A classic Ashkenazi treat with a twist
One of the most comforting dishes that speaks of family traditions and works fantastically well as a breakfast dish as well as a desert after dinner.
Before we delve into the recipe, let’s take a little linguistic detour. The Russian word ‘blini’ is plural, referring to crêpes, and what is commonly and technically incorrectly termed blinis in the UK would be called ‘oladushki’ in Russian. So here I use the word in its original Russian way, talking about large thin buttery crêpes.
Blini are an archetypal Slavic dish, dating back to the pagan days when they were prepared to symbolise the sun. The pagan tradition of making blini in spring was introduced into Russian Orthodox religion and sustained throughout the atheist Soviet regime. There are a million and one ways to eat blini: plain with lots of butter, topped with sour cream and caviar, or stuffed with mincemeat or sweet tvorog (cottage cheese). Stuffed blini, known in Ashkenazi cuisine as blintzes, are my favourite, so here I offer a variation creating a different stuffing to the traditional sweet tvorog.
For the blini:
200g plain flour
200ml full fat milk
50g unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
50g unsalted butter, for frying
A pinch of sugar
For the filling:
100g ricotta cheese
100g plain cottage cheese
150g semi-dried apricots
1 tbsp sugar
½ lemon, juiced
50g unsalted butter
1 tbsp sugar
4 ripe apricots or peaches (or a mixture of both)
Flaked almonds, toasted
To make the blini, sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl. Gradually pour in the milk while whisking away to make sure there are no lumps. Add the melted butter to the mix. Break an egg into the same bowl and whisk more till evenly integrated. Once a thick batter is formed gradually add 200ml hot water and continue whisking until the mixture reaches the right consistency which should be similar to pouring yoghurt without any lumps. Season with a pinch of salt and sugar.
Heat up a non-stick frying pan with some butter. Pour half a ladle of the mixture into the hot pan and swirl around till the batter covers the entire surface in an even, paper-thin layer. Cook on 1 side for approx 2 mins. You know it is ready when the edges start to curl. Flip the crepe (in the air if you wish or dare) and fry for another 40 secs or so. Pile into a nice stack with a slice of butter in between every other crêpe.
In a food processor, blend the ricotta, cottage cheese and dried apricots. Make sure to use the plump, juicy apricots because the really dry ones won’t mix well and will just make a lot of noise in your blender. Blend for 5 mins until you have a semi-smooth paste with a few chunky bits. Add sugar and lemon juice to taste.
To assemble the blintzes, place 2 tbsp of the cheese mixture on each crepe and roll it into a burrito shape. In a frying pan, heat the butter and sugar together. Cut the fresh apricots or peaches into 4 slices and fry in butter and sugar together with the blintzes.
To serve, place 2 blintzes per plate, add a few of the fried fruit slices and sprinkle with some toasted almond flakes to give a bit of an elegant touch to this classic Jewish granny’s dish.
Recipe: Alissa Timoshkina