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December 31, 2013 UPDATE: Trio of Blinis (Toppings) on this page! Japanese, Chinese and Moroccan (easily vegan too)

Here we are in the no-man’s land between Christmas and New Years’ Eve. Our wallets are light, our bellies are full and those of us not back to work are eeking out the days in a haze of sofa-slumped telly watching, bobbing in a sea of sweetie wrappers. Or so the newspaper columnists would have us. Perhaps on Christmas Day itself, or more likely Boxing Day (December 26), this might be true, but I seriously doubt many of us enjoy an extended wallow in the calorie and sloth-induced torpor of the festive season. If you are used to a good diet, modest alcohol consumption, and a bit of exercise you soon get itching to break out the steamer or whap on the running shoes. Or at least not eat your body weight in leftover ham and roast potatoes. 

But even if we don’t wallow it is a bit strange how the days morph into one another when we are left to our own devices. Like letting Christmas sneak up on me, I have also let Miss R’s passport become dangerously close to expiring. For weeks now I have been telling myself that I would sort it tomorrow. Despite not having a Latin bone in my body the concept of mañana comes naturally to me at this rudderless time of year. What about you? Does the heady combo of no alarm and no fixed schedule free you/condemn you to revisit your adolescent self, but with less hair and clearer skin?

Anyway, Mr A and Miss R are off to Switzerland soon and my only involvement is to make sure they are allowed into the country. Not much to ask. The forms have been filled out and photos taken, but somehow the walk to the post office has been beyond me. Mr A, with a suppressed sigh, finally gave up on me and yesterday took this task in hand, only to be told by the post master that Miss R’s photo was ‘too smiley’. He recommended a second opinion by the local key cutter chap, who also does passport photos (and repairs shoes, and blows glass figurines for all I know). He took one look, sucked in his teeth and gruffly muttered, “Too much hair and smiling. This isnae Glamour Shots. It’s for a passport, not a fashion shoot”. That was us told. So I now have a gorgeous, smiley photo in my wallet where money used to be.

I have also been wiling away time making stacks of blinis – buckwheat ones, rye ones and spelt ones. For research purposes, you understand. Although Miss R and Mr A know to keep out of my way in the kitchen, they really couldn’t help themselves. Miss R has been taking frequent breaks from studying for Prelims by way of the kitchen, filching steaming hot blinis off the wire rack. Her favoured topping seems to be lemon curd, while Mr A all but inhaled those with yogurt, chopped hard-boiled egg and red onion on their springy tops. Me? Well, having tried at least five toppings I can’t pick a favourite, but the ones pinched straight from the pan taste mighty fine.

Blini are of course Russian. Whisked up and flipped on griddle pans over the past 1000 years or so, the toppings of old were caviar, wild honey, berries and smetena (like a more sour crème fraîche). Today there is no typical blini topping and, like tortillas and other warmed flat breads, pretty much anything goes, so feel free to pop whatever you like on top. They are utterly delicious – very light and with a tang from fermentation and wholegrain flour. Perhaps do what we do and whip up a batch or two for New Years’ Eve and top with horseradish-spiked creme fraiche and strips of dry-cure smoked salmon. A skoosh of fresh lemon and a scatter of dill and you have an elegant but easy appetiser that everyone will love. I give you other topping ideas below. Make plenty and freeze the rest for breakfast, snacks, parties or study breaks.


Blini are pancakes, Russian ones. But they are no ordinary pancakes: blinis are to pancakes, what Maserati (Maseratii?) are to cars. A huge leap forward. But unlike a Maserati anyone can enjoy a blini, and make one. Or preferably a whole stack, covered in crème fraiche and blackcurrant jam. The key with blini is patience. Not a degree in chemistry or a cupboard of fancy ingredients. Just patience. 

Makes 12 big blini or 40-50 appetizer-sized/snack-sized blini

100g plain flour
125g rye, buckwheat or stoneground spelt/wholemeal wheat flour
¾ tsp fine salt
5g dried quick yeast
300ml milk (whole or semi-skimmed seems to work best)
1 medium egg, separated
rapeseed oil, for frying

Savoury topping ideas with crème fraiche/sour cream/smetana/yogurt: smoked salmon (pictured), stir-fried wild mushrooms, sweet pickled herring, chopped hard-boiled eggs (pictured), sweet onions or caviar. Other savoury ideas: cheese, butter, Marmite, roasted vegetables. See this link (my 2013 update) for more global ideas!

Sweet toppings: crème fraiche/sour cream with good jam (pictured) and/or wild berries; lemon curd, cheese, nut butter (such as almond) and jam; honey, agave (pictured), treacle, sorghum molasses

Gently warm the milk to just above blood temperature, about 100F. Any hotter than 110F, and you will kill the yeast. Whisk in the egg yolk. 

