10 p.m., June 2, 2022
Cooking is sometimes political. And diplomacy, gastronomy. Even if the war leaves no room to express itself at the moment, Ukrainian cuisine can survive beyond the missiles. Today, his recipes are bursting with a beautiful book, the publication and translation of which were recorded before the onset of the conflict: the collective work Ukraine, cuisine and history (La Martinière, 45 euros) reveals 80 recipes from chefs, illuminated by historical stories to bring to life the identity and culture of a hard-hit people.
There is a great tradition of hospitality in Ukraine
“There is a great tradition of hospitality in Ukraine, says the book’s translator, Iryna Dmytrychyn, a lecturer at the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations (Inalco). We won’t let you leave without at least having a cup of tea with some pastries. You have to eat a lot, the amount is very important. It’s like a game: you can say no once, but the third time you always accept! † The many loaves of bread are one of the symbols of this hospitality: black or white bread, Jewish matza or hallah, Armenian lavache, pretzels or streusels from Krakow…
Salting and fermentation
If influenced by the religious rituals of various beliefs, Ukrainian cuisine is also characterized by the work of wheat (the country of which is the breadbasket in Europe), while being the kingdom of seasonality and vegetables. It is also a kitchen for salting fish or meat, rich in brining and fermentation techniques: cabbage, eggplant, large malossol gherkins, gherkins and all kinds of jars have always occupied a special place in Ukrainian cellars. “When I was a kid, in the fall, the kitchen was filled with glass jars that gradually migrated to the basement, remembers Iryna Dmytrychyn. Juices, jams, fruit in syrup, apples or watermelons that we ate all winter. †
The emblematic Ukrainian dish is borscht, which was born in Ukraine, but is also eaten in other versions in Poland or Russia. Ukrainian borscht is a meat stew, with a very fine stock, crispy green cabbage and a filling of carrot, onion and especially beetroot, which gives it its originality, seasons the dish and gives it its beautiful red hue.
There are even fast food restaurants with borsch or varenyky at unbeatable prices
On Ukrainian tables you will also find stuffed cabbage (golubtsy), kyiv chicken with mushrooms and white wine, lots of honey and varenyky, these savory or sweet ravioli… “There are even fast food restaurants with borsch or varenyky at unbeatable prices, the teacher continues. Programs such as MasterChef and the advent of foreign cuisines, especially Italian and Japanese, have also contributed to the evolution of our dishes. †
A mix of Slavic cultures, Ukrainian cuisine has always traveled through history. The recipes are also those of the Ashkenazim who fled the pogroms in the 19th century, especially to the United States, where they inspired the cuisine of New York delis, made famous thanks to pastrami… Today history repeats itself and refugees from Ukraine in Europe are still cooking. Like Alina, Yulia and Ivan, exiled in France, who met Daniel Rose, from the restaurant La Bourse et la Vie (2nd Paris). He offered to brew their country’s specialties with him and put them on the restaurant menu. “Their story touches me: my grandmother came to the United States from Ukraine in 1897”explains the Chicago-born chef.
Helping refugees and war victims
Until May 31, you can enjoy borsch with veal ribs from Ivan, Kiev cake from Alina, but also herring rillettes (a specialty of Odessa), varenyky with potato earth and candied onions with bacon or grechaniky (meat and buckwheat pancakes).
A typical Ukrainian ticket to support war victims: 5% of the turnover goes to an association that helps refugees. Just like book profits Easy cooking and helping Ukraine by Jean-François Mallet (Hachette Cuisine).