Not sure about you but I can scarcely enjoy a meal without feeling guilty at present. I feel so fortunate and thank the good Lord to be able to wake up in the morning in my warm bed secure in the thought that it is unlikely that our house will be bombed before nightfall – I can’t get the images out of my head…. Cold and hungry people trudging towards the border with the few possessions they can carry in sub-zero temperatures clutching a shivering cat or a terrified child.
No doubt, like you too, we were desperate to do something to help in some way so Rory, Rachel and I did an online cookery demonstration and raised over €13,000 for the Irish Red Cross Ukraine Appeal. One of our students, Grainne O’Higgins baked brownies, invited people to help themselves and perhaps donate – her little project raised €128.00. Tessa Lomas who has spent many years on the south coast of Sri Lanka showed her fellow students how to make Sri Lankan roti filled with curried mince or cheese and tomato as well as tasty hoppers and several sambals. They were all super delicious and once again raised just over €200 for the Irish Red Cross. Let’s all ask ourselves what we can do. Every little helps, companies all over the country are donating food. Ballymaloe Relish has sent a palette of pasta sauce to Ukraine. The Sheridan brothers have mobilised the cheesemakers and cheese factories who have generously donated tons of cheese, Flahavan’s porridge oats and a palette of Barry’s tea is also winging its way to the Ukraine. Many of us didn’t even know where Ukraine was until a few weeks ago, now we know the names of all its major cities, the colour of its flag and the sound of its national anthem…get the kids involved as well – they’ll come up with lots of ideas.
We have learned so much about the food of Ukraine, thanks to Olia Hercules, the beautiful, young Ukrainian cook living in London whose parents and brother are trapped in Kyiv at present. For the cookery demonstration, Rachel cooked Ukrainian ‘Angel Wings’ with Black Cardamom and homemade dulce de leche (called Anna’s Sweet Milk). Rory cooked Spatchcock Chicken with Blackberry and Grape Sauce served with Olia’s Roast Beetroot and Plums with Radicchio and Soft Herbs. Both Rory and Rachel’s recipes were inspired by Olia’s cookbooks ‘Mamushka’ and ‘Kaukasis The Cookbook’ published by Mitchell Beazley. I myself cooked Chicken Kyiv and Pancakes with Ricotta and Dill, both delicious. Chicken Kyiv is definitely having its moment once again. Most of us hadn’t had it for years and had forgotten how delicious it was. Here’s my recipe from the early 80’s but it’s just as delicious as ever…
A long-time favourite – having a poignant moment once again…
3 whole chicken breasts
110g (4oz) softish butter
2 garlic cloves, peeled and made into a paste
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped basil or tarragon or thyme
2 beaten eggs
110g (4oz) flour, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper
75-110g (3-4oz) fine breadcrumbs
oil for deep frying
Blend the butter with the garlic and herbs, either by beating them together with a wooden spoon or by putting everything in the food processor and processing until thoroughly mixed. Divide the seasoned butter into 6 equal pieces, shape them into long, tapered fingers and put into the freezer covered with parchment paper, until frozen hard.
Skin each breast and cut in half lengthwise, so you have 6 half breasts. Put the chicken breasts between sheets of parchment paper and flatten with a meat pounder, pushing down and outwards as you pound. The chicken must be almost translucent. Put a finger of frozen butter in the centre of each pounded breast. Roll the chicken around the butter, tucking in the ends, so the rolled-up breast makes a neat sausage shaped package. The butter must be completely sealed in so that it cannot leak out during the cooking.
Dip the rolled breasts first in seasoned flour, then in beaten egg and finally roll in fine breadcrumbs. Arrange on a parchment covered baking tray. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Alternatively, make them the day before you plan to serve them and chill until ready to fry.
Heat the oil in a deep-fryer to 190˚C/375˚F.
Fry the chicken Kyiv rolls, two or three at the time, until golden brown, 4-5 minutes depending on size*. Drain on kitchen paper, serve immediately with a salad of Winter leaves.
* Alternatively, shallow fry in a little clarified butter over a medium heat until golden on both sides.
Spatchcock Chicken with Blackberry and Grape Sauce
1 whole free-range organic chicken
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
chopped rosemary or thyme leaves
extra virgin olive oil or butter
a few cloves of garlic
Blackberry and Grape Sauce
100g (3 1/2oz) seedless grapes
300g (10oz) blackberries
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
2 cloves of garlic peeled and crushed
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon chopped marjoram
1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves and stalks
pinch of chopped dill
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra sprigs of coriander and dill for garnish
Insert a heavy chopping knife into the cavity of the chicken from the back end to the neck. Press down sharply to cut through the backbone. Alternatively place the chicken breast side down on the chopping board, using poultry shears cut along the entire length of the backbone as close to the centre as possible.
