Jeremy Lee’s Recipe for Russian Berry and Rhubarb Sour Cream Pie

Russian berry and rhubarb sour cream pie
M
any years ago, I tuned in to a telly programme of which I remember but two things. One: that restaurant reviewer Victor Lewis Smith, in a review of my cooking at the Blueprint Cafe (most flattering that I was even worthy of a review), called me “Le Ponce de la Tour”. And two: this lovely recipe for a Russian sour cream pie.

I grew up during the days of the cold war and my father had a great fascination for Russia, or the USSR as it was known then. I suppose much was revealed about the path I was taking as the newspaper headlines then abounded with punk and Soviet outrage, but I, if not in a kitchen, only ever had my nose buried in a book – often a cookbook – pretty much oblivious to current events.

Recipes interest me far more than the Kremlin ever did, although I did love Alec Guinness as George Smiley in the Beeb’s production of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

The one thing I do remember from this Soviet era is a book on Russian cooking in the Time Life series on world cuisines. It has an excellent recipe for blinis in it. Subsequently, I happened across a copy of Darra Goldstein’s book A Taste of Russia on the shelves of Quarto, my favourite bookshop in St Andrews, a stone’s throw from the 18th hole of the Royal and Ancient golf course, on the coast of Fife in eastern Scotland.

In the chapter on the classic cooking of Russia from the days of the Tsar is a recipe for sour cream pie – smetannik in Russian – described by the author as “gloriously rich”. Being a Scot brought up on cream, I agree it is very good, although I confess to swapping pecans for walnuts, as I much prefer them.

Smetannik majesty: ‘Recipes interested me far more than the Kremlin ever did.’The recipe specifies raspberry jam. I like this a lot and have also subsequently tried mulberry jelly, blackberry and blackcurrant jams with equal pleasure. But I thought that a gooseberry jam, for today’s purposes, would please, as would rhubarb. When paired, the two together work very well. You can, of course, use 500g of a bought preserve, but often these commercial renditions prove too sweet. I suggest also cooking the gooseberries and rhubarb lightly beforehand.

Needless to say, the sole accompaniment required to serve alongside the warm pie is a generous bowl of sour cream.

 

 

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Image(s) Courtesy of Maria Bell / The Guardian

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