Elena was born in Western Siberia, in a city called Omsk (on trans-Siberian line). She grew up in Russia, though she also spent the last 15 years living in Ireland. She’s a wife and a mum to a little boy, and she now lives in the UK.
Elena is happy to share stories from her motherland, Russia as well as from Ireland.
Latest posts by Elena Morozova (see all)
- “Svyatki”: A Post-Christmas Divination Tradition in Russia - January 11, 2018
- Vinegret – Traditional Russian Beetroot Salad - January 1, 2018
- “Herring Under the Fur Coat” (“Seledka Pod Shyboi”) Salad - December 31, 2017
Like many other nations across the world, Russians love their food. And on the New Year’s Eve, in particular, there is usually no expense spared when it comes to this festive dinner. I have compiled together some of our nation’s favorite dishes, appetizers, and drinks, which you are likely to encounter on any festive table in Russia. So if you were wondering what are some of the most common traditional Russian dishes served on the New Year’s Eve, here’s the list:
This salad is not only our nation’s favorite, it has also managed to make it onto the menu of numerous other nations. You might already know it by its other name – “The Russian Salad”. It is common to see Olivie served at countless birthdays, parties, weddings and various other celebrations.
According to a legend, a chef invented this salad for the French emperor Napoleon originally, although the ingredients might have changed over the years. Olivie is most commonly made with sliced pork sausage, called “Doktorskaya”, boiled potatoes, peas, eggs, carrots, gherkins, and onions. A heavy layer of mayo is used for the sauce, sometimes mixed with sour creme.
“Herring Under the Fur Coat” (“Seledka Pod Shyboi”)
“Seledka Pod Shyboi” is a beetroot and herring salad with a sort of a funny name, that is when you translate it literally. Russians sometimes refer to it simply as “Fur Coat” (“Shyba”). This salad is one of the most typical dishes served at the New Year’s Eve tables, as well as countless other events.
It’s made by layering herring, onions, boiled and grated potato toppings with cooked and grated beetroot. Usually, a thick layer of mayonnaise would be used between each topping. Russians also love to decorate it with some chopped walnuts or a thinly sliced boiled egg. A mixture of mayo and sour cream is another common topping. The “Herring Under the Fur Coat” salad is simply delicious and it particularly goes well with a glass of sparkling wine.
The “Vinegret Salad” is another traditional, common dish, which you will encounter on nearly every festive Russian table. It’s main ingredient – beetroot, would usually be mixed with boiled potatoes and carrots, gherkins cut into small slices, peas, and diced onions and sometimes sauerkraut.
Canapes are the little slices of bread (usually French baguette) typically topped with butter and red caviar. Another popular topping is grated cheese mixed with garlic and mayo and often a slice of tomato. These are the perfect finger food appetizers to get the party started.
Many Russians own a piece of land outside the city with a small house that they call “dacha”. For anyone, who struggles with this concept, I usually describe it as a Summer-house with a veggie patch attached to it (usually the whole plot is around 500 sq. meters). One of the most common Russians hobbies is to retreat to the “dacha” for most of the Summer, where they would grow vegetables, berries, and other fruits.
Since there is usually a surplus of vegetables left at the end of a season, many would pickle them in glass jars of various sizes, and then store them in a cellar or on their balconies. The vegetables can be kept in their jars for up to a year.
Hence, on the New Year’s’ Eve there will usually be gherkins present, along with pickled tomatoes, sauerkraut and often mushrooms. Russians would usually go into a forest to pick the mushrooms by hand in late Summer, or early Autumn. Then they would pickle them as well. There are only certain types of mushrooms which can be pickled. They would usually be served with onions, vinegar or sour cream.
A Selection of Cold Meats
It is very common to see sliced bacon, salami, and other cured meats on a plate, so guests can just take a slice of their favorite. It’s usually served as a snack, especially when raising a glass to toast something.
Sliced Herring (Seledka)
Another popular appetizer, which especially goes well with a shot of vodka, is a sliced herring, commonly known as “Seledka” in Russia. The fish would be served raw, lightly salted, cut into thick chunks, accompanied by thin slices of white or red onion. Some also season it with pepper and herbs and serve it with thin slices of lemon.
Along with the sliced meats, there will usually be a variety of sliced cheese. Mainly some local type.
Sliced Citrus Fruit
Slices of oranges on a small dessert plate would be commonly seen on a festive table, along with slices of lemons or mandarins.
Fried Pork Chops and Potatoes
The most traditional Russian main dish would always consist of some type of meat accompanied by potatoes. From various types of meat – fried pork chops, called “Otbivnue” in Russian, is probably the most common. The pork chops would first be cut into large chunks, usually around the size of one’s palm, then tenderized, seasoned with various spices, including garlic, then dipped into flour and eggs and fried over medium heat. They would usually be served with mashed potatoes, though fried, baked and boiled potatoes are common as well.
Roasted Goose or Pig
Another common main dish is a roasted goose. Though depending on the number of guests, it is not unusual to see a small pig served instead.
Meat “The French Way”
This was a very popular dish for almost a decade when I was growing up in Russia. It was often served as a hot main course on the New Year’s Eve. Not sure where the name came from and what exactly is French about the whole dish, but if you or your guests like pork, then this one is a winner.
It involves thin slices of pork placed on a baking tray, topped with thin sliced potatoes, onions and grated cheese. It will be then baked for over an hour. In a way, it’s similar to a lasagne.
The dessert is usually a homemade cake, as well as chocolates, commonly brought by guests as presents. One popular dessert is the honey cake, which is made from layers of pastry with cream, mixed with honey and topped with crumbled pastry. Napoleon cake is another common choice for the New Year’s Eve dinner in Russia. It’s a light cake and is very similar to Mille Feuille. It’s made of puff pastry and layers of cream.
Other favorite cake is the three-layered cake, where each layer is different. In my family, my grandma used to make a cake called Admiral. She claimed it only needed one egg and since she was known for her household budgeting skills, this cake was often her top choice for dessert. I used to like it because she would pour a thin layer of chocolate over it and then leave it in the fridge overnight. It would then freeze and harden and who doesn’t like a chocolate cake anyway?
Of course, vodka, cognac and the Soviet Champagne would always be present on any Russian table, along with a homemade soft drink called “compot”. Compot would be usually made out of apples, though other fruits are sometimes used as well.
How the table is served:
The table is usually ready around 8pm, filled with numerous salads, snacks, and drinks. It would be commonly set in a living room (called “zal”). Plates and cutlery for each guest along with several glasses would be placed neatly on the table.
First, the guests would enjoy some cold snacks and appetizers from the main table, accompanied with few drinks. There would usually be some lively discussions around the main table and then the hot main course would be served around 10:00-10:30pm.
The party would then proceed to watch some traditional TV programmes or even dance depending on the age of the guests. The “younger parties” would usually feature loud music and some dancing right in the living room. The table would be pushed aside since typical Russian apartments do not boast space. Tea and coffee would be served last, along with dessert.
A lot of parents would also take their kids outside for some fireworks, which are usually bought in advance. They would set them off in front of their apartment blocks and there will be lots of others doing it too. Some older kids might go sliding too, depending on the area they live in. The outdoor activities would usually wrap up by 1:30am since the famous Russian weather temperatures are typically down in the minus (it could be -20C, as is the case with Siberia!)
Happy New Year! C Novim Godom!