Food in Russia: what's hot in a cold country
In my childhood, I hated pumpkin.
That time, however, we couldn’t afford to be too picky. Our garden provided us with lots of fresh produce that have to be eaten in some way. My mom had her ways of cooking pumpkin – she hided it in pancake batter, in soups and stews. But the worst of all were pumpkin cakes.
No, it weren’t your American pumpkin pie with spicy, soft and creamy filling. It was very thick layer of yeast dough topped with big pieces of chopped pumpkin (which was cooked with sugar and lemon zest to hide it but it screams “Here is pumpkin!” anyway).
Yuck. Even now, when I like pumpkin, I feel bad even thinking about it.
But if you ask Russian people what dish they associate with pumpkin, most of them probably think of porridge. Yes, people eat lots of porridge in Russia.
Porridge is called «каша» (kasha), but this word somehow is associated with buckwheat only for people in USA and Europe. However, kasha is just a porridge made from any grain and even some other food (peas, for example).
And today I tell you how to cook typical Russian millet and pumpkin porridge step-by-step.
When I see any millet recipe from English-speaking source it always surprise me, because it usually requires cooking millet like rice (you can see separate grains). It’s almost never cooked in Russia that way. Instead, much more liquid is added so the dish becomes mushy and porridge-y. Besides, it’s really hard to cook millet like rice. It’s too big a risk that it either stays little uncooked or gets mushy anyway.
‘Nuff talking, let’s go straight into recipe.
For 1 portion, take around 1/3 cup of millet and wash well, changing water several times.
Chop a little piece of pumpkin (take bright and sweet one). That’s how 1 portion looks (80-100g).
Put millet and pumpkin in slow cooker (or in the pot). Add 250-300ml water mixed with milk (you can take more or less milk if you want or even skip it altogether, although I do recommend take at least some milk). Add a dash of salt.
Note: I know, you’ll be tempted to add cinnamon or this awesome “pumpkin pie spice” of yours. Don’t. If you do, you’ll destroy all delicate tastes of this dish.
You need to cook the porridge for 30-40min, sometimes mixing it with a spoon. I have a different slow cooker, so I just turn “porridge” button and set a delayed start (so it would be ready for breakfast). For a real slow cooker I think you should cook on highest temp for a shortest time (30-60 min), but this need to be tested.
When it’s ready, put it into a bowl, add spoon of honey and a piece of butter. Enjoy!
You can eat it without butter, of course, especially if you added some good milk. Also, you can try a savory version without honey, just add little more salt.
That’s it, pretty simple taste – just millet, pumpkin and honey.
Another popular porridge with pumpkin is rice porridge. I would take more milk and liquid in general (may be 1 cup milk + 50-100 ml water) and use a short-grain porridge rice. Remember, no spices!
For some reasons, other grains including oats aren’t paired with millet in Russian cuisine. These two are classics. I believe these porridges came from Ukraine ‘cause there are better climate for growing pumpkins.