In early December, I received an ideal postcard for this time of year from a Postcrosser in Ukraine – a recipe card of Kutia or Kutya, a traditional Ukrainian Christmas Eve dish. I picked this out for the fifth try (as for the 4th, pls read Grechka Soup), and have saved it until today.
As usual, browsed the unfamiliar dish on the internet and learnt that:
Kutia is a sweet grain pudding, traditionally served in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and some parts of Poland. Sochivo, a dish similar to kutia, is very popular in Russia. Kutia is often the first dish in the traditional twelve-dish Christmas Eve supper (also known as Svyatah Vecherya). It is rarely served at other times of the year.
Kutia was also part of a common Eastern Orthodox tradition in the Russian Empire…. (from Wikipedia)
The Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on 7th of January, so Kutia is supposed to be eaten on 6th January. The sweet dish seems like dessert, but served first out of the twelve! Kutia is very auspicious because the ingredients such as wheat berries, poppy seeds and dried fruits symbolise abundance, fertility and prosperity. (This is like we eat Kazunoko, or herring roe for New Year’s.) Someone mentions on the web that the dish is traditionally eaten with a wooden spoon, but not clear if it’s a special one for Kutia….
It sounds like ‘porridge’ rather than ‘pudding’…. I’m fond of porridge and eat it for breakfast whenever in Scotland, so I happily gave it a try.
( For 2-3 servings)
125 g pearl barley, well rinsed and soaked in water overnight
400 cc water (plus 100 cc to adjust)
a pinch of salt
25 g raisins
30 g poppy seeds
50 g honey
50 g walnuts, roughly chopped
25 g dried apricots, chopped
- Preheat oven to 150 C.
- Drain and put the barley in a pan with salt and 400 cc water, then bring to the boil over low heat.
- Place the barley into an uncovered baking dish with the boiled water, and cook in the oven for 60 mins or until the barley becomes tender. Stir occasionally and add 100 cc water little by little as required to prevent sticking and drying out.
- Meanwhile, place the poppy seeds in a pan with adequate water and bring to the boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 mins. Drain through fine sieve, then grind the seeds with a food/coffee grinder (or something). Set aside.
- Rinse the raisins and soak in boiled water for 10 minutes, then drain and dry.
- Combine everything and mix well.
I basically followed the recipe, but altered a bit: reduced quantities of the ingredients, and added some procedures and ingredients. Pearl barley was used instead of wheat berries, which I couldn’t find anywhere, and a baking dish as a substitute for a cray pot.
I should have ground the seeds more finely! They are so tiny that my Suribachi, a Japanese mortar and pestle for sesame seeds, didn’t work well 😦 Anyway, it doesn’t matter as it tasted good. Not sweeter than imagined – omitted sugar from the recipe! – and the sourness of the apricot gives it a good kick. I like the crispy and chewy texture and nutty flavour of the walnuts in the slightly sticky and soft ingredients.
Kutia is one of the twelve-dish supper, which represents the 12 apostles, containing no meat or dairy…. Well, it’s not 6th or 7th January yet, so I unhesitantly poured some heavy cream over the pudding! 🙂
Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe, dear Postcrossing friend in Ukraine! I’m wishing you blessings and joy this Christmas, and hope your dream comes true.
And also thanks a million to another friend in Ukraine for the information and advice. I’m looking forward to your letter!