Olga Kutseridi was born and raised in Mariupol. But he has been living in the USA for more than 15 years. Olga told the NY Times how the city prospered, what happened to her relatives during the war, and how she shared three favorite Ukrainian recipes. These are borscht with fish, chebureks and fermented baked milk – dishes that embody the multicultural heritage of the Sea of Azov.
Olga. Photo by NY Times
Grandma Olga’s apartment in Mariupol had a view of the mulberry trees on Morskoy Boulevard, across the Sea of Azov. This spring, Russian tanks drove along Marine Boulevard. Now the beaches where Olga grew up are tied with wires, the windows of her grandmother’s house are broken, and most of the city is in ruins.
Olga’s maternal grandparents worked at the Azovstal metallurgical plant. In April-May, the factory was the last bastion of the Ukrainian troops, which did not allow to occupy the city completely.
Olga’s grandparents in Mariupol’s apartment. Photo by NY Times
On February 24, when the war broke out, Olga’s grandmother and aunt left their beloved apartment. Together with the others, they hid in the basement for a month, without heating, water and electricity. Then the voice was heard. The 86-year-old grandmother had to walk with her aunt first, then look for a car and get on a train. Thus, they managed to get to St. Petersburg, where their relatives were waiting for them. Grandmother is now in the hospital with fatal blood clots caused by stress and travel difficulties.
Azovstal now. Photo: AP
Many different peoples used to live in Mariupol. But it was a quiet place where people would open their doors when they went to the market. And in that market, even in the 1990s, kiosks were filled with local produce, fish and pickles.
Olga left the city in 2005 to study ancient history at Ohio State University. He now lives in Texas.
The last time he visited Mariupol was in 2013. There he saw modern pizzerias, burgers and sushi restaurants. Olga is afraid that the traditional culinary heritage of Mariupol may be lost forever.
To challenge his fears, he began to prepare these dishes. All the recipes are registered in his archive, which he hopes to turn into a website և cookbook.
“Some will say that now is not the time to cook. But otherwise we will lose our heritage. It’s time to study Ukrainian cuisine in detail. Borscht is not just borscht now. “Every time someone cooks a Ukrainian dish, it is an act of resistance,” he said.
Olga offers three favorite recipes from her book.
Photo by NY Times
Ryazhenka is a classic Ukrainian drink. The frozen rye bread was sold on the streets of Mariupol, and Olga drank it while relaxing on the beaches of the Sea of Azov.
The taste of light caramel comes from slow-cooked whole milk, which can be cooked in the oven or in a slow cooker.
You will get seven cups of freshly fermented baked milk, and cooking will generally take up to three days (your activity does not require much).
- eight glasses of milk, preferably whole;
- three to four tablespoons of fatty kefir (can be replaced by other fermented dairy products with bifidobacteria).
- If using the oven, place the milk in a frying pan or other large, heavy dish. For Multicooker – in a large boiler. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent the milk from burning. This will take about 15 minutes.
- If you use an oven, first heat it to 225 degrees, put a glass of milk and bake without cover for about 6 hours, until the milk becomes a dark caramel color. If you are using a slow cooker, pour the milk into it, cover and cook on low heat for 8 to 10 hours or on high heat for 4 to 6 hours until the top is caramelized.
- It is better to cool the milk, carefully removing the crust formed on it (traditionally, fermented baked milk is served together with the milk crust by putting it on a glass).
- Pour the boiled milk into jars or measuring cups to see how much is left.
- Allow the milk to cool to room temperature, about 40 degrees Celsius, otherwise the warm milk will kill the beneficial kefir bacteria.
- For every two cups of boiled milk, add one tablespoon of kefir. Mix kefir or mix with milk until a homogeneous mass is obtained. Pour into jars.
- Cover the jars with coffee paper filters or something that can replace them (to allow some air to pass through but dust and other debris և mosquitoes to stay out of the jars). Secure them from above with rubber bands or string.
- Leave the jars in a warm place until the fermented baked milk is thicker than kefir, but thinner than yogurt. It will take one to two days, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.
- Cover the jars with lids and put them in the refrigerator. Ryazhenka can be stored in the refrigerator for up to seven days.
Photo by NY Times
Cheburek is a traditional seafood dish. The effervescent crust is the highlight of a really good cheburek.
For chebureks, the dough should be quite sharp, it is better to knead by hand, the mixer may not pull.
After the first glued dough, you will quickly understand և everything will go faster. You can even roll և pour the next one while the first one is frying. It is better to fry once or twice, which helps control the oil temperature ացնում improves the pastry. They should be eaten fresh as soon as they are cold.
For the meat core.
- medium-sized onions of any kind (except sweet), large sliced,
- 120 grams of minced beef
- 120 grams of minced pork
- two teaspoons of ground pepper
- one and a half teaspoons of salt
- 230 grams of kefir, maybe a little more if necessary.
