Last time, when I did my post on South Sudan, I said that I would be making food from one of he UN founder nations (given that South Sudan is the most recent members). Thanks to an interesting rule about the passing on of UN membership to successor states, Belarus is considered a founding member… despite being a member of the USSR at the time. This is because, upon the creation of the UN, the USSR complained about the West dominating the General Assembly. Therefore, two of the USSR constituant republics were given membership alongside the larger Soviet Union: the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. Honestly, I live for historical quirks like this.
There is a very clear Belorussian national dish, which made this post so easy to research, but what of the rest of their cuisine? Well, since it is sandwiched between Poland, Russia and Lithuania, these are the influences that make up their food. This means a very cuisine based on meat, potatoes (and other local vegetables like cabbage) and rye. Given their recent history under the Soviet Union and their continuing close ties to Russia, the concept of a national cuisine separate from their neighbour is still a fairly new one that will continue to develop as more and more people grow up in an independent Belarus.
There’s a saying that says ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade’. After today’s meal I think I want to use a bastardised version of this: when life gives you potatoes, make draniki (Belorussian potato pancakes). It’s one of those recipes that shows how you can make something delicious from a basic set of ingredients and by using a simple methodology (although I’ll be damned if I ever grate an onion by hand, in the mini-chopper it goes).
All the grating aside, making these draniki (following the recipe from Ingredient Matcher) awoke so many olfactory memories and actually made the whole process somewhat enjoyable. You see, when you go to a Christmas market in Central or Eastern Europe, you cannot escape from the delicious smell of freshly fried potato pancakes.
Depending on the country, the available toppings for these pancakes can vary greatly. In Germany and Austria, I have seen them being served with applesauce… which I have never quite understood. For these, I followed some pictures I saw online for a bunch of draniki recipes and accompanied them with some smetana and some smoked fish (although, I know fish isn’t traditionally found in most areas of Belorussian cuisine).
Truth be told, despite being on a weight-loss kick right now, I made four portions worth between myself and the husband and felt all the better for it. Not only did these smell the part, but they also tasted the part. I made them thinner than the ones I’ve had in Germany, which made them all the better to experience all the foods on the plate working together in harmony.
Next time, I will be cooking something from the Americas. As much as I would love to delve back into the world South American cooking by making something Peruvian or Argentine, I am still really behind on my Caribbean countries so it’ll be a sequel to the delicious meal from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.