My re-constructed borsch

Borsch to Eastern Europe and Russia is like hummus to the Middle East. We all eat it, we all love it yet we simply can’t imagine that the other country does it better or is the ‘mother of borsch”. Some say it was invented by Russian Cossacks, other, more trustworthy sources, like Pokhlebkin, have confirmed that it is of a Ukrainian origin. I would say, let’s embrace all of these stories and celebrate our shared love of this simple beetroot soup. Here I am taking a bit of a creative license offering my own take on this iconic dish, which in fact, does embrace a few different cooking traditions, like the Ashkenazi and the Ukrainian ones, and offers a few alterations. Lovers of traditional borsch recipes, look away, this one is pretty iconoclastic!

 

 

Makes 4

1 large yellow onion

1 medium red onion

1 carrot

6 small-medium beetroots (raw)

2 red bell pepper

1 tbsp of tomato paste

1 medium red cabbage (fermented)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tin of red kidney beans

a bunch of dill

a bunch of parsley

salt and pepper to taste

black pepper corns

coriander seeds

bay leaf

unrefined sunflower oil

sour cream

Method

Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a medium pot. Finely dice the yellow onion and grate the carrot. Fry in oil until slightly golden (5 minutes). Meanwhile, grate 4 beetroots and thinly slice 1 red pepper (removing the seeds). Add the beetroot and pepper to the pot together with the tomato paste. Season with salt to taste. Fry for another 5 minutes.

Top with 1 litre of water and add a bayleaf as well as some black pepper corns and some coriander seeds. Bring to boil.

Lower the heat and add 1/2 of the fermented red cabbage with the brine. Bring to boil again.

Chop the herbs and grate the garlic. Stir through the soup and leave to simmer for another 5 minutes.

Take off the heat and let it sit for 30 minutes to let the flavours develop more (this soup, like any other Eastern European classics involving fermented vegetables taste even better the next day).

While the soup is resting prepare the vegetables that will go into the final version of the dish.

Beetroots:

Peel and chop in wedges. Dress with oil, salt and a dash of pomegranate molasses.

Kidney beans: if using tinned, drain and rinse. Dress with oil, salt, pepper and smoked paprika.

Red onions: peel and chop in wedges. Dress with oil, salt and a dash of brown sugar.

Red pepper: deseed and chop in thin strips. Dress with oil and salt.

Arrange in small baking trays or oven friendly dishes and roast until cooked and crisp.

To serve:

Drain the borsch, you will be only using the rich and tangy broth, while the vegetables can be discarded, as they have lost their crunch and given all the flavour to the broth.

In soup bowls add a handful of red cabbage kraut and divide equally all the roasted vegetables and beans, top with the hot broth and add a dollop of sour cream and a generous sprinkle of fresh dill. The intensity of the flavours and textures of this dish is beyond words!

An Irishman walks into a bar …

An Irishman reviving authentic Russian vodka-making techniques combined with elegant branding and an eco-concious mission – what’s there not to like? So when Patrick Ryan got in touch with me to chat about his new product –  Ishka – and to see how we can collaborate, I jumped on the opportunity straight away. Sadly cultural stereotypes are hard to shake off and the vodka-drinking culture is laced with so many cliches, propagated both in and outside Russia, that this business definitely needs a fresh, new, dynamic voice, which Mr Ryan undoubtedly has. Intrigued as to why an Irish man (who speaks perfect Russian, by the way), would like to take on a mission of making vodka relevant, elegant and eco-friendly, I couldn’t resist asking Patrick to do a little interview for KinoVino blog. 

 

Why vodka?
I spent several years working in the Irish whiskey business, where I developed an understanding of how spirits are made and marketed. I then moved to Moscow and worked in the Irish Embassy (trade department). I spent a lot of time sampling with the locals! On top of that, Russians kept coming to me trying to sell good quality vodka that was really badly branded. They have this amazing heritage, but they don’t always market it that well. It was all bears, AK47’s and ‘ultra premium’ written all over the packaging. I understood why there were so few popular Russian vodka brands – it’s basically an image problem. The market is controlled by American, Swedish and French brands. It’s pretty strange given the drink’s Russian roots. I’m really passionate about Russian culture – there is so much there that people don’t know about, in terms of food, art, literature  and history. I spent a lot of time showing friends and family how to drink vodka the Russian way, and they all loved it. I decided I could do a better job marketing it than a lot of the existing brands, so I set about making one. 

What’s the origin of the name?
The name is a nod to the deeply shared origins of distillation in Europe. In Irish Gaelic, uisce (pronounced ishka) means water. Uisce beatha, water of life, is the old Irish word for whiskey. The word vodka also comes from the Slavic root for water. They used to call vodka zhiznennaya voda – water of life. It felt like a great name for Russian vodka made by an Irishman. I’m a bit of a language nerd, in case you didn’t guess. 
 
