Sunday, February 18, 2018

Welcoming Sun and Blini Recipe

Happy Maslenitsa!

Today (Sunday) is the last day of a week-long celebration of MASLENITSA - an ancient Eastern Slavic folk holiday which, as I understand, is the only pagan holiday approved by the Russian Orthodox Church and included in the church calendar - it is always the week before the Great Lent (40 day long, before the Orthodox Paskha). Maslenitsa is believed to be the oldest surviving Slavic holiday and celebrates the end of long Winter. In Russian, the name comes from the word "maslo" (масло) which means butter, in English we could call it Pancake Festival because the most important tradition is to bake blini - pancakes or crepes every day of the week. The deeper meaning of it is celebrating the Sun and the arrival of Spring.

In our mild climate here in the Pacific Northwest of the US, it is rather unusual that we got snow and even sleet today, but so very appropriate for this Russian celebration! You can see that camellia in our garden started blooming already (in the neighbor's garden, it's been blooming for at least a month, since January!). Seeing snow covering flowers was the most unusual. I was thinking about making blini all week long, but only last night we got everything I needed for my recipe, so I made blini the first thing in the morning, and Justin took photos of the process. It was a spontaneous photo shoot, my kitchen is not at its prime, I hope you can forgive that. Oh, by the way, it is Forgiveness Sunday today too - we ask each other for forgiveness, for all little and big things that we said or did which might have hurt our friends and family. We also work on forgiving all the little and big things that others said or did to us, that might be hurting. Not only we welcome Sun in the sky - we also welcome light in our soul. 

On the last day of Pancake Week, people make a doll of Winter and burn it. I won't burn a doll for you, but I will share my blini recipe, in case you want to recreate this traditional Russian food. (We make them year round, of course - Maslenitsa is just the biggest reason when the whole nation celebrates and eats blini every day for 7 days.) Russia is a huge country (in fact, the biggest), so you can imagine that there are many different recipes and ways of making blini. I will share the way I made them today - they were the best I've made so far, I think I've learned a couple of secrets of great Russian blini.



4 eggs
a pinch of sea salt
2 cups of almond milk 
(use regular cow's milk if you have no problems with dairy)
about 1.5 cup of cold water
about 1 to 2 cups of all purpose flour 
4-5 table spoons melted butter
1-2 table spoons of sugar (optional)
1-2 table spoons of vegetable oil for oiling the skillet


1. Mix eggs with a pinch of sea salt (no need to whisk), add 1 cup of milk.
2. Start adding flour gradually, sifting it through a sifter. Mix thoroughly, so batter has a smooth texture, and no lumps.
3. Once your batter is smooth and fairly thick, start adding the rest of milk until the mixture is like a thick liquid (sort of like thick fruit or berry juice). It is impossible for me to give you a straight amount of milk and flour simply because they all differ, they have different thickness, and also it depends how thin or thick you prefer your blini. In Russia, the thinnest porous blini are considered the finest ones, the most masterfully done (think French crepes). If you want your blini really thin, then you add cold water till the batter is fairly liquid-ish, almost milk-like (but not quite!). You'll get a hold of it as you start doing it.
4. The last step in making batter: add melted butter (or vegetable oil, canola or something like it, that doesn't have smell) and sugar if you want your blini to be a little sweet (optional).


1. You need a heavy skillet (I use a cast iron skillet). Heat it up well (almost at max heat) and then turn heat down, between medium and hot - every stove is different, so play with it until it's the right temperature, so your blini don't get easily burned, but at the same time get the right amount of heat to gain pretty golden brown color.
2. Oil the skillet when it's hot. I use a brush and canola oil.
3. As shown on photos ABOVE, add a small amount of batter while turning the skillet in your hand. Be careful, don't get burned.

4. Pictures ABOVE show how I turn a pancake using a turner. You have to constantly watch your blini, and once the edges get a little brown, carefully put a turner under the pancake and flip to another side.

5. Once your pancake is baked on both sides, put it on a plate and repeat - until all your batter is gone.
6. I brush the skillet before adding a new portion of batter, but some cooks don't do it - if you have enough oil or butter in your batter, it should be enough.
7. Make sure to stir your batter constantly, so it has an even consistency and the thick part is not on the bottom. I add cold water as needed, to make my batter the right consistency for thinner blini. If you prefer them thick, then you don't need more water.

Russians eat blini in many different ways! You can fold them and dunk into sweet syrup, home-made jam (varenye), melted butter, honey etc. My father grew up on a farm, and they had fresh eggs all the time. His favorite way to eat blini is to dunk them into fresh (uncooked) eggs (mixed with salt, I believe). I don't recommend it, for health risk reasons, but I thought I'd mention it, just as a curious fact.

We also put in all sorts of sweet or savory fillings (we call them blinchiki then - little blini), it can be anything, from cottage cheese, apples and berries, to fish and ground meat mixtures. Some cooks even make blini cakes, using blini as layers, and all sorts of filling in between the layers, again, it can be sweet (berries or fruit) or savory (chicken, etc.).

In my years of building a Russian community here, I used to organize traditional celebrations for families with kids. I also taught American elementary school students, and Maslenitsa was one of the most beloved celebrations always. During our classes or community celebrations, I would tell children about the history and meaning of Maslenitsa, play games, sing songs and dance round dances. We also made dolls (but we didn't burn them - they were too pretty!), and of course at the end of our gatherings, we would share home-made blini. You can see this little video from one Maslenitsa celebration in the organization that I lovingly created (Russian's Cool!). The song is by unique Russian elder folk singers BURANOVSKIYE BABUSHKI (2nd place at Eurovision in 2012) and electronic ethno musicians IVAN KUPALA (beautiful video HERE).

