In the summer of 997 AD, Vladimir Krasno Solnyshko (Vladimir the Fair Sun), Prince of Kiev, started for Novgorod to collect troops to fight Pechenegs
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In the summer of 997 AD, Vladimir Krasno Solnyshko (Vladimir the Fair Sun), Prince of Kiev, started for Novgorod to collect troops to fight Pechenegs. When the enemies learnt that the prince was away they laid siege to Belgorod located near Kiev. They did not allow anyone to either enter or leave the town. The townspeople defended bravely, but the siege kept on, and the prince was still far away... Great famine broke out in Belgorod. Veche (town assembly) was gathered to decide what to do next? People said different things, some suggested surrender saying, "If we do not surrender, we will all die, as there is nothing to eat. And if we surrender, someone can be rescued..." At that moment an old man stepped out of the crowd and told the Elders, "Listen to me, people of Belgorod! Give me three days and do what I say. Collect, where only it is possible, at least a small handful of oats or wheat, and if there is not any, bring any little grain you find. I promise you will be rescued!" The townspeople believed the old man and followed his advice. They went home and collected every grain they could find... Everything was ground into flour. The old man told the women to make tsezha – flour paste used to make kissel. He told men to dig two deep wells and put two huge vats in them – one was filled with the flour mix, and the other was empty. "Now there is one little thing left", said the old man. "Go wherever you want, even plunder the princely chambers, but get me a little honey!" And so it was, the leftovers of the sweet delicacy were found in the princely cellars. Then they made syta in the second vat – they dissolved honey in water!.. When this was done, the wise man sent people to Pechenegs to negotiate. The townspeople came to Pechenegs and said, "Take ten best of us hostages, and send ten of you to us to see what is going on in the town!" The Pechenegs were delighted – apparently, Belgorod is about to surrender. They selected ten skilled soldiers to accept the keys to Belgorod and to scare the people. But when they came to the old man, he said, "Why are you killing yourselves?.. Don't you understand? You can stay around for ten more years – you will never defeat us as the Mother Land helps us and gives food in plenty. You do not believe me, you look for yourself!" He took them to the well with flour mix. The Pechenegs started scooping it out with buckets, but it was inexhaustible. The people of Belgorod boiled it, ate themselves, and offered the "guests". Then they went to the other well, scooped out some syta and ate it. The Pechenegs were inexpressibly surprised and, after some thinking said, "Our princes are not going to believe us if they don't try!" The townspeople gave them a lot from each well and sent them back... The Pecheneg princes tried kissel and were amazed – what miraculous things are happening here, Russians extract sweet food right from under the ground! So they decided: "Since the very ground gives meals to the Russians, such people cannot be defeated". They released hostages, gathered their troops and left the walls of Belgorod for their native steppes... Thus oats kissel saved people's lives.
On the whole, the Russians saying "to eat kissel only" did not mean something tasteless or plain. There were so many kinds of amazing kissel! This dish can be made of anything – milk, peas, rye, wheaten or oatmeal flour, rice, juices, berries, cream, jam, almond. If cream was used instead of milk, it was called "tsar kissel" – a food suitable for an imperial table! Kissel has always helped people during fasts. Not without reason it is mentioned in "Meals under the Laws of Orthodox Church" and referred to separately, as "warming with its heat, giving physical and spiritual force with its nutritious structure". Kissel can be thick and liquid, hot and chilled... It can be served as a separate dish, and as a sauce to boiled cereals and desserts! No other world's cuisine has such an amazing dish! Although this food is not so much appreciated in present-day Russian cookery, people respect kissel saying things like, "Where kissel – there you sit, where a pie – there you lie!", or even, "No spoiling the belly with kissel!".

Apple Kissel

(4 portions)
200g apples
100g sugar
40g starch
0.5-1g citric acid
850ml water
Pour hot water over apples and boil 15 to 25 minutes (depending on the apple sort). When the apples are soft, filter the water through a fine sieve. Press the boiled apples through, combine them with broth, add citric acid and sugar, stir and bring to boil. Pour starch dissolved in cold boiled water into the resulting hot syrup, stir quickly, bring to boil, pour out into serving dishes and leave to chill.

Kissel "Uspensky"

1/4 cup lemon juice
1.5 cup honey
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp starch
6.5 cups water
Dissolve a cup of honey in hot water (about 6 cups), add sugar and bring to boil. Dissolve starch in cold boiled water (0.5 cup) and add it to the boiling syrup stirring slowly. Take kissel off from the heat, add the remaining honey and lemon juice, mix well and leave to chill.

Berry Kissel

(4 portions)
300g mixed berries (strawberries, currants, raspberries, bilberries or blackberries)
125ml currant juice
4 tbsp sugar
juice and peel of 1 lemon
1 tsp starch
Rinse berries. Boil 5 minutes with juice, 2 tablespoons of sugar, lemon juice and peel. Stir starch in 2 tablespoons of cold water, add to the berries, and chill in refrigerator.

Kissel "Polosatik"

0.3 cup cranberries
0.3 cup bilberries
0.3 cup sea-buckthorn berries
6 tsp starch
sugar to taste
4 cups water
Make thick kissel of each kind of berries separately with the following proportion: 0.3 cup of berries, 1.3 cups of water and 1.5 tsp of starch. Chill the kissels. Fill serving dessert dishes with bilberry kissel to one third. Put into refrigerator for 15 minutes until the kissel jellies. Fill the dishes with kissel from sea-buckthorn berries to another third. Put back into refrigerator for 15 minutes. Make the top layer with cranberry kissel.

Milk Kissel with Strawberries

1 l milk
20g gelatin
250g jam strawberries
Dissolve gelatin in 1 cup of cold milk. When the gelatin swells, add it to the remaining milk, put on the heat and remove just before it starts boiling. Pour the milk in a bowl, add sugar to taste, and put in a cold place. Take strawberries out of jam, put on tissues to dispose of excessive syrup. When the kissel starts getting thicker, put berries carefully in the milk trying to spread them evenly. Chill in refrigerator until completely jellied.

Lemon Juice Kissel

70ml lemon juice
125g sugar
40g starch
800ml water
Boil sugar syrup, having added 2-3 teaspoons of lemon juice into water. Stir in starch dissolved in cold boiled water. Remove from heat, add lemon juice, stir thoroughly, pour into serving dishes and chill down.

Dried Fruit Kissel

250g dried apples, plums, cherries, pears, apricots
20g sugar
50g starch
peel of 1 lemon or cinnamon
Rinse dried fruits, fill them with 4 to 5 cups of hot water and leave for three hours, then boil 30 minutes at low heat. Filter the juice and press the fruits through a sieve, put them back in the juice, add sugar, stir and bring to boil. While boiling, stir in starch dissolved in

Bon appetite!
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