Russian GP - Kartofelnaya Zapekanka & Vatrushka

Russian dinner party anyone? I think beyond making entrees and desserts for friends, we should really think about stepping up our game and introducing costumes and decorations. I'll keep you posted!  


In case you missed the race, here is a news headline to sum it up "FIA reports just one overtaking pass during F1 Russian Grand Prix at Sochi". Yeah, it was a hoot.

The Guardian, however, dug a little deeper to at least consider some takeaways; including the fact that Bottas' win makes it at least a three-way fight at the top, much to Hamilton's chagrin. So much for #2 driver, way to go Bottas!

Even if the race was boring, at least the food was good. We made Kartofelnaya Zapekanka (Beef and Potato Casserole) and Vatrushka (Cheese Pastries). Enjoy!


"Kortofelnaya Zapekanka" - Beef & Potato Сasserole

from Cooking Melangery Russian Mondays

2 lb. russet or gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
salt and pepper, to taste
3/4 cup milk, heated
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp. butter

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, diced or shredded
1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp smoked paprika
salt and pepper, to taste
parmesan cheese

  1. Boil potatoes, with generous pinch of salt, until tender, approximately 15 minutes. Drain well.
  2. Mash the cooked potatoes in a large bowl. Add hot milk, egg, and butter, and beat with potato masher or with a handheld mixer on medium speed until smooth and fluffy. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the ground beef and bring to a simmer. Add the salt and spices. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cook through, about 15 minutes.
  4. Preheat broiler to high.
  5. Spread half the mashed potatoes evenly into a shallow baking dish. Spoon the beef mixture over mashed potatoes. Spread remaining half of mashed potatoes on top of the beef mixture to completely cover. (To make the alternating wave pattern pull a spoon across the potatoes making divots every 1/2 inch in alternating directions across the top.) Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and place under the broiler. Broil the potato pie until the potatoes are tinged with brown, about 3-5 minutes. Serve directly from the baking dish.

(Spot the toddler treats in the background? Turned out he preferred the potatoes!)

And for dessert...


Vatrushka (Ватрушка)

From Russian Recipe Book


1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/3 tsp. salt
2 tsp. unsalted butter


1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 lb. fresh unsalted cheese (cottage cheese or ricotta cheese) note: if using cottage cheese use a cheese cloth and strainer to squeeze out excess water before using in the recipe
1 egg
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt

  1. Prepare the dough:
  2. Heat the water to 110°F; add 1 Tbsp. of sugar, yeast, and ½ cup of sifted flour. Stir well, cover, and leave in a warm place for about an hour. The mix should develop a lot of bubbles and rise.
  3. Separate the egg white from the yolk. Save the yolk for later in the recipe.
  4. Heat milk to 110°F and add to the mix. Stir in the egg white, salt, and the remaining 1 Tbsp sugar. Gradually add sifted flour while stirring in one direction (a wooden spatula is preferred). When the dough becomes too dense to stir with the spatula, start kneading it by hand while adding small amounts of flour at a time. You will want to work the dough until you get a ball of dough with a smooth surface that has just enough flour to prevent it from sticking to your hands. Don’t use more flour than necessary!
  5. Cover the dough and let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in size. After that, press it down and let it rise one more time.
  6. Prepare the filling:
  7. Melt the butter without making it hot, and then mix all the ingredients. (Make sure to have strained the cottage cheese, if using.)
  8. Assemble vatrushkas:
  9. Dust your work surface with flour and roll out the dough into a sheet about ¼ inch thick. Cut out circles about 5 inches in diameter (you can use a tea saucer for that).
  10. Place 1/2 – 1 Tbsp. of filling in the middle of each circle (the exact amount depends on your vatrushka size and your personal preferences). Do not overfill! Carefully roll up the edges making neat, smooth, and even walls about 2/3 inches in height. Even make them a bit higher if you are afraid you are overfilling. Carefully smooth the surface of the filling making sure it is even and fills the entire space.
  11. Turn on the oven to preheat it to 425°F – 450°F.
  12. Lightly grease a baking sheet or pan. Arrange vatrushkas on the baking sheet some distance apart so they don’t stick together when they expand. Let your vatrushkas stand for about 15 minutes in a warm place.
  13. Meanwhile, melt the butter without making it hot, and mix it with the saved egg yolk. Stir very well and remove any clumps.
  14. After vatrushkas have been rising for 15 minutes, carefully brush a thin layer of the egg yolk/butter mix on the top and most importantly, the dough portion of each pie.
  15. Let vatrushkas stand for another 10 minutes and carefully puncture the top in 2-3 places with a fork without puncturing all the way to the bottom. Place them in the oven.
  16. Baking time will vary but it usually takes 15-25 minutes to obtain a smooth brown crust.
  17. After the baking is finished, immediately place vatrushkas on a wooden board or wire mesh for cooling.
  18. Let the vatrushkas cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. This is important for full flavor development.

"Carefully roll up the edges making neat, smooth, and even walls" I think not! Baking did wonders to smooth things out, but I would not say my pastry walls were anywhere near neat, smooth, or even :)

In the end this recipe was fine but a bit finicky, and I found that the dough did not rise like it should have. I think I should have gone with my initial instinct and made the recipe from Yelena at Cooking Melangery, so here is a link to that recipe! Melangery Vatrushka. Maybe I’ll try that one next year!

And because they are ridiculously amazing, Ferrari's Poster for Sochi: