of salt), add some of the dill and leave to cook a few minutes more, so the flavours can mix together.
- Take the pan off the heat, grate in the slice of bread and add the smetana. You need to mix this in gradually if the mixture is hot, or it will curdle. The filling is made! You can leave it to cool while you prepare the potatoes.
- Pre-heat the oven to around 200.
- Wash and peel the potatoes, trying to keep them nice and rounded as you do so. Decide which way up you want your potato to stand. Cut off a cap at the top end. At the other end, cut off enough to make a flat base so the potato will stand up. Now use a sharp knife to hollow out the centre of the potato, leaving about ½ cm thickness as a shell. How is this done? The easiest way is to cut out a cone shape first, and then gradually make it deeper and wider at the bottom. Take care not to cut straight through the base. If you do end up with a hole, just use some of the spare potato to cover it up from the inside. Don’t forget to hollow out the cap as well
- Spoon the stuffing in, pressing it down well, and put the hats on firmly. Grease a roasting tin or oven-proof dish, and stand the potatoes in it, placing a knob of butter on top of each one. Pour in the mushroom water from earlier, plus water or stock, so there are a couple of centimetres of liquid in the tin. Put them in the oven for 1 – 1.5 hours, periodically toping up the liquid, until the potatoes are done (you can test with a fork) Garnish with dill, and serve!