Open the bird out as much as possible. Slash each chicken leg two or three times with a sharp knife. Season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper, sprinkle with chopped rosemary or thyme and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Transfer to a roasting tin. Turn skin side upwards and tuck the whole garlic cloves underneath. Roast on the barbeque or in a preheated oven 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4 for 40 minutes approximately. Check the colour of the juices between the thigh and the breast – they should run clean if the chicken is cooked.
To make the sauce.
Place the grapes and blackberries in a blender and render to a smooth purée. Pass through a sieve and place in a small saucepan. Add the pomegranate molasses, season with salt and pepper and bring to a bare simmer. Add in the garlic, cayenne and marjoram and simmer gently for a further 5 minutes. Finally add the coriander and dill. Taste and correct seasoning.
Serve the sauce hot with the carved chicken and its cooking juices and sprinkled with a few sprigs of coriander and dill.
Roast Beetroot and Plums with Radicchio and Soft Herbs
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
500g (18oz) beetroot, peeled, halved and cut into wedges
5 plums, stoned and quartered
pinch of sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar.
150g (5oz) radicchio
1/2 – 1 red chilli, seeds in and sliced
2 teaspoons honey
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted
a small handful of soft herbs such as dill and coriander
Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/Gas Mark 6.
Put the oil, beetroot and plums in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss to mix. Transfer to a roasting tray spreading them out in a single layer. Sprinkle on the vinegar, cover with a sheet of dampened and squeezed parchment paper and put in the oven to roast for 30 – 40 minutes. The beets should be nearly cooked by now and if not, allow to cook for longer before adding the remaining ingredients.
Cut the radicchio into wedges, retaining the stalk to hold the pieces together. Add them to the beetroot tray along with the chilli and the honey drizzled over. Stir to gently mix the ingredients and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Add in the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.
Remove the tray from the oven and carefully transfer the vegetables, fruit and cooking juices to a serving dish. sprinkle on the sesame seeds.
Serve immediately or while still warm with a scattering of sprigs of dill and coriander.
Taken from ‘Kaukasis The Cookbook’ by Olia Hercules published by Mitchell Beazley
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
200g (7oz) chicken hearts, trimmed
200g (7oz) chicken gizzards, trimmed (trimmed weight)
1 large onion, sliced
1 large garlic clove, sliced
30g (1 1/4oz) hazelnuts or walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried wild thyme or za’atar herb (optional)
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
seeds of 1/4 pomegranate
sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan until very hot. Add the hearts and gizzards and leave to cook for about 2 minutes on each side until caramelized, meaning that it’s important not to stir them too often. When a lovely golden crust has formed, take them out of the pan.
Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan and then the onion and cook over a medium-low heat for about 10-15 minutes until softened and started to turn golden. Add the garlic, nuts, spices and herbs and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Return the meat to the pan, add the pomegranate molasses, a splash of water and season well with salt and pepper, then cover with a lid and cook over a low heat for 20-30 minutes until the meat is as soft as you like it (I don’t mind it being a tiny bit chewy, so I only cook it for 15 minutes).
Stir through the pomegranate seeds and serve with some rice or bread.
You can also add some chicken livers – fry them in the pan with everything else, but only add them back in to braise for the last 5 minutes of the cooking time so that they don’t become too dry and chalky.
Pancakes with Ricotta and Dill
As in many countries, pancakes are served with sweet and savoury fillings – this is a particularly delicious savoury version. In Ukraine, they also love to drizzle pancakes with pine honey (see note at end of recipe).
Makes 12 crêpes
175g (6oz) white flour
good pinch of salt
2 large organic eggs and 1 – 2 egg organic egg yolks, lightly beaten
450ml (16fl oz) milk, or for very crisp, light delicate crêpes, half milk and half water
1-2 tablespoons melted butter
175g-225g (6-8oz) Urdu or fresh ricotta
caster sugar, to taste
1-2 tablespoons dill, chopped
4-5 tablespoons dill flowers and sprigs
lemon wedges, to serve
First make the batter.
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drop in the lightly beaten eggs. With a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre, mix the egg and gradually bring in the flour. Add the liquid slowly and beat until the batter is covered with bubbles. Cover and leave in a cold place for an hour or so – longer will do no harm. Just before you cook the crêpes, stir in the melted butter. This will make all the difference to the flavour and texture of the crêpes and will make it possible to cook them without greasing the pan each time.
Meanwhile, mix the ricotta with sugar to taste and stir in the chopped dill.