What makes Ishka different?
Water is at the core of everything we do. We use 100% pure H2O and bottle at 43% ABV. This really allows the quality and flavour of our spirit to shine through. The spirit is made from Russian winter wheat. This is a bit pricier than things like rye or potato, but you get a much lighter finish and a better mouth-feel. The Russian government grades all spirits produced in the country by purity, and ours is Alpha – the top rank. We are also lucky to work with a partner that has over 100 years of experience making vodka – these guys really know what they are doing. Aside that, we reinvest 10% of our profits in innovative projects that help to protect and repair our oceans. My main focuses at the moment are plastic collection and aquaculture, particularly seaweed farming.
How did you come up with the idea?
I spent about a year researching and contacting distillers. I found a producer I was happy with and worked with them to perfect a recipe based on feedback from focus groups. I wanted something, clean, smooth and classically Russian, with the very best quality ingredients available. I knew what made a good base spirit from my whiskey days, so I had that as a starting point. Our partner’s head engineers are great, they really know their stuff and helped us create an absolutely mind-blowing vodka at a really honest price. In terms of the packaging, I just played around on Photoshop until I had something I was happy with. The artwork is by an Australian artist – he’s brilliant!
What are the Russians saying about an Irish man producing vodka?
To be honest, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Russians are very proud of their culture, and rightly so. Most of them like to see a ‘Westerner’ casting it in a positive light. I have a few friends in the Russian economic ministry from my days at the Irish embassy, and they’ve been really helpful. 
Russia needs to diversify its exports at the moment and reduce reliance on oil and gas. Vodka is something they do well, and having an Irishman selling it arguably makes the job easier – we’re pretty likable folks!

Do you drink vodka much?
I love vodka, but not exclusively – I also like beer, whiskey and gin. Anything well made. I go for quality over quantity – I think that’s a trend in alcohol generally at the moment, and it’s great. I would rather people buy a bottle of Ishka once every couple of months than five bottles of Smirnoff!

What’s your favourite way to drink vodka?
In Russia, you drink quality vodka ice-cold and straight, with some specific snacks on the side. It’s a really fun and sociable way to enjoy your vodka.
I like Borodinsky rye toast with salo (bacon fat) and mustard, or pickled mushrooms and gherkins.
Obviously in Europe, we have much more of a cocktail culture – I really like this sour twist with two very Russian ingredient (raspberries and cranberry juice).
I call it the Malina:
  • 50 ml of Ishka
  • 8 Raspberries, muddled
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Dash of cranberry juice and simple syrup
  • Egg white 
  • Shake, strain and serve with a dash of bitters.

What’s your favourite thing to toast to? Do you toast?
Of course! You don’t spend two years living in Russia without toasting! It’s something we have in British and Irish culture too, but it’s not so common. It depends on the occasion. Generally, I toast to friendship. Russians are deeply loyal people, and take their friendships very seriously. I respect that.

Who is this drink for?
Ishka is an authentic Russian vodka for people who don’t drink rubbish. It’s for people who want the highest-quality vodka available, but don’t buy into the marketing nonsense involved in charging £35 – £100 or more for a bottle. 

Is vodka essentially a Russian drink?
 Ah – that old debate! If we look at etymology, we can establish pretty clearly that it’s a Slavic drink. There are a lot of Slavic countries that make great vodka. Even so, it was actually Italians that first brought distilling apparatuses to the areas that correspond to modern-day Russia and Poland. Of course, anybody can make vodka, but the Russians have been perfecting it for a long time. They know what they’re doing. I’m open to trying drinks from anywhere, but generally I drink my whiskey Irish, my gin English and my vodka Russian.
 
If you like Patrick’s philosophy and ethos behind Ishka, why not get involved to support his campaign and treat yourself to this pure water of life. Click here to find out more. 

Romancing the plate

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I have never been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day (may be because I have never had anyone to celebrate it with until I was 27 and by that point the charm has really worn off). But now that this day gives me an excuse to post more about the food I love cooking – I am all up for it! So here’s a menu I have put together with some of the favourite classics as well as new creations. I am currently obsessed with rose – in my perfume, in my food and in my drink. So what can be a better day to share this obsession than today? This menu, of course, works as well for a warm and sunny Sunday lunch in Spring or for any other occasion where you crave a bit of an adventure and romance on your plate.

The Menu 

A rose and pomegranate gin and tonic 

Borani dip

Spicy borsch soup

A rosewater plum crumble with tarragon yoghurt 

Recipes 

A rose and pomegranate gin and tonic 

makes 1

50ml gin
150ml tonic
1/2 tsp rose water
1 tbsp pomegranate cordial
fresh pomegranate seeds
rose petals

Crush some pomegranate seeds in a glass. Mix the cordial, gin, tonic and rose water. Top with ice and decorate with more pomegranate seeds and rose petals. This has been my drink of choice for almost a year now and I can’t get enough! 

