Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, the London-based trio, chef Olia Hercules, author of cookbooks including Summer Kitchens and Mamushka and food creative, Alissa Timoshkina, launched Cook for Ukraine. This online initiative encourages chefs, food writers, home cooks and restaurateurs to make Ukrainian and Eastern European dishes in order to raise awareness of the ongoing humanitarian crisis and raise funds for Unicef UK.
They suggest that you host your own #CookForUkraine supper club, cook along or bake sale, or share recipe pictures on social media using the hashtag, and direct people to their Just Giving page, below. So far, they’re raised over £144k, such is the power of food. If you want to get involved, check out the Instagram @cookforukraine for inspiration.
As well as Hercules’s books, Edinburgh-based author Caroline Eden’s book, Black Sea (£17.99, Quadrille), with its beautiful chapter on Odessa, also features plenty of inspiration.
In general, there are so many traditional Ukrainian dishes to choose from, especially when it comes to bread, as it's seen as a symbol of life and this country is such a huge producer of grain.
However, here are a couple of suggestions of other dishes to try, all of which have a huge online presence when it comes to recipes.
This beetroot based soup, which can be served hot or cold, is popular in various Eastern European countries and is the national dish of Ukraine. You can make it simply, just with beetroots, onion, garlic and stock, though we also like to add a bit of horseradish. Apparently Ukrainians also like to add a lot of fresh dill and tons of garlic, or garlic fritters, and it’s also traditional to bulk it out with potatoes and cabbage. However, there are loads of other ways to vary the recipe - for example, with a bit of sausage or using a bone broth stock, if you want to go in the hearty direction. Also, a blob of sour cream is traditional, or you could go with some Katy Rodgers Creme Fraiche.
HONEY CAKE (OR MEDOVIK)
This layer cake features honey infused sponge and sour cream icing, and we’re extremely tempted, though imagine it might be one for the slightly more advanced baker. This isn’t the only honey based Ukrainian cake, since this country is the top in Europe and eighth in the world for honey production. Among many others, there’s also the Christmas favourite, medivnyk, which, rather than your light and syrupy stuff, might require a headier buckwheat honey, which you can source at Edinburgh Honey Co. Although modern recipes vary, this dark brown cake is sometimes topped by sour cream icing and you can add spices like cinnamon.
UKRAINIAN APPLE CAKE (OR YABLUCHNYK)
There are plenty of recipes for this cake online. The sponge base is topped with apples, then a crumbly streusel topping with brown sugar and cinnamon. In other recipes, the apples are layered up, and you can swap the apples for other fruits, should you so desire.
Sainsbury’s is changing the name of its Chicken Kiev to Chicken Kyiv, which is the Ukrainian’s preferred spelling of their capital city since independence in 1991, with new packaging appearing on shelves soon. Anyway, despite its name, this dish’s origins are contested and it’s not a truly traditional Ukrainian dish. Still, fried chicken stuffed with garlic butter is hard to refuse.
UKRAINIAN GARLIC BREAD (PAMPUSHKY)
The word pampushka in Ukranian translates to plump woman, and you certainly could be if you eat too much of this billowing garlic bread, which features in Hercules’s book, Mamushka, and on various websites. It features a batch of billowing bread rolls, and is traditionally made with wet garlic, though you could use experiment with wild garlic, as it starts to appear this spring.
CABBAGE ROLLS (OR HOLUBTSI)
Apparently, the word holubtsi translates into little pigeons, which is a nickname for lovers. Thus, you have to make more than one of these parcels, so they don’t get too lonely. The contents of the steamed cabbage leaf cushions varies according to the region where they’re made, but they should include some kind of grain, like rice, corn or buckwheat, meat, such as minced pork or beef, and, depending on the regional recipe, pork crackling or even raisins. They’re usually covered with tomato soup or sauce, or fermented beverage kvass (which the Edinburgh Fermentarium produces) and baked in the oven. Top them with a dollop of sour cream and a bit of dill, if you want hairs on your chest.
UKRAINIAN POTATO PANCAKES (OR DURUNY)
If you love a tattie scone, you’ll be into duruny, though they maybe have more of a rosti vibe than the traditional Scottish breakfast ingredient. This easy dish features grated potato and onion, egg, seasoning and flour. Fry them up and eat for breakfast or lunch, or as a side dish. And guess what you can serve on the side? More of that lovely sour cream, or Smetana, which is a popular Eastern European brand that has a heavier and richer texture than the usual sour cream.
UKRAINIAN DUMPLINGS (VARENYKY)
You can make the dough for these half moon shaped dumplings, which resemble tiny pasties, simply with water, egg, flour and salt. They’re traditionally filled with potato, onions and dry cheese, for the ultimate in comfort food, though they can also be stuffed with sweet stuff like fruit including cherries or blueberries.
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