Heat a 28cm (11 inch) heavy cast-iron crêpe pan or a non-stick pan until very hot, then pour in just enough batter to cover the base of the pan thinly. Loosen the crêpe around the edge, flip over with a spatula, cook for a second or two on the other side, and slide off the pan onto a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter.
To serve, spread the ricotta and dill filling onto a pancake, leaving a 5mm border around the edge. Lay another pancake on top. Press down gently and cut into quarters. Decorate with dill flowers and sprigs (if using) and serve at room temperature.
Alternatively, spread one pancake with the ricotta and dill filling, fold into quarters, garnish and serve with lemon wedges.
Note: The unfilled pancakes will keep in the fridge for several days and also freeze perfectly. If they are to be frozen it is probably a good idea to put a disc of silicone paper between each for extra safety.
Good to make later in the year.
Use equal weight of young pine cones (flower buds – Pinaecae) and wild-flower honey
Mince or finely chop the young pine cones. Half fill one or two jars and top with
honey. Cover and store in a cool place
for a few weeks before using. Drizzle
the honey over crêpes, pancakes, crumpets, choux…
‘Angels Wings’ – Ukrainian Fried Pastries with Black Cardamom
Taken from ‘Mamushka’ by Olia Hercules published by Mitchell Beazley
These are Ukrainian ‘angel wing’ pastry crisps. Originally, they used to be fried in lard (think of Portuguese pastel de nata lard pastry). I add some ground black cardamom seeds to the sugar, but feel free to use vanilla sugar instead.
Makes 40 pasties
250g (8oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
pinch of bicarbonate of soda
50g (2oz) butter, cubed and chilled
1 egg yolk
25g (1oz) caster sugar
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
50g (2oz) soured cream
1 tablespoon vodka
pinch of salt
250ml (9fl oz) sunflower oil
50g (2oz) icing sugar, sifted
5 black cardamom pods, crushed and seeds extracted, then ground into a powder
dulce de leche or chocolate sauce, to serve
To make the dough, mix the flour and bicarbonate of soda together, then run in the butter with your fingertips until well combined.
Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the egg, egg yolk, sugar, vinegar, soured cream, vodka and salt, then mix well into a firm pastry dough.
Flour your work surface really well and divide the dough into two pieces. Roll one piece of dough out as thinly as you can. Slice the dough into 4cm (1 1/2 inch) strips and then diagonally across so that you end up with 20 diamonds. Make a 3cm (1 1/4 inch) slash in the centre of each diamond and pull one of the ends through the slash. Repeat with the second piece of dough.
Heat the sunflower oil in a medium saucepan until very hot – be very careful with hot oil, placing it at the back of the hob if you have kids or crazy pets. Line a large plate with some kitchen paper.
Drop the diamonds in carefully and fry them briefly until they float to the surface. Lift them out with a slotted spoon and drain them on the kitchen paper.
Mix the icing sugar with the cardamom and sprinkle over the pastries. I also like to treat these as nicely as I treat churros, dipping them into dulce de leche or chocolate sauce before devouring.
Anna’s Sweet Milk
Taken from ‘Kaukasis The Cookbook’ by Olia Hercules published by Mitchell Beazley
A lady I met called Zhuzhuna Bardzimadze from Akhaltsikhe had the kindest face and tastiest pickles. She lives, like so many others in Georgia, with her son and Kakhetian daughter-in-law Anna. Anna makes the sweetest milk – a proper homemade dulche de leche, and by that I don’t mean boiling shop-bought condensed milk! This is the real deal. I loved that she knew that the amount the recipe made would vary depending on the season, due to the difference in the fat content of the milk. In August, for instance, her yield was always bigger, as the milk is fattier. The Georgians make cakes with this or just eat it spread on a bit of bread.
Makes approx. 700ml (1 1/4 pints)
2 litres (3 1/2 pints) cows’ milk or goats’ milk
350g (12oz) cater sugar
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways and seeds scraped out
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Bring the milk and sugar to the boil in a large saucepan (it needs to be a tall saucepan, as the milk will rise and froth once the soda is added).
Take the pan off the heat and add the bicarbonate of soda. Stir it and it will start to foam and rise rapidly (tap the base of the pan with a wooden spoon to stop it).
When it calms down, put the pan back on the heat and continue to boil over a low heat, stirring from time to time to ensure it doesn’t catch on the bottom, and taking care not to let it boil or the milk can curdle. Cook for 30-40 minutes until the milk turns darker in colour (it should look like café au lait colour at this point). When the mixture thickens and is the consistency of double cream, really watch it and start whisking continuously to prevent curdling. As it thickens, keep whisking until it reduces right down. Once the mixture has become viscous and brown like toasted hazelnuts, it’s ready.
If the mixture looks curdled, it can be saved by reheating and whisking in a couple of tablespoons of milk.