Borani (a beetroot, walnut and feta dip)
Serves 2

3-4 beetroots (ready cooked)
small  clove of garlic
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2  tsp of Greek yoghurt
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 pack of feta cheese
handful of walnuts
handful of fresh coriander leaves
good quality olive oil
Maldon salt to taste 

Grate the beetroot and then quickly pulse it in a food processor or with a hand blender. Crush the garlic clove with salt; add to the beetroot pure. Add lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and olive oil. Mix in the  yoghurt till will blended. Transfer into a good-looking dish or plate. Roughly break up the feta cheese, walnuts and coriander leaves and place on top. Serve with warm Turkish bread (check the Turkish Food Centre or the Ararat Bakery on Ridley Road market)

Spicy borsch soup
Serves 2

½ white onion, chopped
½ carrot, grated
4 medium beetroots (use roasted or boiled)
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp harrisa paste
1 tsp of red wine vinegar
1 pint of water
Maldon salt to taste

Roast the spices in a hot pan until they ooze the aroma, take off the heat immediately so they don’t burn. Heat the olive oil in a medium pot then add the onion and carrots and sweat for a few minutes. Add the roasted spices and salt, and cook for a few more minutes. While this is cooking, grate the beets and add them to the pot together with the tomato paste and harissa. Let them cook together for 3-5 minutes and then add the water. Bring to boil and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add the vinegar and salt to taste.

A rosewater plum crumble with tarragon yoghurt 

Serves 2

10 plums, stoned 
100 gr muscovado sugar (or any other dark, unrefined sugar)
50gr oats 
50gr almond flour 
2 tablespoons of coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence 
1 large bunch of fresh tarragon 
1/2 cup of white wine vinegar 
1/2 cup of warm water 
1 teaspoon of rosewater 
100gr of yogurt 
zest of 1/2 lemon

To pickle the plums: use two medium plums, stone and thinly slice them into ‘feathers’.
In a jar mix 1/2 cup of warm water and 1 tablespoon of sugar until dissolved, add the 1/2 cup of vinegar and a tablespoon of rose water. Submerge the plum slices in the brine and close the jar with a lid. Place in the fridge for 30 mins. 

To make the crumble:
Heat the oven to 180C.
In a mixing bowl combine the oats, almond flour, coconut oil, 100gr of sugar and a tsp of vanilla essence, until the oil is distributed evenly. Spread the mix on a roasting tray covered with parchment paper. Bake in the over for 30 mins until golden.

To make the stewed plums:
Stone and half the remaining plums. Place in a pot, barely cover with water, add 100gr of sugar, and a few springs of tarragon (stems and leaves). Cook on a medium heat for 15 mins till the plums are soft and the water has turned into a syrup. 

To make the creme fraiche:
Pick the tarragon leaves and chop them finely. Whip the creme fraiche with the herbs adding the lemon zest (and a bit of icing sugar if you’d like)

To serve:
Place the crumble mix at the bottom of a bowl, making a small well in the middle. Spoon the stewed plums and syrup in the centre of the crumble. Decorate with a two slices of pickled plums, few leafs of tarragon and a few rose petals.  Add a dollop of tarragon creme fraiche on the side. 

A Green month of January

As well as being a wonderful year for KinoVino, 2016 saw the beginning of a very fruitful collaboration with AirBnB, which allowed me to really indulge myself creatively. This is exactly what I have been conjuring up in my mind, 2 years ago, stuck in an uninspiring office job, marvelling over photos of beautiful dinner parties on Instagram, and wishing that one day I’d be the one posting such photos. Et voila! Two years later, I am getting very close to realising my dream (I’d say I am living the dream, but for some reason this sounds a bit too happy-clappy, so I will refrain from giant statements like this). I have been really lucky to be one of the first people to take part in then-pilot programme of City Hosts and Experiences that AirBnB was launching. My proposed experience was of course all about dinner parties: cooking, hosting and decorating. A sort of a behind the scenes of KinoVino, where we’d discuss and lean how to create the most special and memorable dinning experience for your guests. Hosting these experiences is a great joy and what’s more, being part of the AirBnB community, I get invited to host and contribute to some of their special events and private gatherings. So when AirBnB asked me whether I’d like to host a lunch at signature Pantone house to celebrate AirBnB’s collaboration with this iconic brand, I could not believe my luck. Designing a menu and creating a tablescape inspired by Pantone’s new colour of the year? Yes, please! Luckily this year’s colour is very food friendly – it’s green! So my lunch menu came together pretty naturally:

