Cookbook review: Salt & Time: Recipes from a Russian kitchen
Britain’s buoyant cookbook biz leaves few culinary stones unturned and this new title gives Russian-Siberian cuisine its moment at the table. The author, Alissa Timoshkina, comes from the city of Omsk in south-western Siberia – where the author Dostoyevsky was imprisoned for four years of his exile.
Siberia has never had a good press, but this highly personal collection of recipes aims to give the vast region its gastronomic due.
I would have liked to read a bit more about Siberia’s history and food culture, but as an interest-piquer for an under-explored culinary region, the book does well.
How good are the recipes?
There’s a lot of variety: there are dishes from her family, most notably Alissa’s great-grandmother Rosalia, a pastry chef who survived the Holocaust in Ukraine and was evacuated to Siberia. The book also has Siberian specialities such as pelmeni, stroganina (frozen raw fish – mmm), Russian classics (paskha cake, koulibiac) and dishes from Central Asia and the Koryo-saram community whose roots lie in the Korean peninsula.
I settled on two dishes. Honey tiramisu is the author’s simplified version of a Russian cake called medovic, “allegedly invented some 200 years ago for the wife of Tsar Alexander I”, which is sweetened with honey, the sponge fingers moistened with black tea instead of espresso. A cinch to make, it’s light and sophisticated – although I thought it lacked a boozy kick.
A favourite from the author’s childhood, ‘hedgehog’ (from a Soviet cartoon) meatballs in creamy mushroom sauce were bound to please, and they did – although the recipe didn’t specify whether to use cooked rice or raw (I used cooked). I served it with pickled cucumbers for an added punch that I suspect Siberians would approve of.
Do the pictures draw you in?
The book is visually stunning, from the austerely beautiful cover to creative photography by Lizzie Mayson and the modish styling and design (admirers of Kinfolk magazine take note).
Who’s the book suitable for?
It’s one for people who like to discover new flavours and to experiment in the kitchen. Most recipes are fairly simple and only a few require specialist ingredients (I have my eye on a cake that’s made from a flour ground from a kind of wild cherry).