- 500 grams of flour
- a teaspoon of fine salt
- a glass of cold water (250 milliliters),
- for frying refined rose oil, about eight cups
- Make meat stuffing. Beat the chopped onions in a food processor until they are very fine and start to release moisture. Transfer the onion to a large bowl.
- Add beef, pork, pepper and salt, mix very well.
- Gradually add kefir to the obtained mass, mix with meat. The consistency should be liquid, almost soup, not solid. If necessary, add more kefir, 1 tablespoon each, to achieve the desired density.
- Cover the mass and put it in the refrigerator to cool for 1 hour.
- Knead the dough. Pour three cups of flour into a large bowl. Add fine salt և mix with a fork. Add water, mix until smooth. Lightly grease the work surface with flour, knead the rest of the flour little by little (you may not need all the flour), until the dough becomes flexible and non-stick, about 15 minutes. The dough should come back when you make a small hole with your finger.
- Roll the dough into a ball and put it in a bowl. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and leave it for at least an hour.
- Get ready to fry. Take a deep fryer or other similar utensils և put about five centimeters of oil in it.
- Take a baking sheet, grate it, cover the grater with towels (you can use paper towels) to absorb the excess oil from the prepared dough. Heat the oil on a medium heat up to 170-200 degrees, that is, when it heats up a lot, but does not start burning yet.
- Divide the dough into twelve pieces and roll into balls. Make discs from balloons և cover with polyethylene film so that they do not dry out.
- Work in one piece. Sprinkle light flour on the table and wrap the dough in a very thin circle with a diameter of about 20 cm. So thin that you can read through it.
- Pour three tablespoons of the filling on one side of the circle and spread it in the form of a thin crescent, leaving a margin of about two and a half centimeters around the filling. Be careful not to add too much stuffing. If you add too much cheburek, it will simply shrink during frying.
- Fill an oversized party glass for a contemporary floral arrangement.
- Close the cheburek so that no air bubbles remain between the core and the dough so that it does not explode.
- Squeeze the ends to close them tightly, then fold them with a fork. You can trim the toothed edges if you wish.
- When the oil heats up, carefully dip the fried cheburek in the oil and fry until the dough is golden brown and frothy, about two minutes on each side.
- Take the tongs or a spatula with a large opening and transfer the pastry to a baking sheet with a metal rack. Then prepare and fry the pastry until the dough and filling are done.
- Let the cheburek cool a bit, and then eat immediately. It is best to have a glass of fermented baked milk or kefir.
Photo by NY Times
With borsch fish
Every Ukrainian family has its own borscht recipe. Olga Kuceridi has written more than 70 family recipes for borscht, including her mother’s “tomato-cabbage” borscht, as well as the fish version often made in Mariupol.
Borscht with fish is traditionally eaten in southern Ukraine near port cities such as Mariupol and Odessa. Modern cooks often use local canned fish – anchovies, gobies or sprats.
This soup with Bulgarian pepper, carrot, as well as beet, cabbage is thick, but very light.
- two-thirds of a cup of dried beans
- three bay leaves
- half a tablespoon of salt, plus more to taste
- medium peeled beets,
- big carrot
- any kind of onion (except sweet),
- medium red bell pepper
- four medium potatoes
- small bunch of dill
- half a small head of cabbage (450 grams),
- three tablespoons of olive oil
- one and a half teaspoons of sugar
- two glasses of tomato juice
- 1 to 2 cans of sprat or sardine in tomato sauce (about 200 grams for cooking fish)
- bread with grated garlic to serve. Yeast bread or donuts are better.
- Put the beans in a medium bowl և add enough water to cover them by 10 cm. Leave overnight or at least three hours. Then strain the water and rinse the beans.
- Pour eight glasses of water into a large saucepan.
- Add the soaked beans, bay leaf, salt and boil on high heat.
- Turn down the heat and cook until the beans are soft, from thirty minutes to an hour and a half, depending on the soaking time and the age of the beans.
- While the beans are cooking, first grate the beets with a grater, and then the carrots. Chop onion and bell pepper. Cut the potatoes into medium cubes. Chop the dill. Cut the cabbage with a knife.
- Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add finely chopped beets, sprinkle with sugar and cook, stirring often, for five minutes. Then add the carrots and fry until soft (about ten minutes), stirring occasionally. Transfer to a bowl and remove from the heat.
- Take the same pan. Add one tablespoon of onion oil, cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and lightly browned, five to ten minutes.
- Pour the tomato juice in a frying pan, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook for two minutes.
- After cooking the beans, add the potatoes, beet-carrot mixture to the pot and boil on high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, until potatoes are tender.
- Add the bell pepper և onion-tomato mixture և let it simmer for 10 minutes. Then put the cabbage, dill in the pan, leave it for three or five minutes.
- Turn off the heat, close the pot և leave for 20 minutes so that all the flavors are mixed. Remove են throw away the bay leaf, salt as you wish.
- Serve with bread spread with garlic.
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