Everybody loves carb-on-carb, and this old Soviet staple is the ultimate comfort food. Hugely popular behind the Iron Curtain but not that common outside of the Urals, shangis are a savoury bun, similar to a pizza, that is often topped with buttery mashed potato. While mash is the most common topping, shangis can also be loaded up with cheese, kasha (a kind of porridge) or sour cream and brushed with melted butter. During Soviet times, there were cafes dedicated to this simple, delicious stodge called shanezhnye, which served up warm buns with a cup of hot tea.
Bird Cherry Cake
A type of cherry known in Russian as cheremuha, and native to northern Europe and northern Asia and common throughout the Urals. The fruit can be used for varniki stuffing, often sweetening cottage cheese, as well as for infusing liqueurs. To make bird cherry cake, the fruit is left to dry in the sun and then ground down – including the pit – to make a flour which has an aroma and taste of almond, chocolate and cherry – delish! This flour is added to a sponge cake batter, which is already laden with yoghurt to make it dense and heavy. Once baked, the sponge is layered with a sweet sour cream and can sometimes have a little crunch thanks to granules of the fruit’s stone that managed to escape – an added bonus to an already decadent treat. The bird cherry flour is also commonly added to pelmeni dough mix.
A layered pie similar to the Tatar wedding classic, Gubadiya, and technically a form of pirogi. Kurnik layers chicken, mushroom, rice, eggs and dried fruit and is also a dish brought out at weddings. Its round shape and the egg-chicken combination make it a potent symbol of eternity, wholeness and fertility. Outside of weddings, it is still a delicious dish and traditional recipes call for a layer of pancake both at the top and bottom of the pie – another hearty, warming dish.