A few weeks ago an executive from the Farm Apprenticeship Board telephoned to ask whether we would have a place for a young Ukrainian girl to get work experience on the farm. She had been working on a dairy farm in the Midlands since her arrival in Ireland in November, milking 80 cows and was ready for a change of scene.
We arranged to meet, we chatted about the Ukraine, and her family. Her grandmother had a farm, but Elena herself had studied economics at the Agroecological University of Ukraine and is highly educated and eager to travel and improve her languages.
The Farm Apprenticeship Scheme gives her and many others like her this opportunity. When they come to Ireland, some get a warm welcome and are treated with respect and given comfortable accommodation and delicious food. Others are not so fortunate.
Elena loves working on the farm and in the gardens and loves the food. Nonetheless, like so many travellers she misses the food of her native country. For so many of us foods are inextricably linked with happy memories of childhood.
Iâ€™m always fascinated to learn about other food cultures. Elena described the food of her region Ukraine, and then offered to cook some of her favourite dishes for us.
She telephoned her mother and grandmother who really entered into the spirit, and not only gave her lots of advice but sent a huge tin of caviar for our aperitif, it was delicious. We were spreading it sparingly on some thinly sliced white bread, but Elena said â€˜nonsense, we spread it like butter at homeâ€™. We invited some friends to join us and Elena cooked this delicious meal for us.
We started with Green Borshch Soup. This is usually served with Black Bread which is made from Rye and Wheat flour.
300g (11 ozs approx.) beef (brisket, chuck, stewing steak or shin)
1 large carrot
2 large potatoes
3 tablesp rice
3 tablesp. fresh chives
big bunch of sorrel
5 tablesp. lettuce
3 tablesp. butter or vegetable oil
Boil the beef for about 1Â½-2 hours in 2 litres of water (about 3Â½ pints), skimming as necessary. Cut into neat chunks.
Meanwhile cut the onions into small pieces, put into a frying pan and fry for 2 minutes, add grated carrot and 5 tablesp. water from the boiling beef, stew for about 3-4 minutes and leave to stand.
Add chopped potatoes, rice and peppercorns, to the pot with the meat. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, then add the stewed onion and carrot mixture.
Add chopped chives, sorrel and lettuce and boil for one minute. Boil the eggs separately for 6 minutes, shell and chop into small pieces. Add to the cooked Borshch. Add salt to taste but be careful because sorrel is very sour. Do not serve the soup immediately, leave to stand for about 15 minutes, to allow all the ingredients absorb the stock.
Swirl a tablespoon of sour or double cream in each soup plate. Serve with Black Bread .
Olivier was a French chef who in the 1880â€™s opened a restaurant in Moscow called the Hermitage.
1 large smoked sausage
5 medium sized potatoes
1 large carrot
3 eggs, hard-boiled
1 apple (use a tart eating apple like a Granny Smith)
1 large tin of peas, drained
1 jar of pickled gherkins
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
Boil the potatoes, peel when cooked. Cook the carrot and skin lightly when cooked.
Cut both into bite-sized cubes when cooled. Cut the sausage into similar sized cubes. Roughly chop the hard-boiled egg. Cut gherkin and apple into cubes also. Reserve a little of the chopped egg and gherkin for garnish. Mix all of these ingredients together and then add the peas. Finally add the mayonnaise and salt to taste.
Serve the Olivier Salad on a large plate, smoothing the sides with a knife and decorate with hard-boiled egg and gherkin.
These are tasty stuffed cabbage rolls.
Choose a large head of fresh Dutch or Savoy cabbage
500g (1lb approx.) beef or pork mince (not lamb)
90g (3oz) rice (uncooked weight)
1-2 tablesp. fresh or 1-2 teasp. dried herbs
salt and fine black pepper
400ml (14 fl.ozs) fresh cream
100ml (4 fl.ozs) tomato ketchup
Put the whole cabbage intoÂ well-saltedÂ boiling water for 3 minutes, leave it in the water for 15 minutes, then it will be more pliable. Remove from the water and gently separate the leaves.
Cook the rice in boiling water until almost cooked but not soft. Combine the minced meat, cooked rice and herbs, add salt and fine black pepper. Roll pieces of the mixture in the flat cabbage leaves tightly like a sausage, the leaf should be big enough to allow several turns. Place the rolls in an ovenproof dish.
Make the sauce by mixing the cream and tomato ketchup.
Cover the cabbage rolls with the sauce, they need to be fully covered with the liquid, if more is needed add some water. Cook in a moderate oven for 30-40 minutes.
Fillet with Beetroot
500g (1lb approx.) fillet of beef or pork (not lamb)
2 large beetroot
200g (7oz) cheddar cheese
Cut the fillet into flat pieces, not too thinly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides. Cut the raw beetroot into circles. Chop the onions. Place the circles of beetroot on a single layer in an ovenproof dish. Top with the pieces of meat, then the chopped onions. Cover with mayonnaise and grated cheese.
Bake for 20-25 minutes at 160C/325F/regulo 3.
This is a honey and poppy seed pudding.
400 ml measure of self-raising flour
4 tablesp. milk
1 tablesp. honey
1 tablesp. poppy seeds
1 tablesp. melted butter
8 tablesp. poppy seeds (or more according to taste)
5 tablesp. honey
400ml (14 fl.ozs) warm milk
Beat the egg with the tablespoon of honey, add the flour, milk, poppy seeds and melted butter to make a soft dough. Roll out to 1-2cm thick using a little flour to prevent sticking.
Put on a greased baking sheet, prick with a fork and bake for 15-20 minutes at 180C/350F/regulo 4.
When cool enough to handle break into smallish pieces.
Meanwhile put the warm milk in a deep bowl and mix in the honey. Break up the poppy seeds in a coffee grinder and add to the bowl. Add more honey or some sugar if you would like it sweeter.
Add the broken pieces of Schyliki and leave to soften for 15 minutes before serving in individual bowls as a pudding.