Cookery: The unique flavours of Ukraine in three tasty dishes

Cookery: The unique flavours of Ukraine in three tasty dishes

Curd Cake

These three tasty recipes are all taken the cookbook Summer Kitchens by Olia Hercules.

Fermented chillies recipe

Ingredients:

(Makes enough to fill a 2L jar)

20g sea salt

20 red or green chillies

200g celery and/or lovage leaves, washed

1 celery stick, if needed

Method:

1. Pour one litre of water into a saucepan, add the salt and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the salt. Switch off the heat, then leave the brine to cool down to room temperature.

2. Put the chillies and leaves into a sterilised two-litre jar with a lid, then pour in the brine, making sure everything is completely covered.

3. If the chillies bob up again, wedge a spare celery stick across the neck of the jar to keep them submerged.

4. Cover with the lid and leave at room temperature for a few days, lifting the lid from time to time to release any fermentation gases. When you notice the brine becoming playfully fizzy, transfer the ferment to the fridge, where it will keep for many months, slowly getting more intensely sour and spicy.

Braised cabbage recipe

Ingredients:

(Serves 6)

1 small white cabbage

2tbsp rapeseed oil

2 onions, thickly sliced

1 1⁄2tsp caraway seeds

1 large red pepper, thickly sliced

100ml tomato juice (or use the juices from tinned tomatoes)

200g crème fraîche

1tbsp chopped parsley

Sea salt and black pepper

Method:

1. Slice the cabbage into 1cm wide strips and put it into a bowl. Add one teaspoon of salt and use your hands to massage it in well.

2. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan or shallow, flameproof casserole over a medium-low heat. Add the onions, along with a pinch of salt to help release their juices and stop them from burning. You could also cover the onions with a lid or cartouche (a circle of baking parchment about the same size as your pan) to speed things up a bit. Cook, stirring every so often, until the onions are soft and turning a deep golden colour. Add a splash of water if they seem dry or are starting to catch a bit.

3. Now add the cabbage and caraway seeds and turn down the heat to low. Cover with a lid and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the cabbage starts softening. If it gets too dry, add a splash of water. Add the red pepper and cook for another five minutes.

4. Gently warm the tomato juice in a small pan, then stir in the crème fraîche and add to the cabbage. Taste the sauce and make sure it is well-seasoned, otherwise the cabbage will be too bland and it will not become the cabbage of your dreams. Cover and braise for another 30–40 minutes – when it is ready, the cabbage should be soft, but not falling apart. Stir through the parsley and serve.

Curd cake with caramelised apples

Ingredients:

(Serves 8-10)

200g unsalted butter, softened

200g apples, cored and sliced

1tbsp brown sugar

200g golden caster sugar

3 eggs, separated

1tsp vanilla extract

500g ricotta or good-quality cottage cheese

120g fine semolina or polenta

Pinch of salt

Method:

1. Melt 25g of the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat, add the apples and cook for two to three minutes on each side until they start to turn golden. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and cook the apples for another minute on each side, then transfer the caramelised apples to a bowl and let them cool slightly.

2. Preheat your oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas Mark 6 and grease a 20cm square or round cake tin with butter. Lay the apples in the base of the cake tin.

3. If, like me, you left your butter out in the kitchen overnight, but it was so blooming cold it didn’t soften properly, cut the rest of it into small pieces. Whatever state the butter is in, put it into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, along with 150g of the caster sugar, and whisk until it’s looking fairly fluffy. Break the egg yolks with a fork and gradually add them, whisking well, then whisk in the vanilla extract and cheese. Transfer the mixture to another bowl, then fold in the semolina or polenta (the latter will result in a cake with more texture).

4. Wash and dry your mixer bowl and whisk attachment thoroughly, then put in the egg whites and whisk until they start frothing up. Add the remaining 50g of caster sugar and the salt and keep whisking until you have soft peaks. Now take a large spoonful of the egg white mixture and fold it quite vigorously into the butter and cheese mixture to loosen it up. Add the rest of the egg white mixture and fold in gently. Pour the mixture over the apples in the cake tin and bake for 30 minutes, or until it is a little wobbly, but not liquid. Remember it will set more firmly as it cools.

5. Leave the cake in its tin to rest and cool down, then slice and serve. Some unsweetened tea with lemon goes perfectly with this.