• clairhenderson

Cooking for Ukraine

My kids are pretty young. They are vaguely aware of 'a war' in a way that they don't seem to have been aware of 'a war' in other parts of the world. I have had several honest conversations with them about what's happening, most recently about welcoming families into homes here. They openly and without hesitation suggested that we should too. My heart swelled with the beautiful logic of children.

They did however, after the initial concern of language barriers, raise the concern of food. What would we all eat? Would we learn about Ukrainian food? And would a Ukrainian boy eat, asked my earnest 6 year old boy, Toad In the Hole? I did not know, said I. Keeping my heartbreaking thoughts of hungry six year old boys eating whatever they can find on the road to Poland, firmly to myself, I promised that I would find out.

Whilst a good Polish friend of mine has shared a few of her recipes, and a splendid weekend in Estonia a number of years ago gave me a taste for Mulgikapsad, I have no experience of Ukrainian food. So I have taken some inspiration from the incredible Olia Hercules, a Ukrainian born food journalist, researcher and writer. She is generally inspired by food from lands less travelled. But is at the moment leading many of us Brits in understanding and finding a way to support Ukrainian families. #cookforukraine will take you straight to her work.

So, with great respect and a little curiousity, this week P&PHQ are featuring two Ukrainian dishes inspired by Olia's writing. Holubtsy today and Deruny later in the week.

Holubtsy - Stuffed Cabbage

As someone who is always looking for inventive ways to add in vegetables I have made many a cabbage enchilada in my time. Spicy and cheesy. So these were of real interest to me to try. But these are altogether more subtle, with very little spice and making much more of a feature of the cabbage. I have simplified this recipe (Olia uses some barberries...) but the original can be found here if you're a purist

  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil

  • 1 large onion, grated

  • 2 carrots, grated

  • 1 celery stick, grated

  • 1 tsp caster sugar

  • 1 tbsp tomato puree

  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes

  • 1 head Savoy cabbage, 12 leaves separated

  • 400g pork mince

  • 100g rice, pre-cooked

  • 1tsp sumac

  • juice of half a lemon

  • seasoning

  • sour cream

  • chopped dill

  1. First, make a basic tomato sauce. Heat the oil in a large pan with a lid. Finely chop or grate the vegetables and saute half of these veggies in the pan, until soft and the onion is translucent. Mix in the sugar and the tomato puree, followed by the chopped tomatoes and 200ml water. Season well and allow to simmer for a few minutes whilst you prepare the cabbage.

  2. Remove and discard any damaged outer leaves. Slice off the bottom, which will help you remove the rest of the leaves. You're aiming for about 12 good leaves. Olia suggests blanching these leaves for 2-3 minutes, which makes them quite tender. However one of Pear & Potato's Star customers suggested that popping them in the freezer is a great way to both tenderise them and keep them firm for the job. And I have to agree, this worked wonderfully! Popping them in the freezer for 40 minutes and they were perfectly malleable for the job.

  3. Mix the mince, rice, sumac, seasoning and the remaining diced vegetables and place a tablespoon of the filling on to each cabbage leaf, folding it into a parcel.

  4. Place the parcels on top of the sauce, folded side down, tucking them next to each other snugly so they do not unravel.

  5. Cover and cook over a low heat for about 45 minutes, until cooked through.

  6. Serve with dill and sour cream

Hope you've enjoyed this recipe!

Keep an eye out as we will also be featuring Deruny - Ukrainian potato cakes - later in the week! And of course check out or follow #cookforukraine

Keep safe this week xxx

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