Maslenitsa is the last wild party before the long Lent when supposedly we have to bring our focus onto our inner life, onto our soul. And before we begin this long focused journey, we celebrate life, we celebrate food, we celebrate Sun and the change of seasons. At the end of our festivities, we ask those we love for their forgiveness, and we also forgive those who have ever hurt us, knowingly or unknowingly. We don't need to practice a particular religion or any religion at all, to recognize the beauty and greatness of this idea. I love the way Dr. Wayne W. Dyer put it: “We are not human beings in search of a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings emersed in a human experience.”

Photos by Justin

Happy Maslenitsa!
Goodbye Winter!
Welcome Sun!

Linking up with Patti's Visible Monday!

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  1. Oh yes good bye winter... in germany is much snow :( I wanna not go home ...:))
    This post is so heart warming ❤️ Happy Maslenitsa Natalia!
    Huge hug Tina from warm Thailand

  2. ohhh, so lovely post, I could even feel all the cozyness of your cute kitchen and the warm smell of those blinis!!. I love every festivity related to change of seasons, and I think they're pretty enjoyable when they involve cooking something!. Here we have Candlemas festivities, and 'San Blas' iced doughnuts in tree branches, to celebrate that we turned the page of the bleak midwinter.
    Lovely post!
    Happy Maslenitsa!

    1. What a wonderful celebration - I didn't know about it!

  3. yummy post!!
    in every way! of cause the recipe - but love your photos of your cozy home too - all this romantic kitchenware!
    and its very interesting to learn about maslenitsa. it seems a pendant to our carnevale/fastnacht/fasching..... but has more calories :-D
    pancakes are "pfannkuchen" in german - but in our eastern, slavic rooted corner we call them "plinsen"!!! (and we have so many recipes of them as grannies are around!)
    sweet pictures from the community celebration!
    i´m off to buy buttermilk for plinsen now - because thats my way to make them:
    much love my dear!!!! xxxxxx

    1. I loved your old post - so yummy and homey too! Made me hungry for plinsen again! :)))
      There are many recipes for blini, and there are blini made with buttermilk (kefir) and yeast too. Also, if you make your batter thicker and use a regular table spoon, then you make a small version of this recipe called oladushki! :)

      Lots of love and plinsen!!!

  4. Happy Maslenitsa, Natalia! Thanks for telling us all about this wonderful celebration of the sun and the coming of Spring and sharing your blini recipe. They look absolutely delicious. I'm also loving the peek into your cozy kitchen. Lots of love, and a huge hug! xxx

  5. Happy Maslenitsa, Natalia! this post is every kind of wonderful. I'm lusting after your kitchenware and your china! Back in the day I made blinis for Russian clients, I wish you'd been on hand to help me. xxx

    1. I was not so experienced back then, I'm afraid! :))
      Thank you for compliments - I love my vintage kitchenware and china, all thrifted!

  6. Happy Maslenitsa , Natalia. I so enjoyed this post and learning about the festivities and also how to make blinis- they look delicious. Coincidentally I had just seen a news item on this featuring the Russian community in Sydney enjoying their celebrations. Your camellias look lovely with their dusting of snow. xx

    1. Thank you so much, my dear! There is a large Russian speaking community in Sydney, I know.

  7. As an official tester of our family blini, I would like to testify that this is a particularly tasty recipe. Plain, with savory or sweet additions, these are sooooooooo good and satisfying. I hope we have them again very, very, very soon. :)

  8. What a lovely tradition Natalia!
    I think it is such a rich heritage that you enjoy. I also love blini and my favorite way to enjoy them is with caviar. And champagne of course. They look delicious the way you prepare them. Have a wonderful week and stay warm !

    1. You know what, to tell the truth, I've never had blini with caviar AND champagne! :))) I must try!

  9. Maslenitsa is a lovely tradition and I loved reading about it. Welcoming sun is always a good thing. We also have some unique traditions in Croatia too, some day I might write about them. The video you prepared is adorable, love the song. I'm sure that kids enjoyed making dolls and all that...and no wonder you decided not to burn the dolls, pretty as they are.

    In Croatia there is a tradition of a doll (called Krnjo) that is burned at the end of the carnival, usually it looks like one of the politicians:). Krnjo doll usually get puts to trial, accused of everything and burned in the end. When I was a kid, I always wondered why was Krnjo so bad or was it really so. In one Croatian island, there is also a custom of burning a boat. The boat is filled with things we need to get let go and then it is burned.

    We call blinas palanchinke here. As far as I know, there are not related to any customs or traditions and there isn't a special time when we make them. It would be lovely to eat blinas for a whole week, though. Yours look yummy...and thank you for sharing the recipe.

    1. So interesting to learn about your traditions, my dear! I think to our pagan ancestors it was a symbol of getting rid of all the old stuff - winter and all the old baggage with it, and it's a good thing! They would make just one huge doll out of straw and burn it. It's not what we did with our little children (they would be too upset to burn their dolls), we only told them about a huge doll burning tradition, and then made individual dolls unrelated to Maslenitsa, really. :)