Litvak cuisine of our farmstead

Bulba latkes (also known as Draniki)

The owner of the farmstead, Alexander Bely, is the famous historian of Belarusian, Lithuanian and Litvak cuisine, an author of several books on these topics, notably Belarusian Cookbook published in New York in 2008.

 

 

 

 

 

He is also an amateur cook, but mostly our village inn owes its gastronomic reputation to Ludmila, Alexander’s wife. They especially love dishes of the traditional Litvak cuisine which were common both for Jews and Belarusians / Lithuanians. Here are several of them:

Knishes

The knish is a filled pie, made popular around the world, but above all in New York, by Jewish immigrants from Belarus and Ukraine. But originally, this is a Slavonic traditional pastry.

In a tradition that dates back to Slavonic pagan times, knishes were baked for funeral repasts. Sometimes, however, they also symbolized new life; girls would bake “magic” knishes for those lads they wished to marry.

Knishes are usually round, with the filling either baked inside or placed between the raised sides of the top of the dough. Popular fillings include pot cheese, buckwheat kasha, onions sautéed with sauerkraut and mushrooms, and poppy seeds. Along with many other dough-based dishes, Belarus knishes were replicated in a potato version in the 19th century.

We bake mainly yeast dough knishes with various fillings – onion & egg, farmer cheese & dill, sauerkraut etc. Taste them exactly as they look just before Yiddish language and Litvak cuisine started to move from Belarus across the ocean. We offer also sweet versions like for example with blueberris etc.

Krupnik

a relative of the Scotch broth, is a thick soup of all peoples of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Poles, Belarusians, Lithuanians, Litvaks etc.) made from vegetable or meat broth, containing potatoes and barley groats. Yehezkel Kotik and other well-known Jewish memoirists from Belarus of XIX-XX centuries frequently recall it as the staple food, especially in poor families, for centuries. An average student of volozhin yeshiva most probable ate it 5 times a week. We usually cook it with beef broth and boletus mushrooms, but other versions are possible.

 

But don’t get confused! “Krupnik” is also the name given to the local famous hard liquor, which is made from rye spirit, honey and spices. Could there be a hidden hint here that the alcoholic krupnik is as necessary for one’s well-being as the thick filling soup of the same name?

Bulba latkes  aka draniki

Belarusian cuisine also owes much to Jewish cooking, since for centuries Jews had a virtual monopoly on inn-keeping in the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In the 19th century, Jewish innkeepers introduced potato dishes of German origin, such as babka (the kugel of the Jewish cuisine). This was a two-way gastronomic street, for the famous bulba latkes  bear a Belarusian name ( meaning “potato fritters’ in Belarusian). We can fry plain draniki, usually eaten with sour cream, or stuffed e.g. with mushrooms or minced chicken. However Belarusian themselves call them draniki, and this is the most famous of all national dishes of Belarus.

Zrazy with Tzimmes

Tzimmes is a carrot-based vegetable stew, sometimes served as an accompaniment to meat and sometimes as a sweet dessert. Since in Jewish folklore sliced carrot pieces are associated with gold coins, tzimmes is a symbol of prosperity. Belarusians were introduced to the dish by Jewish inn-keepers. The word is used in Belarusian language, in the idiomatic expression “the very tzimmes,” meaning “the very essence” of something.

We cook oblong Zrazy from minced chicken, filled with Tzimmes – our combination of 2 famous recipes of the local cuisine. Is is also possible to taste “twisted Zrazy” – slices of chopped beef, rolled with various fillings – we prefer prunes and apricots, in the way that both Polish & Lithuanian gentry and Jewish rich liked them.

Esik fleisch

or sweet and sour meat, is a traditional Ashkenazi Jewish dish made of beef, braised in sour-sweet sauce with lavish addition of onions, spices and, sometimes, damson plums, gingerbread crumbs etc. It also entered the classical canon of the Soviet Belarusian cuisine, giving it a somewhat Oriental smack, although after the collapse of the USSR you will hardly meet it in a restaurant. But we love this dish which was highly esteemed by our Jewish ancestors living in Belarusian shtetls. Most of them could afford it only for the major feasts.

We also gladly offer other Litvak dishes, same as traditional Belarusian, Polish and Tartar dishes – don’t hesitate to ask for details.

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