Monday, 29 October 2007

Memories - Kotlety

I was born on a farm in Africa…. Well not really, but it sounds good.
I was actually born in Melbourne Australia to parents of Russian decent, whose parents left Russia during the revolution. My father came to Australia at the age of 17, by himself and barely able to speak English. His mother followed later. My mother’s family migrated out to Australia when she was 5. So while my family’s cuisine is mainly Russian/Eastern European, there is also a strong English/Australian influence.
I also had the privilege of having a great-grandma for the first 20 years of my life, who did cook the traditional foods of Russia and Eastern Europe. While I remember fondly the foods that she cooked, I now have to teach myself to read Russian to pass on those recipes…
At family gatherings we still have vodka, herring, and other delicacies, but we now have a strong Australian twist on things. My sister, who much to my mother’s dismay has based herself in northern Australia, has introduced some unique foods to our family. Apart from kangaroo, emu & water buffalo, one of the more memorable is crocodile!
One of my fondest memories of childhood was the food that my family prepared. My favourite was Kotlety. Again as with all “traditional” recipes there as many variations as there are cooks. Paul has also previously prepared
kotlety. I always buy my mince from a particular butcher on Carlisle St Balaclava, just near where we live. This suburb is very diverse and has a very high concentration of people of Russian background, and because of this there are some great delis, butchers & bakers on the street. Buying the meat from our favourite shop, I ended up in a conversation (with me speaking my broken Russian) with the shop assistant about different Kotlety recipes. She used potato in her recipe whereas my mother had always used egg in our recipe.
I thought I’d try her version, it is still traditional after all, and the kotlety turned out well.

3 slices bread, crusts removed
1 small potato, peeled
½ small onion, very finely chopped
250g minced veal
250g minced pork
Sea salt
Fresh black pepper
Dried Greek oregano
Dried bread crumbs
Butter or oil
Sour cream, to serve

Soak the bread in enough milk to moisten. Squeeze the excess milk from the soaked bread.
Grate the potato as finely as you can manage.
Combine the veal, pork, raw potato, onion and oregano. Season with salt and pepper
Using your hands combine all the ingredients thoroughly.
Form into slightly flattened balls, about 50g in weight.
Roll each ball thoroughly with bread crumbs.
Shallow fry the kotlety over a medium heat, about 5-7 minutes each side until nicely browned. My family used a combination of oil & butter, but other recipes say all butter, or all oil.
At this stage you can either serve the kotlety with sour cream and potatoes, boiled or mashed. Or prepare a sauce detailed below.

Optional Sauce
100ml beef stock
3-4tbls crème fraiche.

Remove the kotlety from the pan and set aside.
Drain the excess oil leaving any brown sediment clinging to the pan
Deglaze the pan with stock. Lower the heat before adding the crème fraiche, stirring to combine.
Return the kotlety to the pan & gently simmer for 5-10 minutes, adding a more stock or water if the sauce becomes too thick.
Serves 2 –3