Easy-Peasy Russian Olivier/Olivye Recipe

I remember the first time I had Olivye in Samara, Russia with a woman who became a dear friend and tutor – Marina. She explained to my companion and I how she’d prepped it, and then mixed in some mayo with her bare hands in front of us. She had stored some of the food in buckets in her kitchen, and it was all so different than anything I was used to as far as hygiene and storage goes. Now, this may not be representative of the norm, but it also was not uncommon to see people store food in buckets. Sometimes dry foods in dry buckets (nothing weird to me there), but sometimes also wet foods in buckets of cold water. Like pickles. People also didn’t always have special utensils for every type of food, and if they did, it wasn’t always worth getting them dirty when you could just dig in with your hands. Mayonnaise and all. Luckily, I’m no germaphobe, but I had a few American companions who were less than comfortable with the cooking setup at times.

I LOVE the dachas and gardens that people had. It was my favorite to go out and pick our very own tea leaves or vegetables or flowers for different occasions with our always hospitable hosts. This picture was take the only time I ever met this lady and she proudly showed off the efforts of her hard work in the garden to us.

Living in Arizona today, I’m already starting to feel summer coming on strong and am thinking about barbecues and potlucks. And if you’re looking for a dish that your friends will love, you can’t go wrong with potato salad. But showing up with a potato salad doesn’t sound all that gourmet, right? Next time you BBQ with friends, why not try this Russian take on a potato salad and tell your friends that you’re serving some gourmet Olivier/Olivye (uh-liv-yay).

Olivye has evolved slightly over the years, and is most popular on holidays like Easter, Christmas, New Years, as well as at restaurants. And with those especially generous hosts/hostesses, like Marina below, you might even find yourself dished with a random Tuesday brunch of olivye as a house guest.

A Fun, Family Easter Dinner Idea

With Easter just next Sunday, what else could be better than trying a new dish with the family! And because it’s got hard boiled eggs, you can make a whole day’s worth of activities leading up to this meal! #savethehardboiledeggs Russians often dye their eggs in natural colors, like beets or red onions, and decorate them with flowers and leaves. I go into more detail in my post on Russian Easter celebration ideas. So, why not throw a Russian Easter party, and when you’re done dying eggs, you can shell them and cube them up for a more colorful olivye salat! Click here or the link below this image to check out the post about Easter traditions!

Click HERE to check out more Easter and egg ideas this week!

Personally, my husband and I agreed that a potato salad is just a side dish, but I only have patience to read through one new recipe at a time. So we served it up with some good ol’ BBQ chicken and corn, and it was delicious. But if you want to go all-out Russian, then there are tons of other easy recipes you could mix with this. I love pirozhki (with meat OR cabbage, carrots and onions OR potatoes), shi (a soup), and cabbage rolls. All of these are super easy recipes that you can find.

Cooking Tips:

I’m not very talented in many domestic tasks, especially in the kitchen. So here are a couple things I learned or changed when cooking this meal.

  1. I looked over four or five different recipes before I started cooking, and some suggest making it with chicken. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I ever ate it with chicken while I was in Russia. I always think of this dish as having ham or bologna. And I actually remember really liking it with bologna, which is usually not something I care for. But I didn’t really know how to buy good bologna, and I didn’t want to deal with ham, so I just went meatless in my mix this week.
  2. Don’t overcook the potatoes like I did! I decided to cube my potatoes BEFORE boiling them, and they cooked way faster than I expected, leaving me with something halfway to mashed potatoes, which is not the goal. But no worries if you mess up here, it still tasted great!
  3. Drain the pickle juice by squeezing it with paper towels, or leaving sliced pickles in a sieve overnight before cooking. This keeps the pickle flavor from overpowering the rest.
My end result! My potatoes were a little too soft, but it was a yummy mess still!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb meat, cubed (optional)
  • 3 potatoes, cubed
  • 3 carrots, cubed
  • 6 eggs, cubed
  • 3 pickles, cubed
  • 1 sweet onion, cubed
  • 1 cup frozen fresh peas
  • 1/2 English cucumber, cubed
  • 1 cup mayo
  • dill to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp sugar

