Churchill described Russia’s actions as “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”
Almost fifty years before the brilliant British statesman issued his famous phrase, a Russian artist Sergei Malyutin had a similar idea. Tzar Nicholas II, who ascended the Russian throne in 1894, promoted Russian culture, arts, and crafts. Granted, in a way it was an attempt to dissuade public resentment of his German wife. However, the Tzar himself had a hobby to which he would dedicate most of his time and attention – woodcarving. The monarch’s hobby inspired so-called “Russian style” in arts, specifically focused on the old-fashioned village children’s toys. The royal family sponsored a workshop called “Children’s Nurturing” which created dolls dressed in regional Russian national costumes. It is in this workshop that Malyutin conceived the idea of a nestling doll that took the world by a storm and became a symbol and epitome of Russia.
The first Matryoshka doll was carved by a doll-master Zvyozdochkin following Malyutin’s sketches. It was given a quintessential old Russian name: Matryoshka is a diminutive from Matryona, a revered name stemming from a root mater’ – mother, a healthy, happy, full-figured symbol of motherhood and fertility. Today you can find matryoshka dolls looking like presidents, rock starts, and cartoon characters. Purists claim that those are “not real,” but actually, as long as there are at least three dolls concealed inside each other, you get an authentic expression of the Russian national character: “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”
We are starting with a wrapper – Spring Roll Wrappers, to be specific. We are going to create a mystery to surround a riddle. We will boil it, and mix it, and bake it, and serve it as a gift-wrapped bundle, and then…
… let’s see what we find inside! We will need some aquafaba, if we don’t want to use eggs, and a meat substitute of your choice, if you don’t want to use ground turkey or lean ground beef.
First, we need to peel and boil a couple of sweet potatoes. That’ll take about twenty minutes. When they are ready, drain and mash them up. Let them rest for now.
While your potatoes are cooking, you need to soak a couple of slices of bread (I always have leftovers of spelt challah to use for various purposes) in soy or any other non-dairy milk. Mash it up in a separate bowl.
Beef-less Ground is my favorite meat substitute, but feel free to use whatever you prefer, or go all out and use ground turkey or lean beef. Combine it with mashed soaked bread.
Throw in some diced onion and garlic, grated carrots, chopped fresh parsley, whisked aquafaba or eggs, season it with salt and pepper, and mix it all up. Remember, your mashed sweet potatoes are not a part of this mix; they are still resting.
Now, mist your muffin form with oil and arrange those spring roll wrappers there instead of muffins. Fill them with meatless (or ground meat) mix, top with mashed sweet potato, and close the corners. Make sure you seal your bundles well. Mist them with oil and send them to the oven, preheated to 350 F. Meanwhile, watch some live “matryoshkas” dance – the world famous ensemble “Beriozka.”
It seems we have a little problem! The dance is over, but your surprise still needs some more time in the oven, about fifteen minutes. Let’s make a nutritious green treat to compliment it!
Take a bunch of kale, cut the stems away, and tear it into smaller pieces, about 1 inch squares. Place them into a microwaveable dish.
Mix in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle a little salt. I also sprinkle a pinch of sumac, for lemony taste, but mostly for color. Microwave it uncovered for three or four minutes, depending on your microwave, until the chips are thoroughly dry and crisp.
By this time your Meatless Surprises should be ready, and you can serve these precious crispy bundles with juicy filling on a bed of crispy kale chips. A riddle wrapped in a mystery could be both pretty and delicious!
- 1 large or two medium size sweet potatoes
- 2 – 3 slices spelt, whole wheat, or multi-grain bread
- 1/4 cup soy or other non-dairy milk substitute of your choice
- 1 cup aquafaba (liquid left from cooking chick peas) (alternatively, 1 large egg)
- 1 lb ground meat substitute (alternatively, 1 lb ground turkey or lean ground beef)
- 1/2 medium size onion, diced
- 2 – 3 garlic cloves, diced
- 1/4 cup grated carrot
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 12 Spring Roll Wrappers
- For Kale Chips:
- 2 cups loosely packed kale, cut from stems, torn into 1 inch (2.5 cm) squares
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- A pinch of salt to taste
- Optional: a pinch of sumac
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Mist muffin form with oil.
- Peel and boil sweet potatoes until very soft. Drain and mash them up. Put aside.
- Tear bread slices into small pieces, soak in soy milk until soft. Mash them up. Add ground neat substitute.
- Whisk aquafaba to foam, add to meat/bread mixture. Add the rest of ingredients, mix well.
- Arrange spring roll wrappers in muffin tin, fill with mix, top with mashed sweet potatoes, close corners, and seal firmly, forming a bundle. Mist with oil.
- Bake for 18 – 20 minutes.
- Mix kale pieces with oil, salt, and sumac. Microwave for 3 – 4 minutes until dry and crisp.
- Serve baked Meatless Surprises on bed of kale chips.