Whether you’re heading to Russia to see England play, or are just planning on spending the summer at home in front of the telly, the World Cup is an opportune time to try some Russian delicacies. And we’re not just talking about the vodka.
Here are some Russian foods to sink your teeth into…
1. Pelmeni dumplings
Considered similar to Italian ravioli and soft Chinese dumplings, pelmeni are traditionally filled with a combination of beef, lamb and pork – no veggies. Generally Russians buy them, rather than hand-make them, and keep them in the freezer for the kind of times us Brits would reach for the fish fingers. Also, you’ve got to dunk them in something; mayo, horseradish, mustard and sour cream are all considered acceptable, but not ketchup!
2. Kompot juice
This is a sweet juice made by boiling up fresh fruit, particularly strawberries, apricots and cherries, with water and sugar. The juice is strained off and served hot or cold (season dependent) and the fruit eaten separately (like we eat our compote).
A staple of Eastern European cuisine, it’s basically a sour beetroot soup, topped up with sour cream and sprinkled with fronds of dill. A hunk of bread on the side doesn’t go amiss either. Just try not to spill it all down yourself when yelling at Harry Kane to score – it’s ruby red and will stain your England shirt.
4. Solyanka soup
Another sour soup (Russians love their soups) solyanka tends to feature beef two ways – cured and fresh – as well as smoked meats like ham and boiled Russian sausages. There are fish and mushroom versions too, but they all involve salted cucumbers for the soup’s distinctive briny flavour, and are often topped with chopped olives.
5. Pryaniki gingerbread
Who says gingerbread is just for Christmas!? These Russian honey spice cookies/buns are dense, moreish and sometimes doused in icing. All you need is a cuppa, and for Marcus Rashford’s knee to be OK.
6. Oladyi pancakes
A little like blinis, but thicker and denser, these pancakes are traditionally made with buttermilk and are ideally served with salmon roe and caviar (another Russian delicacy) or sour cream and some of that leftover fruit from your kompot. Perfect comfort food, expect to eat a shed-load of them if we don’t make it out of the group stage.