Amidst the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, with devastating scenes being broadcast around the world, it’s nice to see how many people on social media are using their platform as a force for good.

Cooking may seem like a small way to contribute to a huge issue, but as Maya Angelou says; “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” Want to get involved, but not sure what to cook? Here are some tasty traditional Ukrainian dishes to try…

  • Beetroot Soup (Borscht)
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Ukraine’s national dish, borscht is a beetroot soup which can be eaten hot or cold (a perfect Starter), and is usually served with sour cream and pampushki (garlic rolls). Traditionally, borscht is made with beef stock, but it’s easy to swap it out for a vegetarian version. Preparation Time: 10 mins, Cooking Time: 25 mins, Total Time: 45 mins, Serves 4.

Ingredients

2 medium onions, finely diced

1 large potato, finely cubed

2 medium cooked beetroot, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 small chilli, finely diced

1 celery stalk, finely diced

1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced

Olive oil

100g butter

Sea salt and black pepper

1 litre of vegetable stock

Crème fraiche to serve

 

Method

  1. In a large pot or casserole over medium high heat add the butter to the pan along with a drizzle of olive oil. Once melted, add the onion, garlic, celery and chilli, cooking for a few minutes until the onions have softened and the garlic has become fragrant. Add the potato and carrot to the pan, stirring everything together so that it is all coated in butter.
  2. Make a cartouche (paper lid) out of a bit of baking parchment and then pop the lid on. Turn the heat down to medium and leave the vegetables to soften for around 6-8 minutes. Take the lid and cartouche off and add the cooked beetroot along with the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil and then leave to simmer for around 15 minutes until everything is soft and fragrant.
  3. Pulse the soup in a food processor or using a stick blender until very smooth and pink. Check the seasoning and serve in deep bowls with a dollop of crème fraiche and some crusty bread.

  • Stuffed cabbage rolls (Golubtsi)

This perfect Starter called golubtsi in Ukrainian, these cabbage rolls are filled with minced meat and rice, and are either baked in the oven or stewed in a pan. Preparation Time: 10 min, Cooking Time: 35 mins, Total Time: 45 minutes. Perfect for a Main Course. Serves 4.

Ingredients

10-12 spring or savoy cabbage leaves, the outer green ones are best. Washed well.

200g cooked basmati rice

1 medium onion, finely chopped

Small handful of pine nuts, toasted

1 tablespoon of finely chopped preserved lemon peel

Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Tablespoon of thyme leaves

1 egg, beaten

Sea salt

Black pepper

Sumac

Olive oil

50g butter

 

Method

  1. Place the cabbage leaves in a large pot of boiling salted water over medium high heat. Do this in batches if needs be. Cook for around 2 minutes, just enough for them to become workable but still retain their vibrant green colour and a little bit. Cut out any central stalks.
  2. Transfer the blanched leaves to a large bowl of cold or iced water to cool. Drain the leaves and gently pat dry with a kitchen towel.
  3. Place a frying pan over a medium-high heat with a drizzle of olive oil and add the chopped onion. Turn down the heat slightly and cook for around 3-4 minutes until starting to soften.
  4. Season lightly with sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper and add the chopped up preserved lemon. Cook for a further 5 minutes until the onion has turned translucent and the preserved lemon has softened and become fragrant. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool.
  5. In a large bowl mix together the cooked rice, onion and preserved lemon, toasted pine nuts, thyme leaves, chopped parsley and beaten egg.
  6. Season with a pinch of sea salt, few cracks of black pepper and a teaspoon of sumac.
  7. Make the rolls by placing a heaped tablespoon or two of the rice filling in the middle of a cabbage leaf. Fold in all the sides so that you get a nice compact, slightly oblong little dumpling. Arrange the cabbage rolls seam side down in a frying pan or skillet on medium-high. Add butter to the pan along with around 120ml of water. Bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat to medium, cover the pot and leave to steam for around 15 to 20 minutes.
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