Great Lent Recipes: The Kissel

To avoid sounding like those annoying food bloggers who make you scroll through thousands of words of text to get to the recipe, I’ll share the recipe first and then talk about the history of the dish.

Actually, there isn’t much of a recipe. You take split peas and boil them into oblivion. That’s it. That’s the famous kissel.

Of course, I like to fuss with mine and add a bunch of stuff to it:

  • shredded carrots (because I put carrots into everything)
  • dried mushrooms
  • a cinnamon stick
  • a bit of cubed potatoes
  • lots of cracked black pepper
  • dill
  • and one of those Polish mushroom bouillon cubes because I’m addicted to them.

It’s supposed to be boiled down even more but I like some crunch to mine. Make sure there isn’t too much water because this isn’t a soup. Kissel is supposed to go hard overnight in the refrigerator. Then you slice it and heat it up. Or color it with some beet juice and call it “Lenten bologna.”

The pea kissel was very popular before the revolution of 1917. It was the major Lenten dish. But it was considered low-class food. Merchants who struck it rich would hide in their offices, lower the curtains, and indulge in some takeout kissel in secret.

After the revolution, the kissel somehow transformed into a completely different thing. The peas disappeared, and it became a sweet, dessert-type gooey beverage made out of starch, sugar, and some berries.

And here’s a picture of Lenten bologna that I didn’t make but it’s funny and I want to share it:

Lenten bologna (постная вареная колбаса)

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