Instructions:

  1. I cubed my potatoes and carrots, then boiled them together. You want them to be just soft enough for the knife to easily poke through, but not so soft that you can easily mash them. With cubed potatoes and carrots, I should have checked them around 10 minutes, and I think they would have been perfect. If you choose not to cube the potatoes, it will take closer to 20-25 minutes, and you can add in the carrots halfway through.
  2. While those are boiling, find another small pot and cover your eggs with water. Allow them to boil for ten minutes as well.
  3. Steam your frozen peas according to packaging or freshness instructions.
  4. Cube the boiled eggs and anything else that has not yet been cubed.
  5. Combine all the ingredients and mix in the mayo gradually to your preferred taste. This can also depend on how chunky your ingredients are, as I just recently learned.
  6. Serve it hot or cold. It’ll stay good in the fridge for 2-3 days and serve about 10 people!

Let me know what you think of this recipe and what improvements you recommend! And if you like it, please don’t forget to share on social media! You can also look forward to more recipes from around the world by signing up for my monthly newsletter below.

Free Printable Easter Banner!

I love Easter. I love the bright colors. The bunnies. The flowers. The glitter, and baskets, and messes of fake grass, and special Sunday dresses, and everything else that I have been raised to correlate with the holiday. But my short time in Russia taught me a second version of how some people view Easter. A version that I have been impressed with and clinging to ever since.

When I think of Easter now, I tend to wonder how I can make it more meaningful than just bunnies, chicks, and cutesy baskets, and I always picture the Russian eggs among other things you can read about by clicking here. About mid-way through March this year, I realized it was time to take down the Valentine’s decor and think about whether I wanted to decorate for Easter. So I went to Pinterest. Aaand everything was covered in Easter bunnies, of course. Which I think is so fun and cute, by the way! For this holiday though, I just always want something…Russian!

So I sat down and tinkered with banner ideas until I made one for myself that felt like Russia. I have to say that I totally understand if you don’t think it’s as cute as some of the bright bunnies I saw on Pinterest. BUT. As soon as I started to see the first couple of pieces come together, I was so proud of this! It really just captured some of the beautiful traditions I saw on the single best holiday celebration I’ve ever been part of.

Maybe one day I’ll get a fancy camera to show off my creations and learn how to take a decent picture, but for now you can check out the flowery details on the banner and print it off for FREE by logging into my exclusive freebies folder. If you need access to that folder, just sign up below with your email, and the link will be sent to you. As a BONUS, you’ll get my monthly newsletters with all the fun updates, ideas, and even cultural tidbits I may not have shared on the blog 😉

How To More Fully Celebrate Easter: The Russian Way

“Воистину, Он воскрес.” As a Christian young woman, making my way down the streets of Saratov, Russia, I didn’t know that this traditional holiday greeting would stick with me and bring such joy every time I think of Easter. Or bunnies. Or kuliches. Or even Christmas! (Basically, anything that my mind connects back to Easter.) In translation, this saying means, “Indeed, He is risen.” And people would just pass by on the streets saying this to anyone! Usually we didn’t even get a free “hello” on a normal day, but here was a whole city that seemed to decide that in the name of their God and His religious holiday, they would step out of their comfort zone and say this to everyone! Talk about a beautiful show of unity and deep-rooted culture.

Now, to be more accurate about the tradition, it is a two-way greeting. The first person will simply say, “Christ is Risen.” And then the second can respond with the added, “Indeed, He is risen.”

Does that shatter your ideas of Russia? Have you thought Russians were these villainous, agnostic, bear-riding eskimos? Because I think some people are genuinely that confused about Russians based on propaganda and bad jokes they encounter.

The truth is, that’s not the Russia I know. Nor is it the Russia I have studied. Sure, they have had their blips. I mean, there was that whole communist Russia thing, and some nasty leaders, a Cuban missile crisis, and some continuing problems with laws and sanctions, but politics aside they have some rich beliefs and the most big-hearted citizens ever.

