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.
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!
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- While those are boiling, find another small pot and cover your eggs with water. Allow them to boil for ten minutes as well.
- Steam your frozen peas according to packaging or freshness instructions.
- Cube the boiled eggs and anything else that has not yet been cubed.
- 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.
- 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.