It is week three of The Great Fast (Great Lent), and this Sunday marks the mid-point of the most significant and sacred time in Eastern Orthodoxy. This week is particularly important in the six week journey as it commemorates the Cross and Crucifixion of Christ, bringing the the physical and spiritual into balance.
The Great Lent is a time for physical and spiritual cleansing. During the forty days believers experience the Divine through a deeper connection with oneself and the world around. Through fasting, prayer and repentance, we are able to experience a deeper closeness to God.
Physically, fasting means depriving ourselves of certain foods, and limiting the general intake of food. Cutting out meat and other animal products allows our bodies to detox and experience a lighter state of being.
Spiritually, the deep introspection and mediation opens the door for an individual to receive the Holy Mysteries of the Divine.
So what can we eat during the Great Lent?
Traditional Russian cuisine eaten during Lent include pohlebka (pokh-leb-ka) – a type of veggie soup, soured or pickled veggies – like sauerkraut and pickled tomatoes, and various fish dishes.
Below are a few simple to make, traditional Russian recipes.
Traditional Pohlebka with Buckwheat
2 large potatoes
2 large carrot
1 medium onion
2 Tbps garlic
1/2 cup of buckwheat (dry)
1 c. parsley or dill (fresh or frozen)
1. Cut the potatoes and carrots into medium-sized cubes and boil wit onion and garlic. When veggies are fully cooked, add buckwheat and bring to complete boil.
2. Add salt and pepper to taste and let stand for 15 minutes for flavors to fully absorb.
3. Serve with a pinch of finely chopped dill or parsley.
2 large fresh beets
1-2 large carrots
3 large potatoes
3-4 dill pickles
1 can sauerkraut
1 large onion (can substitute green onions)
2-3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
Dash of salt and pepper
Optional: 1 can green peas
1. Boil the beets, carrots and potatoes in a large pot. The veggies should be slightly al-dente. You can test tenderness by pocking with a knife. Usually the carrots and potatoes will need to be removed first, giving the beets an extra few minutes to cook through. Let cool.
2. Chop the cooled veggies into small pieces and place in a large bowl. Finely chop the pickles and onion, and add to the veggies mix. Drain and add sauerkraut to the bowl and mix well.
3. Add green peas if desired and season with vegetable oil, salt and pepper to taste. Decorate with a few twigs of parsley or chopped green onion.
Salmon Kulebyaka (Fish Pie)
1 sm finely diced onion
1 cup of rice or buckwheat (dry)
1 Tbsp fresh dill (finely chopped)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 lb puff pastry (not frozen)
1 lb salmon fillets (skinned)
3 medium hardboiled eggs (finely diced)
1 raw egg (whipped)
Salt and black pepper
Flour for the rolling pin and surface
Preheat the oven to 350F
1. Pre-cook salmon and buckwheat or rice in separate dishes. You can sauté the salmon or bake in the oven. Boil the rice or buckwheat until al-dente.
2. Melt butter in a saucepan and sauté onions for about 10min. Onions should be opaque, tender and slightly golden brown. Stir in the pre-cooked rice or buckwheat, adding chopped fresh dill, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste,
3. On a lightly floured surface roll out the thawed puff pastry, to make a 12 in square. Excess flour will toughen the pastry as will excess working of the dough, so keep it light.
4. Spread the rice or buckwheat mix over the pastry, leaving about a 1/2 inch border. Arrange the pre-cooked salmon pieces on top of the rice, scatter the chopped egg over the salmon. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. You can also use crushed red pepper flakes for extra spice.
5. Brush pastry edges with whipped egg. Fold the pastry to form a rectangle and press edges together to seal contents.
6. Place pastry onto baking tray and glaze the top with beaten egg. Pierce the pastry on top to allow steam to escape while baking.
7. Bake in the middle of oven shelf for approx 40min. Cover with foil after 30min to prevent the top from burning. Leave on baking tray to cool and serve.
This recipe makes about four servings.
Do you have a favorite Lenten recipe? Please share with us in the comments!