A pea and avocado puree with watercress, cucumber ribbons and a basil oil dressing

A broccoli soup with miso roasted pumpkin seeds

Pan fried cauliflower with pistachio&feta dip and dill oil

A pickled plum crumble with tarragon and yoghurt

When it came to dressing the table, we were really spoilt for choice. It is not an exaggeration to say that Pantone&AirBnB signature house was one of the best locations I have ever been to, let alone where I have hosted a lunch. Decorated by a team of crazy talented set dressers, the space was full of greenery, antique props and incredibly bizarre objects in little jars. It was so much fun taking inspiration from the setting and improvise. The end result was breath-taking (if I may say so myself). So there we were enjoying a complete harmony of flavours, textures and colours in this gorgeous East London location. I hope to live a long and happy life, but if I were to choose a setting for my last meal, that would be it!

 

Good-bye, 2016!

2016 has proven to be a very complex year; we lost some of the greatest cultural figures and witnessed the unpredictability of international politics. Yet at the same time it has been an extremely fruitful and productive year for KinoVino. So many people say they can’t wait to see this year out, but I am extremely grateful to 2016 for all the wonders it has brought. This year KinoVino saw some of the most memorable gatherings; it was featured in British Vogue, became part of AirBnB’s new project – City Host – and has served as an incredible platform for my creative and professional growth. It has also laid a foundation for some formidable projects that will take place in 2017 and I can’t wait to share those experiences with you all. The line up for KinoVino supper club is nothing short of spectacular – we start the new calendar with a Beirut-themed night featuring chef Bethany Kehdy, make sure not to miss a Valentine’s date with chef Romy Gill, MBE, and enjoy the night of Bollywood romance and outstanding Indian food, you can also look forward to exploring East London on a plate as I team up with Rosie Birkett for an East End-themed KinoVino in March, and we will travel the spice route to Iran with Yasmin Khan in April. There are plenty more collaborations and exciting projects, including a special KinoVino-Konstam popup with chef Oliver Rowe and a partnership with Kinoteka Polish Film Festival.

It has been a true privilege to work with so many talented chefs and to have the support of our guests, for which I am truly grateful. I wish you all a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2017!

Best of 2016!

KinoVino Christmas: Babette’s Feast with Oliver Rowe
A fairytale KinoVino that captured the spirit of Babette’s Feast! We shared a truly wonderful night filled with some very special energy. It was really lovely meeting so many people passionate about film and food, and to see them have so much fun. The food was outstanding as always thanks to chef Oliver Rowe. This event marked a year of our KinoVino partnership, and what a fruitful collaboration it continues to be! The night was captured beautifully by Rosalind West.
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Seven Sisters Feast at Yurt Lush Bristol
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This event is a strong contender for my personal number 1 of 2016! It was a real honour to take part in a charity dinner to support Action Against Hunger and help raise money for the important work that they do. The event was organised by the formidable Romy Gill and I can’t thank her enough for making me part of it. It has been my greatest challenge as a cook and also the one that brought a great sense of accomplishment. I was thrilled to cook together with such talented women, like Romy, Olia Hercules, Rosie Birckett, Elly Curshen, Chetna Macan to name a few. And if this is not enough to make my head spin, the event was recorded for BBC Radio 4 Food programme and we got to talk to Sheila Dillon. Listen to the story here
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KinoVino Mirror with Olia Hercules
It would not be an exaggeration to say that a screening of Tarkovsky’s Mirror followed by Olia Hercules’ feast was one of the most magical experiences of my life! Mirror is a film that has so many meanings to me. It was the subject of my MA thesis and the one that inspired by PhD research. It’s significance and meaning continues to evolve with me and it was truly special to screen this film as part of the KinoVino supper club. Not to mention that the event was featured as part of Curzon’s Tarkovsky retrospective and we had the privilege of screening a new remastered copy. Olia Hercules is a dear friend, who is a source of inspiration to me. Her support of KinoVino is invaluable and her talent as a chef turned our meal into a poetic experience. Who else could match the unique cinematic vision of Tarkovsky!
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KinoVino Pickles
A cine-culinary trip to New York via the pickle shop! I love revisiting old movie classics – they really are the biggest treasure and have that unique power to transport you into an era that is long gone. Crossing Delancey is definitely one of such films! Not only does it capture New York of 1980s but also has some of the most wonderful references to the Ashkenazi Jewish food culture. A film whose protagonist falls in love with a pickle man from Delancy street? Well, that’s a perfect KinoVino movie right there. And who could take on the challenge of creating a meal inspired by pickles if not the one and only Kylee Newton, owner of Newton and Pott and author of The Modern Preserver. With the help of Oliver Rowe, she created the most imaginative and delicious feast featuring pickled produce.

