Travelling by taste-bud

In Culture, Food, Musings on March 15, 2011 at 9:03 am

One of the nicer perks of being in, or having a parent or spouse in academia is the opportunity to meet and befriend people from cultures, ethnicities and nationalities very different from your own. If a major purpose of university education is to ‘open up’ a person’s mind to possibilities hitherto unexplored –  whether in the realm of subatomic particles, or the reinterpretation of obscure pre-modern philosophy (take your pick really! Its all there, mostly funded by your tax money thank you 🙂 ) – then, being part of a really diverse mix of people really aids that process in subtle and beautiful ways.

The icing on this knowing-diverse-people cake has to be the part where you get invited to someone’s house for a meal to taste ‘their’ cuisine, or when they bring you back a little something from their trips back home.

A quick example of how this process has worked to make the grey matter swell in our crania : Rosolje (ROS-OL-YE — ‘Ros’- like Rose, the flower; ‘ol’- like ‘ole’ in ‘hole’; and’ je’ like ‘ye’ in ‘yesterday’)

Pretty Pink!

We hadn’t ever heard of it, or tasted it, or imagined that something like it exists, until a very sweet Estonian couple – colleagues of the nicer-half, invited us over to dinner one night.  Since there was a vegetarian present, the emphasis of the meal had been on different kinds of salad.  It was a dramatic pink color,  and had the most enticing sweet-sour taste, and a really unexpected, yet delightful blend of textures….soft, mushy, chewy, crunchy all at once! Not a big fan of pink anything, except things like very good quality strawberry ice-cream, or the pink chaddi campaign, I was really tentative about the first taste, and really surprised at how much I relished every bite.

I  shamelessly scraped the bowl to get the last bit of it at that dinner, and asked our friends for the name of the dish, and the recipe. She gave me the name, and stated that the recipe was very inexact – a blend of beets, eggs, potatoes, pickled fish, and lots of optional stuff. I got back home, googled for the recipe, and promptly forgot about it until a couple of days ago, when I saw a bag of beets at the open market in the town square – fresh and tasty looking  (the lalita-ji part of me wants to tell you that it only cost a euro!) I picked it up with the intention of baking chocolate beet cake over the weekend, and the memory of the lovely Rosolje popped into my head as a way to use up the rest of the bag.

For the recipe, I looked at a couple from the google results, but ended up winging my own. Here it goes:

Boil, peel and dice:

2 large beets

2 medium potatoes

3 eggs (I used whites and yolks)

Chop into a size compatible with diced stuff from above:

4 pickled cucumbers (mine were ‘medium’ sized about 3 inches long)

1 crisp and tart apple, if you like (I didn’t use any, but our Estonian hostess did)

About 8 slices or 4 inches worth of a 2.5 inch diameter cooked chicken sausage

Mix and toss the whole thing with a couple of teaspoons of the pickle juice (mine was infused with mustard garlic and coriander since those were the spices in the commercial pickle jar), 2 teaspoons french (or any) mustard and a couple of tablespoons of sour cream. Add salt to taste if you think it is needed. Let it sit for about 15 minutes for the flavors to meld, and enjoy.

We had just the Rosolje for lunch one Saturday, and it kept us going until dinner, so it is pretty filling. This might be a good recipe to try if you’re trying to go grain free and need something substantial in your meal. This quantity made two very generous servings, and would serve four as a side.


It is a super forgiving recipe, and can be tweaked across the spectrum from vegan (omit eggs and whip silken tofu and mustard for dressing), vegetarian, ovo-lacto, to outright meat-itarian. I’m sure this tastes really nice with pickled herring in it. The spouse loves it, but I don’t, and there’s no IKEA in our town (which is the only place outside Sweden that we know as a reliable source), so there was none in our Rosolje.

The bottom-line, to really justify the title of this post, is that Rosolje was a completely unfamiliar experience for us. We would never ever have imagined combining apples and beets with things like boiled eggs, fish, sausage and pickled vegetables, let alone throw mustard and sour cream into the mix!!!!! To our former selves, it sounds quite ‘yuck’ inducing, and more like a recipe for disaster than anything else.

But with a little encouragement from wonderful people, the journey to Rosolje was successful and memorable, and one that we hope to make again and again.

What have you been doing recently that has taken you outside your comfort zone, made you have a lot of fun, and changed you a little bit forever? We would love to hear.

  1. I’m a sucker for anything beet! We get the sweetest local beets around the start of summer and this can be a great recipe for a summer potluck.

    I think our India trip was so completely out of our preferred comfort zone (read: isolated places, preferably mountains, no people). All sorts of wonderful and ridiculous things happened to us but we had a blast and I can’t wait to start planning our next visit!

  2. Shades of a wonderfully flipped frittata! Food does things to the mind – joggled ye olde greying cells that turned pink…as pink as the Rosolje. Memories of Estonian theatre friends in Denmark came flooding back. Everything blurred except the Rosolje prepared by Triinu. For the foodie in you, check out

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