Russian and Ukrainian Cooking Essentials
There are a few foods that just scream Ukraine or Russia. Most of them are easily available in the UK, though you may have to go to a specialist health food shop to get things like unrefined sunflower oil.
Unrefined sunflower oil - you simply cannot make things taste authentic without this ingredient. The smell is everything! Alas, you can only get this in real foody places like Whole Foods or Fresh and Wild, or any other health food shop. Clearspring makes a very decent one. Easily available online.
Dill - we use lots of dill. And I mean lots. Once my husband ordered a steak in a Kiev restaurant and it arrived on a massive bed of dill. Pretty much no savoury dish is served without it.
Smetana (sour cream) - the closest I ever got to an authentic smetana is half fat creme freche. Sour cream would do too. You can buy real smetana in East European food shops.
Cucumbers in brine - we eat lots of pickled and salted stuff. And while gherkins and cucumbers pickled in vinegar can be used in many recipes, your best bet is to use proper cucumbers in brine. Polish firm Krakus makes very decent ones. In London you can get them in big Sainsbury’s (world food section), ASDA (online) or Tesco’s. Polish or Russian shops sell them too.
Sauerkraut - again, avoid the stuff pickled with vinegar. Use salted only. If I am too lazy to make my own (and that’s easier than you think), I use Krakus’ ready made one. See Cucumbers in brine for where to get it.
If you are feeling experimental, I will be giving you a recipe for how to make it under your own kitchen table.
Kefir - a sour milk drink. Savoury, not unlike a salty lassi. You can find it in Russian or Polish shops. really good for you. People back home swear by it and have a glass daily before going to bed. Tvorog (Twarog in Polish) - East European Cottage Cheese It's different to the Western one you get. It's a fresh cheese made from cow's milk and is an absolute favourite in my part of the world. Here is a great description of Polish twarog, which is equivalent to the Russian one. I will teach you how to make it at home yourselves.