 

KinoVino and AirBnB
I have been dreaming of launching a series of KinoVino-themed masterclasses and workshops which would allow our guests to go behind the scenes to enjoy a private cooking class with one of the guest chefs and learn how to curate and style a perfect dinner party. Et voila, AirBnB launches its new exciting project – City Host – and invites me to be part of it! Each month an intimate group of 6 guests gets the chance to attend a KinoVino gathering and indulge in the unique experience of going behind the scenes. A dream come true! It’s been a real joy to see strangers coming together and bonding over their love of and interest in food and film. Cooking and eating together is the best way of getting to know someone and I’ve been so lucky to meet so many wonderful people. The vino element of the experience of course helps to make these occasions all the more inspiring and fun! Learn more and book your own experience here
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KinoVino and Lonely Planet
It’s been a really incredible experience to launch a new cookbook ‘From Source Spain’ by Lonely Planet. Instead of hosting a generic launch, we turned it into a Spanish-themed KinoVino and gave our guests a chance to take a cine-culinary journey across Spain. Transforming Calvert 22 gallery into a Spanish courtyard we hosted two magical nights of Spanish cinema, food and wine. The screening of Almodovar’s classic ‘Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown’ was followed by a feast of Spanish classics from the book, executed to perfection by Tom Hunt and Oliver Rowe. We heard stories from the book’s author Sally Davies of her culinary adventures in Spain and enjoyed some of the most incredible octopus dish that ever graced the plates at KinoVino, as well as some fantastic Riojas and of course the iconic gazpacho! Guests we treated to some gifts and hammers from Lonely Planet as well as live Spanish guitar performance.

A dinner party a là Amelie

Amélie is a visually scrumptious film. Produced in 2001, it used the state of art digital technology to create a dream-like saturated image of Paris to represent the romantic, quirky and unique vision of the film’s protagonist – Amelie Poulain. While the film is not a food film as such, unlike Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s earlier work ‘Delicatessen’, food appears and/or is referenced in its numerous scenes. From the now-iconic images of little Amelie wearing fruit-jewellery, the cherry earnings and the delightful raspberry fingertips, to numerous comical incidents at the green grocer’s and the touching finale where Amelie imagines her love interest, Nino, getting the ingredients for ‘Miss Amelie’s famous plum cake’.  Having watched this film an endless number of times, I can (geekishly) recall all of the food references and scenes pretty much in their chronological order. So when it came to creating an Amelie-inspired dinner party, I was not stuck for ideas, the menu simply wrote itself into my note book. 

The menu

Appetitive

A raspberry gin and tonic with a board of French charcuterie, cornichons and torn baguettes 

Starter 

‘Il dort dans les choux-fleurs’

A warm salad of roasted cauliflower with capers, jalapeños and parsley 

Main 

M-eux Bredoteau’s perfect chicken 

and

Meme un artichaut a du coeur: braised artichokes, fennel and new potatoes 

Desert

M-elle Amelie’s famous plum cake 

The visual richness of the film also inspired the style of the table-setting: a rustic French theme with a few quirky injections of the filmic references and a touch of bright colours. 

The decor 

Instead of using a tablecloth, I chose a warm-coloured table surface, red in my case, and laid the table with a beige linen runner and a matching set of napkins. A selection of jumbo candles together with some jars&bottles containing flowers acted as a centre piece. For this occasion I chose simple, wild flowers and herbs: rosemary proved a gorgeous ingredient both in the meal and in the floral arrangement. Chive flowers have the most gorgeous colour and also make a perfect link between the decor and the meal itself. As a place setting, I would create individual bouquets, containing lavender, rosemary and any other rustic greens that you find appealing. A simple luggage tag attached to the bouquet will help your guest find their way and make them feel quite special. To add a bit of quirk, reflecting Amelie’s character, I took inspiration from the paintings that feature so prominently in the film – Renoir’s ‘Luncheon of the Boating Party’ and the most adorable ‘Dog’ and ‘Goose’ paintings in Amelie’s bedroom who talk to each other once their owner falls asleep. I have printed several copies of these paintings (A5 size), framed them into small photo frames, and dotted them around the table at different angles, so that each guest has a good view of at least one of them. To make the dinner even more interactive and playful you can take inspiration from the photo booth theme of the film, using props like the hat and mask of Zoro, to add a little fancy dress element to the night and give an outlet to your guests’ creativity which will certainly be flowing after a few glasses of vino. 

Recipes 

M-eux Bredoteau’s perfect chicken 

Makes 4

1 chicken 

250 gr mascarpone 

1 lemon – juice and zest 

1 lemon cut into slices

bulb of garlic 

a bouquet garnis (rosemary, thyme, bay leaf)

salt pepper 

olive oil 

Pre-heat the oven to 200C 

In a bowl mix mascarpone with salt, pepper and lemon zest and 1/2 lemon juice 

Find your way to get under the chicken’s skin (almost Sinatra style) and gently push the mascarpone mixture, distributing it evenly throughout. Try to keep the skin as intact as possible to ensure the mixture stays inside during cooking. 