Sift or whisk together the flours, salt and yeast. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the milk/egg mixture, whisking until smooth. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave in a warm place for at least one hour, until risen and bubbly on the surface. Leave for up to four hours if you can – the bubblier, the better. You can even do this step overnight in the refrigerator.

This waiting is where the patience comes in. Yeast feeds on carbohydrates – sugars and starches – and when provided with warmth, food and moisture, it grows quickly, producing carbon dioxide, which makes the dough, or batter, spongy and holey. It may also feel fairly warm, too. This is your batter fermenting. Basically you are making very wet dough, like you would for bread, and this ‘proving’, or rising, is essential to the final product – light, fluffy blini. 

Once the batter is bubbly and ready for blini-making, whisk up the egg white until stiff. Gently but thoroughly fold in one-third of the egg white to loosen the mix before folding in the rest.. If you can cover it and leave it for half an hour it will bubble up even more (I do this step), but isn’t absolutely necessary; they’ll still be fantastic without this extra rise/ferment. 

Now it’s blini time. Brush a heavy, non-stick pan or flat griddle pan with a little oil and heat over a medium heat. Some recipes want you to get it nearly smoking hot, but this is unnecessary and unhealthy. Drop a small amount of the batter in the pan; if it sizzles, it’s ready. Now, dollop in tablespoons of batter – about 4 to a pan. You don’t want to over-crowd the pan as it makes the blini more difficult to flip. Spread each dollop with your finger or spoon if you need to. Fry the blini gently for about 1 ½  – 2 minutes, until the tops have dried out and are freckled with small holes. Flip and keep frying for a further minute. Continue with the rest of the batter, adding the merest hint of oil as needed. Eat warm, with sweet or savoury toppings. These also reheat well in a low oven. And you can freeze them, too: defrost and warm in the oven.

Gluten-free: use all buckwheat flour, but the result is a bit heavier.

18 thoughts on “Brilliant Blinis with Sweet and Savoury Toppings

  1. jamie says:

    terrific use of the word isnae , seasons greetings to all the A’s

  2. Hi there. LOL, love your story. I am on holidays and am not even sure what day of the week it is today! Love it. Not wallowing, though. While we were in a bit of a chocolate coma for a couple of days, we are cycling by the duck ponds each day and Peter has even joined a gym for a short time. Boxing Day is my birthday, so there were lots of chocolates and bubbles!

    Happy new year from Downunder, and thanks so much for your wonderful posts.

    1. Hi Lizzy! Happy New Year to you, a little behind over here in Scotland. I’m glad you liked the wee story; the guy was a proper character! I’m also glad that you aren’t a wallower, but a do-er – much more fun. I do hope you had a fab birthday and didn’t once step foot in the kitchen (unless you wanted to that is). Roll on 2012 and all the promise it holds. Hope it is good for you and yours.

  3. Ann says:

    I can vouch for this recipe. Not that I have made it but because I had the pleasure of hoovering up several on Christmas day and they were delicious!

  4. Deb says:

    An exceptional holiday post! The blinis are ethereal. Am enjoying daydreaming about the topping choices!

    1. Aw thanks Deb. Looking forward to another year of your posts and reminders of your gorgeous weather. 😀

  5. almostveg says:

    I love your savory topping ideas. We make a blini like pancake in India called Uttapam with rice and lentils. Try this recipe at

  6. JaneyP says:

    The blinis are awesome, Kellie!!!! We all really liked them! (from David). Jamie liked them too! Thanks for the fab recipe Kellie!

    1. Thank you Jamie, David & Janey! I’m so glad you liked them! I hope you can find something else on here that you might want to make. I am working on more family friendly recipes. You could be my testers!

  7. yum yum i love blinis 🙂

  8. Hi Kellie, We met in Real Foods today, Isn’t funny how bumping into someone can lead to so many other avenues?
    Here is my WordPress blog,
    Your photos are very good for a non photographer doing it yourself!
    I am going to grab a moment later to have a browse through your site with a cuppa.
    Niki 🙂

    1. Hi Niki! Wow, you did look me up! I will check out your blog too. I love being inspired by photographers, even if you lot make me feel desperately inadequate 😀 I spent WAY too much in Real Foods. Only went in for my matcha green tea. Ach well…

  9. I can only think one word when I see these: caviar. Okay, two words: caviar. Paris. Then of course I think: vodka.

    Then…I am no longer glowing. Or I’m glowing too much. Either way, looks yummy to me.

  10. Christine says:

    Hi Kellie
    I thinking of doing the blinis tomorrow, but with half gluten free flour & half buckwheat flour (as avoiding gluten – following FODMAPs). I will let you know how I get on. Btw, I made your chocolate chestnut truffle cake for Christmas & it was a great success – rich but not over sweet and sickly

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