Belarus, a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, is bordered by Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Modern-day Belarus has only existed since the second world war. Climatic conditions in the country are ideal for the growth of a range of potato species. Potato dishes are beloved in Belarus; potato is called “the second bread” by the people. There are even special potato cafes in the country and poems, songs and dances about the humble spud.
Pork is the favoured meat in Belarusian cuisine, often smoked and seasoned with onion and garlic. Baked or boiled river fish are also eaten. Sour cream is a key ingredient in many dishes, but few spices or herbs are used.
The national dish of Belarus is Draniki; a fried potato pancake. They can be plain potato or stuffed. I made a stuffed version filled with fried onion, smoked pork sausage (kabanos – which I know is Polish but assumed to be similar) and mushroom. To make the draniki, grate half a dozen potatoes, mix in an egg, some flour and milk to make a thick batter. This is then dropped into some hot oil and formed into a circle shape. I then added a spoonful of the stuffing mixture and put another layer of the potato mixture on top. The draniki were fried until golden brown and then served with a big dollop of sour cream.
Although pork would be a more traditional accompaniment to the draniki, I’m feeling the post-Christmas need to eat a bit more lightly so opted for fish. We ate poached cod loin, cooked in a water bath at 55⁰c for about 15 minutes. We then added sour cream to the top of the fish for some authenticity and grilled it to finish it off.