I was sent a copy of Leo Tolstoy: A Vegetarian Tale for my honest review. All purchase links are affiliate links. If you make a purchase I receive a small commission that helps to keep the Farm cats in treats.
About the Book:
Learn the recipes of one of history’s most famous writers and vegetarians in Leo Tolstoy: A Vegetarian’s Tale . Featuring the writer’s original recipes as interpreted by renowned modern-day chef, this book is guaranteed to provide you with some of the best-tasting meat-free meals you’ve ever cooked! Leo Tolstoy was a trendsetter. He was one of the most important and prolific writers of his time—his novels, like Anna Karenina and War and Peace , are still being taught in schools and adapted for the screen. But he was also one of the first widely known vegetarians. Though a meat-eater early in his life, by the time he turned 50 he’d decided it was immoral for someone to kill on his behalf just so he could enjoy a slab of beef for lunch. He became an ovo-lacto vegetarian, but because of the time in which he lived it was up to him (and particularly his lovely wife, Sofia) to create vegan and vegetarian recipes that would both taste good and keep him healthy. Now, for the first time ever, Tolstoy’s mouth-watering, meat-free meals have been collected in Leo Tolstoy: A Vegetarian’s Tale . This book features vegan and vegetarian recipes from Tolstoy’s wife. Sophia Tolstoy’s 1874 “Cookery Book”, which was compiled for her by her brother from her diaries, provides a rich tapestry of the Tolstoy family’s dining habits. The recipes range from homemade Macaroni and Cheese to Potatoes a la Maître D’Hôtel, with plenty of tasty options in between (including family specialties you can’t find anywhere else, such as Tolstoy’s Herbal Liqueur). Many of the original versions of the recipes lacked exact descriptions of ingredients and cooking times, but the recipes were edited by chef de cuisine at some of Moscow’s best fine-dining restaurants to insert the missing elements to make the meals you prepare as delicious as possible. So whether you’re looking for a modern revision on a classic or the original recipe right from the 1800’s, you’re guaranteed to find a meal you’ll love. The book contains not only original recipes from Tolstoy and his family; it also includes diary entries written by his wife Sofia, his children, and others who stayed at his estate. These fascinating passages help illuminate the famous writer’s day-to-day life. If you’re a Tolstoy fan, then this book is a revealing must-have that sheds new light on this timeless writer’s life. Whether you are a vegetarian, vegan, foodie, literary major, or Tolstoy fan, you will enjoy reading and creating these recipes for yourself, friends and family
About the Author:
Writer, blogger, historian and food enthusiast, was born and grew up in Russia, but now living in Los Angeles. His passions are European history and the history of food. Also, he volunteered as an editing corrector for the “All Tolstoy in one click” project which aims to digitalize the entire works of Tolstoy.
I don’t think anyone is going to be buying this book solely as a cookbook. Yes it has recipes but the real point of the book is the correlation of those recipes to the family and life of Leo Tolstoy. I’ve read Anna Karenina and War and Peace but I will admit that it was a long time ago. I was intrigued by the concept of this cookbook and I can always use some new vegetarian recipes.
Let me note that this is not a “healthy” vegetarian cookbook. It takes the recipes of the Tolstoy family – mostly Sophia Tolstoy’s – and gives the reader the recipe how it appeared in her diary and then a version for the modern day cook. These are recipes from a Russian family with tastes that run from good, solid peasant food to some more elegant dishes. There is a LOT of butter and cream. I am down with the butter and cream but as noted – not necessarily healthy.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the original recipes and the stories behind them. It was a look into family life in the 19th century. In my opinion a little kitchen experience is helpful when executing the recipes – you’ll see what I mean when I demonstrate the recipe below. There are several that look interesting to me, several that I already knew and several that were completely new to me. I do love to read cookbooks and one with rich stories like this one are all the more fun.
4 1/2 cups flour, divided
3 1/2 sticks butter, divided
3 3/4 cups powdered sugar, divided
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup water
Directions for the Dough:
Cut 2 1/2 sticks of butter into cubes and put them into a bowl
Add 1 1/4 cups of powdered sugar and sift in 4 cups of flour. Add 3 egg yolks and the water.
Stir thoroughly until the paste becomes uniform and put it into the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325° while the dough is resting.
Then press or roll the dough into a high sided baking mould with the sides at least 1/4 inch thick – I used a springform pan
Bake for 20 minutes at 325°F
Directions for the Filling:
Mix 1 stick of room temperature butter with 2 whole eggs, 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, the zest of two lemons and the juice of three lemons
Heat the mix on water bath until it thickens. Stir continuously with a whisk.
If you want to dress it up you can add some berries and a bit of chocolate drizzle as I did.
How Was It?
The crust is good; it’s basically an enriched shortbread. It’s there to hold that beautiful lemon curd. It doesn’t want to do anything to take away from that. This is not how I usually make lemon curd – I tend to make it with granulated sugar as opposed to powdered sugar. This recipe did produce a sharp, tart curd and it was delicious. I did feel it was better with the strawberries – they helped to cut the strong lemon flavor. And well, chocolate. It never hurts.
Just for fun here is the recipe from Sophia’s diary:
1 pound of flour
1/2 pound of butter
1/4 pound of sugar
1 shotglass of water
The butter has to be as cold as possible.
The filling: rub 1/4 pound of butter add two eggs and rub them with the butter, then comes 1/2 pound of ground sugar. Grate the zest of two lemons and add the juice of three lemons. Boil it all until it becomes thick as honey.
I am thinking she left a little bit out….
Other Lemon Dessert Recipes:
A recipe from Leo Tolstoy: A Vegetarian’s Tale
- 4 1/2 cups flour, divided
- 3 1/2 sticks butter, divided
- 3 3/4 cups powdered sugar, divided
- 2 eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 3 lemons
- 1/4 cup water
- Directions for the Dough:
- Cut 2 1/2 sticks of butter into cubes and put them into a bowl
- Add 1 1/4 cups of powdered sugar and sift in 4 cups of flour. Add 3 egg yolks and the water.
- Stir thoroughly until the paste becomes uniform and put it into the refrigerator for 30 minutes
- Then press or roll the dough into a high sided baking mould with the sides at least 1/4 inch thick
- Bake for 20 minutes at 325°F
- Directions for the Filling:
- Mix 1 stick of room temperature butter with 2 whole eggs, 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, the zest of two lemons and the juice of three lemons
- Heat the mix on water bath until it thickens. Stir continuously with a whisk.
- Pour the filling over the cooked crust, bake it in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes at 325°F A golden yellow skin should develop on the top