What is vinegret?
Vinegret (винегре́т) or vinaigrette is a colorful salad of Russian origin. It includes many winter vegetables such as beet, potato, carrot, large typically Russian pickles in brine, peas, fermented cabbage, onion and a seasoning based on vinegar, vegetable oil, salt and pepper.
In season, it can also contain fava beans or green beans. Contrary to what the name of this cold starter might suggest, the dressing does not contain any vinaigrette (French salad dressing). Indeed, the dressing of French origin is an emulsion obtained from a mixture of vinegar, oil, salt and pepper but enriched with mustard.
In the case of Russian vinegret, it is the presence of pickles and fermented cabbage that helps to enhance this dish. In summer, the cucumber is a pleasant replacement for pickles. The vinegret salad can suit a vegetarian or vegan diet.
What is the origin of vinegret?
Vinegret is one of the zakouski (закуски), a Russian term for appetizers. Generally, zakouski consist of a very wide variety of salads, cold cuts, fish, caviar, preparations based on cooked vegetables and vegetables in brine. They are also found in Armenian and Ashkenazi cuisines. They are typical of receptions and banquets, they are often served in a room used to welcome guests and not in the dining room where the rest of the meal takes place.
Like its cousin, the Russian salad also called Olivier salad, the vinegret is probably of French origin. In the 19th century, the presence of French cooks in restaurants and upperclass Moscow houses is popular. Lucien Olivier, Franco-Belgian chef, for example, heads the Moscow Hermitage.
This French influence will extend throughout the end of the 19th century and until the Russian Revolution of 1917. Nevertheless, a very similar recipe is mentioned in a culinary dictionary from 1795 under the name of okroshka, which today designates a cold soup based on vegetables which can be enriched with meats. It was not until the 19th century that the two recipes became very distinct.
Formerly, the name was identical to French vinaigrette, it was only after the Revolution that it will evolve into vinegret.
Even if vinegret is consumed all year round, for some Russians, it is particularly prepared during Lent.
How to make vinegret
Vinegret is always prepared from cooked vegetables, which are boiled in salted water. Beetroot must be cooked separately to avoid tinting all other foods with red initially.
It is also best to peel the potato after cooking so that it retains more flavor.
Once the beets, potatoes and carrots are cooked in water, they can be diced regularly. In France, the term macedoine is used for this type of cutting.
Large diced malossol pickled are then added, as well as cooked peas, fermented cabbage and raw onion.
Seasoning is done with salt, pepper, white vinegar and vegetable oil, usually sunflower that is popular in Russia.
The salad can be enjoyed with wholemeal bread such as borodinski bread for example or a glass of kvass, a traditional drink.
What are the vinegret variants?
Today the term vinegret in Russia refers to any dish containing diced cooked items. Thus, you will find fish, meat or mushroom vinegret.
Variants of vinegret also exist in Germany and in the Scandinavian countries, the ingredients differ quite often but the presentation and the seasoning remain fairly close.
- 1 large beet , boiled and diced
- 1 large potato , boiled and diced
- 1 large carrot , boiled and diced
- 5 Russian pickles in brine
- 5 tablespoons cooked peas
- 5 oz. fermented cabbage (sauerkraut)
- 1 onion
- 3 tablespoons white vinegar
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- In a bowl, mix all the vegetables and season with the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Mix well.