From the private Royal Menu Collection of © Jake Smith
Luncheon at Livadia Palace, Crimea, hosted by Their Imperial Majesties Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra Fyodorovna of Russia.
The menu may have been written in French but as the Tsar raised his golden soup spoon to his mouth he savoured the flavours of a traditional chilled Russian soup, Botvinya (Ботвинья), made from kvass, spinach, sorrel and beetroot leaves; and served with poached Sturgeon and crayfish tails.
At the time of this luncheon, the imperial family were in the Crimea and residing at the Livadia Palace. It was the Tsar’s first visit to the region since taking the throne.
The imperial family’s renowned French chef, Pierre Cubat, accompanied the family to the Crimea and was no doubt responsible for the preparation of the Perdreaux à la crème and Pommes à la Parisienne on the menu; but the preparation of the Botvinya was no doubt left to local expertise in the palace' kitchen.
At the Tsar’s court, poached crayfish tails and sturgeon were served atop the soup that uses kvass as its base - a low alcohol beverage made from fermented black bread. The green coloured soup is flavoured with horseradish and mustard and uses the leaves of baby beetroots along with sorrel, dill and cucumber.
Russian Emperors have long had an affection for Botvinya. In the early 1800’s it is recorded that Tsar Alexander I and the British Ambassador engaged in a lengthy conversation about Russian cuisine which ended with the Tsar promising to send a batch of his favourite soup to the Ambassador’s residence.
At a subsequent meeting of the two, the Emperor inquired if the Ambassador had enjoyed the culinary gift. There was imperial aghast when the Tsar learned the ambassador’s chef had heated the contents before serving.
Batvinia [Botvinya/ Ботвинья]
Traditional Russian cold soup made from kvass, spinach,
sorrel and beetroot leaves and served with poached
Sturgeon and crayfish tails.
Vegetable consommé made from carrot, turnip, leek and cabbage and garnished with sorrel leaves cut into ribbons, fresh peas and pearl barley.
Variety of small pastries to accompany soup filled with
vegetable, fish and meat mousses.
Navarin de mouton
Ragout of mutton with potato, tomato, carrot, turnip, pearl onion; and garnished with green beans and baby peas prior to serving.
Coquilles de volaille
Shallow shell shaped dishes filled with cooked chicken pieces and
truffle slices bound in a white sauce flavoured with crayfish
tail butter, mushroom juice, lemon juice and parsley;
and topped with a parmesan crust.
Perdreaux à la crème
Sautéed partridges flamed in Calvados that have been
dressed in a sauce made by adding cider, cream and
parsley to the pan juices.
Pommes à la Parisienne
Apple turnovers made from baked puff-pastry filled
with a mixture of apples, currants and rum.