In a baking tray make a bed of olive oil, lemon slices, crushed garlic gloves (skins on) and springs of herbs and stuff the chicken with a mix of similar ingredients ( a few lemon wedges, a bouquet garni and some garlic) 

Sprinkle the chicken with some sea salt and crack some pepper on it too and send it off to the oven for 40 minutes or until the skin is golden brown and super crispy. Make sure no blood seeps out when you poke the chicken with a knife. 

Serve the chicken in the cooking tray (the ‘bedding’ will cook into the most beautiful abstract background) and make sure to pair it with the side dish of braised artichokes,fennel and new taters. 

  

‘Meme un artichaut a du coeur’: braised artichokes with fennel and new potatoes 

Serves 4

2 medium fennels

12 small new potatoes

2 artichokes

1 white onion

1 lemon (1/2 juiced, 1/2 thinly sliced)

a large bunch of dill

200 gr butter

1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

maldon salt

black pepper

Method

Cut each potato in half lengthwise

Thinly slice the fennels and onion lengthwise 

Peel the artichoke and slice the hearts lengthwise 

Heat the butter in a large deep frying pan and place the potatoes in a layer. Sprinkle with salt and fry for 5 minutes till both sides begin to crips up

Top the potatoes with layers of fennel, onion and artichoke hearts, add more salt, lemon juice, a bit of water, cover with lid and cook on medium heat for 40 minutes until all ingredients are cooked through. Keep adding water and butter in small amounts to prevent burning.

Top with lemon slices and sprinkle with dill and olive oil. Cook further for 5 minutes.
This dish works well on its own or makes the perfect accompaniment to M-eux Bredoteau’s perfect chicken 

 

 

KinoVino Georgia with Russian Revels

I have never been to Georgia but having grown up on the Soviet Union I was lucky enough to be exposed to the unique vibrant cuisine of that country. The sights and scents of the Georgian stalls at my hometown’s markets are still very prominent in my mind and I love conjuring them up when cooking a Georgian meal. By obsession with this country might explain why I keep coming back to it as a theme for KinoVino. Having had the most wonderful gathering dedicated to Sergei Paradjanov with Georgian and Armenian cuisine, I decided to focus solely on Georgia for the April edition of KinoVino that took place at the beautiful (and may I add – very trendy) gallery, Calvert 22. My partners in crime this time were a fabulous culinary duet, Karine Baldry and Katrina Kollegaeva, a.k.a Russian Revels. Having been to their themed dining nights, I knew those were my kindred spirits. My KinoVino instincts did not let me down, Russian Revels were a joy to work with: super well-organised, full of great food ideas and above all Fun! Having worked with them, made me all the more fascinated by the influences of our shared Soviet past on our culinary identity. So I decided to pose some profound foodie questions and here’s what Karina responded.

How much does your cultural heritage influence your cooking style?

KB: Georgian or rather Caucasian influences are always on the back of my mind when I cook. If you want me to pick one prominent influence is herbs. When I first moved to the UK one of the most difficult things for me to adjust to was lack of herbs in abundance. A few sprigs in supermarkets were not enough to satisfy my craving.
Do you associate your cooking with the idea of Soviet cuisine?

KB: Of course, can’t cross it out… We all have our memories living and cooking in the Soviet times! Some of the dishes were heavily influenced by that time and the availability of the food ingredients.

Where does your love of food and cooking originate from?

KB: It originated during my glorious summers in the Northern Caucasus – being more specific a small Spa town called Pyatogorsk. I watched my Grandma cooking and was learning through eating her culinary delights.
What do you cook when you long for an authentic homely meal?

KB: Although I love my Caucasian food very much when I want a nostalgic moment I chop up my Olivier salad!

How would you describe your cooking style?

KB: Inspirational, improvisation based on all my culinary experiences!

What are your top 3 ingredients?

KB: Tomatoes, beetroot, herbs

What’s your ideal dinner party menu?

KB: Tapas style +sharing platters+ casual+ slow eating + good banter!

 

An Audrey-inspired seasonal meal

Nothing can beat a delicious meal. Whatever your tastes, good food can hardly be surpassed by any other human pleasures. However, I always believe (almost compulsively), that the right setting in which this food is consumed is equally important. Even when I have the most delicious plate in front of me, I simply can’t enjoy it if the table is not set in the right way or there is something in the surroundings that just does not ‘work’ with the meal. In addition to that, I love a meal that tells a story. The words ‘curate’ and ‘experience’ have been recently overused and have become a trendy cliché of sorts. Yet, I really do think that an element of curation (a carefully thought-out and sustained theme or idea) always elevates the meal and gives it this little extra, which might not be strikingly visible to others, but makes a whole lot of difference to the dinner host (me).

