Mar 11, 2008

Maslenitsa and Russian Blini

Last to last weekend we were invited to take part in the celebrations of one of the most celebrated Russian holidays,Maslenitsa.It is a week long festival and is based on the pagan tradition of bidding farewell to the cold and gloomy winter and welcoming the fresh and sunny spring.Russians believe that spring is a season of celebrations and festivities where the old is washed away.The first day is related to greetings,the second to singing and dancing, the third is sweet tooth's day, the fourth is the lavish day,the fifth day is when the son in-laws invite their mother in-laws for a treat,the sixth day sees the daughter in-laws inviting her in laws for a party and finally the last day is the day of forgiveness.....a day where people ask for forgiveness and forgive each other.The last day a straw doll dressed up in colourful scarves and skirts is burnt symbolizing the winter .This is an ancient tradition,dating back to before the beginning of russian orthodox church.
During these seven days the russians eat blini,a russian pancake or thin crepes which is enjoyed with honey,cream,jam or caviar.Those delightful round, warm, golden blinis represent the sun,the symbol of spring."Maslo" in russian means butter....that's why the name Maslenitsa.This festival comes just before the Lent starts which involves 40 days of intense fasting by the russian orthodox church believers.I think the weeklong spree of gorging blinis cooked with lots of butter must be giving them the strength to go on a such religious fast:)
Our visit to the Russian cultural and crafts centre started with our welcoming by beautiful russian girls and goodlooking tall men attired in colourful russian traditional clothes singing and dancing followed by our stuffing ourselves till our eyeballs with thin,baked blinies layered with cheese, mushrooms and chicken.Though outside I could not find a trace of the much awaited spring and neither taking part in the Lent preparation but still enjoyed the afternoon gorging on blinies smothered with cream.The afternoon of fun and merrymaking culminated with us buying some exquisite russian crystal and handicrafts.Just getting to know a little about an alien tradition and culture gave immense satisfaction which resonated deep inside me.

blini served with caviar and smoked salmon

chicken and mushroom layered blini

tea served in traditional lacquered cups and saucers

To make Blini you need:
1 cup flour
3 cups milk
2 eggs
salt and sugar to taste
2tbsp butter or veg oil
1/2 tsp soda
1.Mix eggs with the milk.
2.Add the flour ,sugar and salt and mix thoroughly so that no lumps remain.
3.Grease a hot pan (non stick) with oil or butter.Use a half onion stuck with a fork for greasing.
4.Pour and spread a thin layer of batter evenly.
5.Cook until light brown,about 2 mins on each side.

Blini can be served with butter, sour cream,honey,jam,black or red caviar,fillet of sturgeon or salmon.Most popular blinies are made from buckwheat flour.Good blini is very thin, the thinner the blini the perfect the skill is.

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