Life Style

Savour a taste of Russia in pancakes

Outside Moscow, in a dacha or countryside summer house, Ms Anna Belousova, 30, shows virtual tourists how to make cottage-cheese pancakes from a family recipe.

In dark times, the world craves the simplicity of comfort food, so I sign up for her class.

Also, I have experienced Russia as an epic yet intimate land thrice, most vividly on a trans-Siberian rail journey, and am hoping to explore the country differently with an Internet connection.

I invite two foodies: my sister, who has a vegetable patch in her home in Britain, and a Russophile in Singapore.

Our host styles her sunlit kitchen corner for maximum Instagram appeal. My eyes linger on a little samovar or decorative tea urn, matryoshka nesting dolls and a blue-and-white porcelain teapot in the Gzhel folk style.

She holds up the ingredients – cottage cheese, eggs, flour, sugar and butter. Helpfully, she suggests substitutes to suit our taste, such as rice flour or semolina.

Play with a choice of toppings for these breakfast pancakes or syrniki, she says. The Russian style is to use fresh fruit, jam, sour cream and condensed milk, but it can be any topping we fancy.

To reduce technical difficulties, we turn off our cameras and mute our microphones while she cooks and talks about Russia. There is a live-chat option on screen for an element of interaction.

Nimbly, she creates little narratives around food. The pancakes – round and golden medallions – were symbols of the sun god in pagan times.

Ms Anna Belousova shows virtual tourists how to make cottage-cheese pancakes from a family recipe. PHOTO: COURTESY OF ANNA BELOUSOVA

She highlights food trends in Moscow, which is booming with gastro-clusters, fancy food malls and restaurants. "You can feel the local vibe" in these places favoured by Russian celebrities, television hosts and influencers.

"Moscow's gastronomic makeover started when the Soviet-era Danilovsky Market got a hipster rebranding a few years ago. The major idea here is the perfect combo of a local market trend combined with nice restaurants," she elaborates in an e-mail later.

  • COOKING RUSSIAN FOOD: LIVE VIRTUAL COOKING CLASS

  • Where: Moscow countryside house, Russia

    Fee: US$50 (S$69.70) for up to four people

    Duration: One hour

    Company: ToursByLocals (toursbylocals.com)

    Rating: 4/5

We share a sense of a planet in lockdown. While waiting for the pancakes to cook, the full-time tour guide talks about sheltering in the dacha that is 30km outside of Moscow.

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