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|Main ingredients||Sweetened juice, arrowroot, cornstarch or potato starch|
Kissel or kisel (Estonian: kissell, Finnish: kiisseli, Latgalian: keiseļs, Latvian: ķīselis, Lithuanian: kisielius, Polish: kisiel, Russian: кисель, kisél’, Ukrainian: кисiль) is a viscous fruit dish, popular as a dessert. It consists of sweetened juice, thickened with arrowroot, cornstarch or potato starch, and sometimes red wine or fresh or dried fruits are added. It is similar to the Danish rødgrød or German Rote Grütze.
Kissel can be served either hot or cold, also together with sweetened quark or semolina pudding. Kissel can also be served on pancakes or with ice cream. If the kissel is made using less thickening starch, it can be drunk — this is common in Russia. Swedish blåbärssoppa is a bilberry kisel similarly prepared and consumed, although fresh or frozen bilberries, not dried berries are used to prepare it.
Its name is derived from a Slavic word meaning "sour" (cf. Russian кислый kisly), after a similar old Slavic dish which was made from grain (most commonly oats) and lacked the sweetness of the modern variants. In the Russian Primary Chronicle there is a story of how kissel saved a 10th-century city, besieged by nomadic Pechenegs in 997 (the first mention of this type of dessert). When the food in the city became scarce and a hunger started, the people of the city followed an advice of one old man, who told them to make kissel from the remnants of grain, and a sweet drink from the last mead they could find. Then they filled a wooden container with the kissel, and another one with the mead drink, put those containers into the holes in the ground and made up two fake wells over them. When the Pechenegian ambassadors came into the city, they saw how the Russians took the food from those "wells", and the Pechenegs even were allowed to taste the sweet kissel dessert and mead beverage. Impressed by that show and degustation, Pechenegs decided to lift the siege and to go away, having concluded that the Russians were mysteriously fed from the earth itself.
It is also possible to buy instant kissel. Nowadays most Polish households prepare kissel from instant mixes instead of the traditional way. The most popular flavours are strawberry, gooseberry, and raspberry. In Russia, the most popular flavours are cranberry, cherry, and red currant. Cranberry kissel (Lithuanian: spanguolių kisielius) is a traditional meal on Kūčios (Christmas Eve supper) in Lithuania. In Finland, kissel is called kiisseli and is often made of bilberries (since those can often be found growing wild in the forests and are thus both easy to gather and free) as well as from prunes, apricots, strawberries, etc. The thickness can vary depending on how much potato flour is used: thin bilberry soup is most easily consumed by drinking while the thickest version is almost like jelly and is eaten with a spoon. Rhubarb can also be used, but it's often combined with strawberries to make it less tart. Prune kiisseli (luumukiisseli) is traditionally eaten with rice pudding on Christmas. Milk kiisseli (maitokiisseli) is another variant, made from milk and flavoured with sugar and vanillin (or vanilla).
Russian Syrniki with Kissel
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