If you are a fan of fried potato, you will love these Belarusian potato cakes (draniki). Shredded potato is combined with flour and egg to form a patty, then shallow-fried until golden. In our version, we’ve stuffed them with a meaty mushroom filling. Serve them with sour cream for a delicious snack.
Country Number 15: Belarus
Belarus is one of the few European nations that we knew little about until recently. Obviously, we have become more aware of its background due to the international spotlight focused on it as a result of its post-election democratic protests against tyranny. As such, it was interesting timing for Belarus to pop up in our cooking challenge. It’s always cool to find out about a country’s culture. This challenge has been great for not only broadening our cooking repertoire, but also for learning more about the history of each country through its cuisine.
History of Belarusian Cuisine
The national cuisine of Belarus has evolved over the centuries in a rather unique way. On one hand, there are many culinary traditions and simple recipes that were used by the commoners and peasants. On the other hand, Belarus has a more sophisticated cuisine, comprising of unique ingredients and unusual ways of cooking. These gastronomic traditions originated from Belarusian bourgeois. These days, Belarusian cuisine is a mix of the two, with many traditional recipes still popular.
In terms of culinary influence, Belarusian food has been influenced by a mix of Baltic, Slavic, Jewish and German cuisines. Modern Belarusian cuisine has been heavily impacted by its recent Soviet past. You’ll still find many restaurants featuring Russian dishes. Just like its surrounding Eastern European neighbours, Belarusian cuisine is largely based around meat and potatoes.
Thankfully, local produce is abundant in Belarus, meaning meat and potatoes aren’t the only things served up. Almost the entire country is flat, making it ideal for farming. This means ingredients featured in the cuisine are typically homegrown, including vegetables, pulses, berries, grains and even spices. Below are some of the popular vegetarian dishes in Belarus that are made with this local produce.
Popular Belarusian Vegetarian Dishes
- Draniki- the most typical dish found in Belarus. These potato pancakes are made of grated potatoes, flour and egg made into a patty and normally served with sour cream.
- Sashni– fried potato cutlets that are stuffed with cottage cheese
- Borscht– A popular soup across Eastern Europe that can be served hot or cold. In Belarus, they add chunks of potato to the hot version and eggs, fresh greens and cucumbers to the cold version.
- Spring salad- a simple salad made of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers and dill, served with sour cream or olive oil
- Kulaga- a simple, traditional dessert made of berries, honey and wheat flour, often served as an accompaniment to pancakes
Vegetarian rating of Belarusian Cuisine:
Making Potato Cakes Stuffed with Mushrooms (Draniki)
It was very easy to decide which dish to cook for Belarus. Not only does the national dish of Belarus happen to be a vegetarian dish, it also happens to consists of fried potato. Fried potato is delicious, so it was a no-brainer. Draniki are simply potato cakes (or latke) made by combining shredded potato, flour and eggs into patties and shallow-frying them. They are typically served as-is with a dollop sour cream on the side. However, they can also come stuffed with meat.
We figured that rather than missing out on the extra excitement of a stuffing, we’d make a vegetarian version. Given the meaty texture of mushrooms, these were the obvious choice for a stuffing substitute. Although draniki would still be tasty on their own, the mushroom stuffing really takes them to the next level. It also makes them into a slightly more adequate meal. Not that we’d ever judge anyone for consuming fried potatoes as a stand-alone meal.
Our draniki turned out to be very tasty (I mean, it’s fried potato, how could it not?) The only trouble we faced in the process was in forming the patties. We used a food processor to shred the potato, which saved a lot of time. However, the setting we used meant the pieces turned out quite thick. We discovered that it is a lot harder to form patties with thick shreds of potato. To counteract this, we had to add extra flour to bind them together and this did the trick. If you want patties that bind together easily, we’d recommend finely shredding your potato. However, if you prefer a fun, chunky texture to your potato cakes (like ours), just be aware you might need to add extra flour to bind them together.
How to make potato cakes
These potato cakes make for a quick lunch or snack, coming together in just a few easy steps. If you really want to simplify the process, you can skip the mushroom filling and just make the potato cakes.
- Make mushroom filling by caramelizing mushroom and onion
- Combine shredded potato with egg, milk, and flour and form into patties
- Shallow fry patties of potato and mushroom mixture for a few minutes each side, until golden.
Ingredients notes for potato cakes
- Mushroom filling– If you aren’t a fan of mushrooms, feel free to make these without the filling. Or, get creative with your own filling option.
- To make gluten-free– To make these potato cakes gluten-free, you can sub normal flour with a GF option such as rice flour.
- Shredded potato– To shred potato, you can use a grater or a food processor with a grater attachment. As mentioned above, the more finely you shred the potato, the easier the patties will come together. If you have thicker shreds, you’ll need to add more flour to bind the patties.
Serving suggestions for potato cakes
These potato cakes make for a great snack or lunch. Traditionally, draniki are served in Belarus with a simple side of sour cream and sometimes applesauce. They would also make a delicious breakfast as a replacement for hash browns.
Other easy snacks to make
Potato Cakes Stuffed with Mushrooms (Draniki)
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 cup mushrooms (diced)
- 1/2 red onion (sliced)
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 egg (whisked)
- 1/4 cup milk
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 650 g 5 medium-sized potatoes, peeled & finely shredded
- 1 spring onion (sliced)
- 1/2 cup flour
- Sour cream
- Heat butter in frying pan over medium heat. Add chopped red onion and mushroom and sauté for a few minutes. Add in brown sugar, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft and caramelised.
- Meanwhile, combine egg, milk, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add in shredded potato and spring onion and mix. Slowly mix in flour, until mixture will stick together in your hands.
- Heat 1cm of vegetable oil in a frying pan over high-heat. Add a heaped spoonful of potato mixture, followed by a spoonful of mushroom mixture, followed by another spoonful of potato mixture. Fry for 3 minutes, then flip and fry for another 3 minutes.
- Repeat until all mixture is used. Served hot with sour cream.
Did you make this recipe? We’d love to know! Tell us how it went in the comments below or tag us (@gourmetvegetarians) in your photos on Instagram.
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