Alissa is the founder of KinoVino: a cinema-dining club in London. She’ll be at MAKEMORE demonstrating her expert knowledge of Siberian dining.
What was your favourite childhood meal?
Without a doubt that would be Russian pancakes with sea buckthorn jam. Sea buckthorn is native to Siberia where I grew up, so we had tonnes of it in all shapes and forms from jams to juices and vodka infusions. My gran always made me the thinnest laciest pancakes (Russian blinis are actually similar to French crêpes rather than little crumpets that are known as blinis in the UK) and I’d devour a whole stack with lashings of sea buckthorn jam pretty much every evening.
and the last dish you cooked for yourself?
I am challenging myself to be a more resourceful cook at home, so at the moment I am trying to see how long I can go with just what’s already available in the pantry and not go out and buy more stuff. Some really lovely meals have come out of this challenge. The last one being a pasta with a tangy dressing of shallots, garlic, capers, chilli and bread crumbs. The whole cooking process is saved on my Instagram stories and I had such great feedback to it. It’s amazing to know there are lots of cooks out there who try to minimise food waste in their kitchens.
What’s one surprising thing most people wouldn’t know about Russian culinary heritage?
I’d say the common understanding is that Russian food is the same as Eastern European; and while it’s true that Russian cuisine shares a lot of roots with Ukrainian or Polish gastronomy, territorially the county is mostly situated in Asia, bordering Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China. So there are so many wonderful culinary influences coming from that part of the world! I grew up in a city called Omsk which pretty much borders Kazakhstan; my dad’s family comes from the Far Eastern border with China and my mum’s side are Ukrainian Jews. So you can only imagine the melange of culinary influences!
What’s your ideal three-course menu to pair with any film throughout history? What film would it be and why?
I love films that celebrate the power of food to bring people together and really translate that sense of festivity and deliciousness that comes from a gathering at a table. An ideal three-course meal would be simple, seasonal and have sharing platters. A big rustic garden salad served with crusty bread and amazing olive oil, followed by a simple one pot or tray dish, like roast chicken, some root veggies and a zingy dressing. For dessert there’d have to be cheese and berries of some sort!
It’s hard to pin down one film that translates that magic of eating and cooking: at the top of my list would be Babette’s Feast, The Lunchbox, A Mid-August Lunch and a brilliant indie docufilm called Oma and Bella.
What do you find is the most rewarding part of cooking?
When I cook for myself it’s definitely the sense of groundedness and calm that cooking gives me. I can be stressed, angry, anxious but as soon as I put a chopping board down and lay the ingredients in front of me the fog lifts and I am at my calmest. When cooking for friends or a supper club it’s the sight of people passing along plates, bread baskets or wine bottles! It gives me that inexplicable butterflies in the stomach feeling.