Having been indulging my obsession with finding and creating the ‘perfect’ setting for a dinner through the KinoVino gatherings, I wanted to take this pursuit further by starting a series of master classes on how to style a dinner party. It is always so rewarding and comforting to meet a kindred spirit who takes the colour and texture of the napkins, and the height of the candles as seriously as I do. I have found one in interior stylist, Hannah Bullivant, who co-hosted three KinoVino workshops with me. Her collection of props is my dream come true and any object that she pulls out from her old wooden crate (a piece of art in itself) that she uses to carry the props makes me want to jump up and down with joy (I do restrain myself though). As well as having found Hannah, I was equally lucky with having found the space for these events, as creating the perfect dinner table in a room that does not have the right vibe would be simply useless.

Green Lens Studios is a small venue/photographic studio, former stables just off Green Lanes, that has hosted some of the most memorable private and public events in my experience. Its owner, Yev Kazannik, has injected a lot of his own vibrant personality into the studio, making it a unique, cozy and characterful space, as versatile as your imagination allows it to be. Over the years, we held some film screenings, gigs, exhibitions, private dinners and discos, and now the new series of workshops. Giving off a vibe that’s evocative of a quirky loft and a rustic canal boat, the space has an amazing woodwork and is frequently flooded with most beautiful natural light; in addition, Yev’s amazing collection of vintage cameras and his own skills as a professional photographer, just make you want to take pictures as often as you blink, and not surprisingly most of them turn out pretty good. So it really was a no brainer when it came to the choice of venue for these workshops.

The last of these was thematically connected to the most recent KinoVino gathering with Eleonora Galasso, dedicated to food and film from Rome. Having served an Italian feast and delighted our guests with the screening of Roman Holiday, starring the inimitable Audrey Hepburn, I wanted to carry this mood over into our master class. As well as taking inspiration from the ancient city, both Hannah and I wanted to reflect the change of season in the theme for this event. We have both spent some time browsing Pinterest but the best inspiration came from simply looking outside the window or taking a stroll in the park. The colour scheme was pretty clear – earthy, rich, natural browns, dark yellows, deep reds and a bit of golden touches. By a great coincidence this colour scheme was prevalent in Eleonora’s cookbook too. Hannah created some truly delicate arrangements with pressed leaves, some spray painted copper and golden others natural, as well as some twigs and branches. When it came to food, there I was trying to tie in all those themes and moods (Rome, autumn and Audrey) into one or two dishes. Challenging myself to a bit of an invention test with the ingredients that were left behind the main KinoVino dinner (no waste!) and taking a brief flip through my treasured book ‘Audrey at Home’, I decided that an Alpine rosti with a chard, spinach and feta topping would perfectly marry all these concepts – it’s seasonal, thematically and gastronomically tied to both Audrey and the KinoVino meal, plus the colours of the dish would work so well with the colours and textures of our dinner table.

So when we gathered around the table there was a perfect sense of harmony, joy and playfulness (perhaps perceptible to just me but hopefully to all of us) in having created, dare I say, an experience of a meal, where each element was as important as another, and had a specific part to play. Would the meal itself have tasted any worse if instead of the rough grey linen napkin we had some disposable ones in different colours? I genuinely think it would have. So here’s to being slightly compulsive and approaching each meal with care and imagination, striving to create an ultimate harmony between the food, the setting and yourself.

 

An Audrey-inspired seasonal meal: an Alpine rosti with a chard, spinach and feta topping.

Serves 6

 For the rosti
2 large potatoes
6 small or 4 large sweet potatoes
2 eggs
a few springs of thyme
a tsp of fennel seeds
salt/pepper
olive oil

 Grate the potatoes into a bowl and strain the liquid. Add the rest of the ingredients, apart from the olive oil, and mix well. Lightly grease a non-stick oven-friendly frying pan with some olive oil and place on the hob. Once heated tip the mixture into the pan and distribute it evenly forming one thick ‘crumpet’. Fry on medium heat until the bottom starts to crisp up (aprox 5 minutes) then place in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 30 minutes.

 While the rosti is in the oven prepare the topping.

 1 large onion
1 red pepper

500 gr of chard
500 gr of spinach
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp of chili flakes
juice of ¼ lemon
sea salt / pepper
olive oil

 

Cut the onion into feathers and fry until softens in some olive oil, salt and chili flakes. Cut the pepper into long strips and add to the pot together with the onions. As the peppers begin to soften add thinly sliced garlic, and roughly chopped chard and spinach, add more salt to taste, lower the heat and let it cook for 5-10 minutes. Once the spinach and chard have wilted take off the heat, add the lemon juice and stir thought.

