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We Dream of Blini

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We Dream of Blini

You might think of blinis as those little circles of deliciousness, paraded around on platters at dinner parties far and wide. But in fact, blinis have recently celebrated their 1000th birthday. Looking good for their age aren’t they? But where exactly has the beloved blini come from? Here’s a quick look at the history of this tasty treat.  

Way back in the depths of the Middle Ages, legends say that a famished traveller in (what is now) Russia was warming some oat jelly over a fire. As he cooked the traditional mixture, he was distracted by a joke from a friend, and accidentally let his mixture fry over the flames. The first ever blini was born, what luck.

After this discovery, Pagans across the country made the small pancakes in honour of the sun festival Maslenitsa or ‘Butter Week’, which is similar to our very own Pancake Day. This was a time to celebrate the coming of the sun and the banishing of dark, cold winters. It was said that if the women folk prepared a good batch of blinis for the festival, then they could expect a rich and fruitful harvest. What’s more, all throughout this weeklong celebration, people would eat nothing but the round, sun-shaped pancakes. Personally we can’t think of anything better.

In its Russian home, blinis became such an important part of everyday life that people came to think of them as leading a person right from birth, all the way to their dying day. When a baby was born, the mother would be presented with a blini to bring them luck. Likewise, when someone passed away, blinis would be served by the bucket load at their funeral as a notion of good will and happiness.

The blini soon spread its way around Europe and even crossed the Atlantic in the 1800s, with the arrival of Russian Jews in America. The whole world now seemed to be enamored by their delicious versatility.

Where the blini had traditionally been served with jam or honey, the nineteenth century ushered in a whole new era for the humble snack, as the introduction of luxury foods elevated its status. Suddenly the blini was elite. Fine-dining restaurants around the world began including the down to earth blini on their fancy menus, topping them with sought after ingredients, including smoked salmon and caviar, all washed down with a flute of champagne. In fact it’s this sophisticated image of the blini as the must have luxury party snack that endures today.

And it’s not just in kitchens and restaurants that blinis have been whipped up and dished out over the centuries. Throughout the history of art and literature, authors such as Chekhov and Gogol have written stories and dedicated reams of pages to the batter-based beauties.

From a traveller’s fire, through the houses of the regal and resplendent, to the shelves of your local supermarket, the true essence of the blini hasn’t changed much at all. Petite, flexible and downright irresistible, they’re little circles of deliciousness whatever you pair them with.

As you can tell, we think there’s far more to the blini than just a fancy canapé. So why not get to know them a bit better yourself; pile them high experiment and enjoy! 

Check out our blini recipes in More Bang for Your Blini for some tantalising topping tips