Here is a post that actually popped up on my timeline this week that I think says well how I felt about this traditional greeting:

So, what else do their Easter celebrations tell us about their culture? How else do they celebrate Easter? I’m stoked that you asked. Through all the historical twists and turns of religious freedom and variety in Russia, these people have held strongly to some of the most deeply meaningful traditions of older generations, namely in the proveslavni (Russian Orthodox) church.

Here are a few old Russian traditions that you can try at home or participate in with your families this year!

Easter Sunday 2014 in Saratov, Russia. This was the stash of Easter gifts Olivia Clyde and I had poured across our kitchen table in the afternoon. People we hardly knew to dear friends had gifted us with eggs or kuliches on the street, and then we had turned and handed out a couple to others we met on the way. Aaand some of it we ate, of course. This is just what made it home.

Kulich/Кулич

First of all, you have to know about the sweet bread. Because EVERYONE gets some, and it’s really not all that good. It’s not bad, but it’s just not great for something so special and gift-wrapped.

I remember friends telling us that they’d spent every extra minute at home the past three days making kuliches, or that they’d slaved away on this recipe for so long. (I never did understand whether they meant that it took that long to make one batch, or if they were making enough for an army. But I feel like it might have been the latter.) It’s pretty impressive the effort that can be put into these. Most people though, just go down to the nearest church to buy some that have been pre-made and blessed by the priests. If they’ve made it themselves, they can take the homemade loaves to a priest to be blessed as well.

Most of the kuliches I received as gifts had raisins in them, but a few had other surprises (nuts and other dried or candied fruits are popular options). And the tops were always glazed in a bit of frosting, just like a snow-covered church building.

Two church buildings frosted by the winter snow in Ulyanovsk, Russia. As told to me by Maxim Bucanov, “I was there during the summer time and saw how it was being built by constructors in speedos. Eric Lewis and I almost died laughing.” Another random representation of why I love Russia and its people.

Eggs

Then there are the eggs. This seems like a pretty worldwide tradition. However, these aren’t plastic, pastel-colored eggs, stuffed with junk and candy. These are usually “boring”, hardboiled eggs, which are representative of life and nourishment. In the featured image on this post you can see some very ornate eggs, decorated to be lavish gifts, like something that some of the tsars used to exchange and buy, I think. However, Russian Easter eggs are most often dipped in a simple red dye and decorated with the prints of flowers and leaves. The red dye is to represent the blood of Jesus, who the majority worship, and His sacrifice. In some cases, people still use natural dyes like red onion or beets to dye the eggs. Other eggs are decorated with an “XB” for “Христос воскрес” (“Christ is Risen”). And others still are fun and simple. But as you can see from my Russian Easter collection (photographed above), most of these eggs carry lots of simple symbolism.

I wanted something similar in my home this Easter and decided to make my own banner decor. You can check it out in this post, or just sign up below to get the link to print it off for yourself from my free (and growing) library!

The Church Service

Russia is no different from America in terms of the boost of church attendance on Easter Sunday. However, the timing of the service’s daytime hours might be drastically different. The Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox church has even begun to broadcast a main church service at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. Attendees and viewers can participate in a very long (I think 2 hours) service of scriptures, lighting candles, prayers, and worship songs/chants led by the patriarch. At midnight, he swings his incense and calls out the traditional greeting out to the crowd, “Christ is Risen” to which the crowd responds, “Indeed, He/Christ is Risen.” You can see a small sample of this late-night event in the Youtube video below!

So for Easter this year, I hope you try making some Easter eggs with flowers and leaves, or bake some kuliches, or even watch the Russian Easter service live on Youtube! And then share with me your thoughts and experiences!

What other things would you like to know about Russian Easter? Would you like to learn how to say the greeting? Follow my Facebook or Instagram to see more to come this month about Russia or comment below. And don’t forget to sign up for my monthly newsletter to get some special Russian facts, freebies and lessons this month!