Elena Chekalova, a long-time friend of Afisha-Edu, has dedicated her new book to two young Masha’s – her daughter and her son’s wife. And with them – to all the girls and young women entering adulthood, in which the instinct to nest and arrange their own culinary landscape awakens.
If Chekalova’s two previous books could be called modern Tasty and Healthy Food Books, then First Year Married is certainly a twenty-first-century Gift to Young Hostesses. It is not just a collection of recipes proven in the Parfenov-Chekalov family. This is a practical guide to everything that makes up a family’s gastronomic history. How to choose poultry, fish, meat and vegetables. Where, what and how to store. What you can’t do without in the kitchen cupboard and what you should keep in the fridge (here’s a table with how long you can keep your food in it). Which appliances are necessary and which are optional. How to dice onions, chop garlic, peel tomatoes and cut chicken. How to deep-fry, add whipped egg whites to the dough, knead the dough by hand. How to make fish, vegetable, chicken and beef stock. And so on and so on – with motherly meticulousness, thoroughness, meticulousness: a book for a lifetime, which can then be passed down. And all this is packed with practical advice from the co-author, psychologist Yulia Rubleva (who also has a grown daughter, Masha), on how to build relationships within a young family and its immediate environment.
Here are five recipes from different sections of the book, demonstrating all its versatility.
Here is almost the oldest and most legendary dish. The biblical Esau famously sold his younger brother Jacob his birthright, that is, the right to inherit most of his father’s property, for lentil stew. There is a theory that the very first lentil soup was vegetarian and that Esau was seduced by the aroma of the spices. According to other sources, the soup was spicy, but it was a meat soup with lamb’s broth. There are many recipes in general – I offer you my favourite: in lamb’s broth, with aromatic spices, made from two types of lentils. The red ones give you a delicate creamy base and the green ones have an interesting texture. Boil the broth long: with root vegetables, bay, pepper and cardamom – the more fragrant the base, the richer the stew will be. Then be sure to strain and cool to remove all the fat so that your hearty stew is also light.
Chicken breasts in puttanesca sauce
The quickest way to cook chicken breasts is in pieces. Here too, it’s all about the sauce. My favourite for this occasion is puttanesca. The sauce is said to have been invented in the mid-20th century by one Sandro Petti, co-owner of a well-known Ischia nightclub. The story goes that one night a group of hungry guests showed up at his place. The owner said that there was almost nothing left except some nonsense. The word puttanata in Italian meant something completely useless. Petty had nothing but tomatoes, olives, capers and herbs, so he used them to make spaghetti sauce, which is always on hand in every Italian home. It was spicy and fragrant. But in Italian there is also the word puttana – whore . Now in Italy they think puttanesca means slut-style – in the sense that you want to sin with it, that is, eat a lot of it .
Quick cabbage pie
You could really use this recipe. It’s from my mother’s treasured notebook. In Soviet times, women had a tougher time in the kitchen than we do, they didn’t have modern kitchen appliances, but there were always pies on the table, and great ones at that. Many of those recipes are still around today. My mum always worked terribly hard, and her work was very hard: she compiled and edited English-Russian and Russian-English dictionaries. Can you imagine: finding examples and checking tens of thousands of words and phrases! Mum was always busy, but she used to make instant pies, where you don’t even have to roll out the dough. They are liquid and, once baked, very delicate. In Soviet times, such pies in a skillet were called poured-in-place pies. They are great with any filling: stew, cottage cheese, cheese, potatoes, onions – anything you like, even canned fish.
Lamb leg with 40 cloves of garlic
This dish is festive, picturesque and flavourful – a real firework for any time of year. In winter I make it with cloves of mature garlic, and in spring, for Easter, I add delicate arrows of green. There aren’t many young vegetables in early spring and I always try to use every new product that comes on the market. The lamb leg in this recipe is impossible to overcook – it takes a long time to cook at a very low temperature. You won’t need to stand at the cooker – the oven will do everything for you. The wine combines with the herbs and garlic and in a few hours of simmering it becomes a fragrant sauce.
Quick pita apple strudel
Strudel is my childhood favourite pie. Crispy pastry and a filling of warm apples, cinnamon, sultanas and nuts. The German word strudel means swirl, funnel, in other words roll. In my family it was rarely made, but by all the rules – from drawn dough, which my mother had to work hard with. Then we got the finest phyllo dough in the shops, with which strudel can be made much faster. But if you are expecting guests and you don’t have much time, make a delicious strudel with apples, nuts, nuts and sultanas out of thin, store-bought pita bread. I suggest you make 2-3 strudels at a time – as many as you can fit on your baking tray. They keep well in the fridge and can be warmed up the next day with butter in a pan under a lid and served with vanilla ice cream.