When the rosti is ready (it should be crispy and golden, with a slight charring effect in places) flip it out of the pan onto a wooden board and top with the spinach/chard mixture and crumble a generous amount of feta on top. Add a last sprinkle of pepper before serving.

We played some David Gray to accompany the meal. Not particularly Italian or Audrey-esque, but felt rightly autumnal and appropriately nostalgic.

A perfect lunch at Green Lens Studios with Hannah Bullivant

It’s become somewhat of a commonplace to say that food has a magnificent power of bringing people together. As cliche as it may be, this keeps proving true time and time again in my case. Initially not the most communicative person, I have gradually opened up to the idea of meeting new people over a meal, largely thanks to attending supper clubs. The moment of starting KinoVino was definitely a sign that I was willing not just to meet but also to host a whole group of new people and (hopefully) treat them to a very cosy and intimate night of good food and wine. A step up from that was starting a series of masterclasses and lunches, both private and ticketed, where you spend about 5 hours in a very small group of complete strangers, in some cases; together you learn how to curate a dinner party, designing a menu in coherence with the season, the tablescape, the type of the occasion etc. Luckily, one of my closest friends happens to be the founder of the most beautiful studio in London, Green Lens Studios, and it is his space that proved such an organic and ideal a setting for these types of gatherings. In addition to that, I have found a kindred spirit in the event and floral stylist, Hannah Bullivant, whose instagram feed quickened my heart. Her approach to table arrangements and a very effortless seasonal touch ticked all the boxes in my check list for an ideal dinner party. Again, luckily for me Hannah was very keen to collaborate, and without really planning things to the minute details, she brought all the right things – the most beautiful lines, vintage candle holders and seasonal rustic flowers; the exact kind of things which even before being arranged into a table setting already promised a truly elevated dining experience.

Always looking to create a dialogue between the style of the food and the table on which it will be presented and consumed, we opted for a Spanish/Moroccan theme, with rough linen table cloth and napkins, clay trays and pots for flowers, and dishes like borani, whole roasted cauliflower with cumin, coriander roasted carrots and harissa lebneh. The floral arrangements featured not only the most delicate seasonal flowers but also some herbs that were used in the cooking of the meal itself. What can create a better coherence between all the senses during a dinner party, when the site, smell and the taste buds are all heading in the same direction!

Screen Grub. An interview with Calvert Journal

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London has a lot to offer even for the most spoilt foodies: Michelin stars, celebrated chefs, cuisines from all over the world. But just when it seemed there was nothing new left to cook, along comes Alissa Timoshkina of Kino Vino. Simply put, Kino Vino is a combination of a supper club and a film screening, with menus created especially by guest chefs to reflect the fictional world onscreen. You could call it the next Secret Cinema — in which you are invited to experience the atmosphere of film through food.

For Timoshkina, food and film have been passions for most of her life. “I have been working with film for a while, and have a PhD in film, and I’ve been cooking and hosting parties for as long as I can remember,” she says. The idea of integrating the two came on a trip to Cape Town during a visit to local vineyards. “I was very impressed with how eloquently sommeliers speak about wine and how it pairs with food, and after a few tastings I thought, why not to try and put on an event where wine, film and food would be thematically connected. The name sprung out immediately as in Russian it’s a very cool rhyme”, she recalls.

Timoshkina’s first supper club was based on Peter Greenway’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover: a classic roast dinner with a lot of red wine to reflect the deep and rich colours in the film. The following editions spanned a variety of film genres and countries: Ukraine with Olia Hercules and Soviet witch horror Viy, Greece with Despina Siahuli and classic romcom Shirley Valentine, Georgia with Russian Revels and Tengiz Abuladze’s The Wishing Tree, Oliver Rowe’s take on British food based on Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox.

Timoshkina admits that in London, oversaturated with restaurants, food events and supper clubs, it could be quite challenging to stand out. “In our post-modern culture you need to have a mix of everything, people are not interested to go and just eat, they go for an experience rather than the food, they want something unique. Keeping up in London is a great challenge because people can get bored very quickly,” she says.

“People are not interested to go and just eat, they go for an experience rather than the food” Yet the main concept at the foundation of Kino Vino lies beyond trends and is quite simple: people sharing a unique moment. “What’s important to me is the idea of a gathering, of people coming together, something almost intimate when you watch a film together in a small group of people, laugh together, share food and wine, it’s a nice bonding experience”, Timoshkina says. “To me that’s quite special”.

We asked Alissa Timoshkina to come up with menus for some iconic films — both new releases and cult classics.

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Interview by Anastasia Fedorova

Originally published in Calvert Journal