Cook for Ukraine: spring recipes from Olia Hercules | Food

fFor ages I’ve been talking about the power of food, gathering around a dinner table to tell stories, laugh, sing or cry. It’s like group therapy. With my family in Ukraine – my parents’ town, Kakhovka, is under siege and my brother is training to fight in Kyiv – I don’t know when I will do something like this again, but appreciation to them and to my country, I urge you to start cooking and eating Ukrainian food now. Please visit the #cookforukraine JustGiving page to get involved in our efforts to make food a force for fundraising.

Nettle, sorrel and wild garlic soup (picture above)

Towards the end of April and May, before much grows in people’s vegetable gardens, the fields and forests of Ukraine are filled with young nettles and wild sorrel. Foraging was not so uncommon in the past and is now being rediscovered, in Ukraine and elsewhere. Sometimes called green borscht, this soup can also be made with chicken broth and served with chopped boiled eggs.

preparation 15 minutes
a cook 1 H
serves 6

2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
1 onion
peel and cut into 1 cm cubes
2 carrots
scrubbed and cut into 1cm cubes
1 small celery
peel and cut into 1 cm cubes
3 sticks of celery
cut into 1 cm cubes
1 leek
only the white part, trimmed and cut into 1 cm cubes
3 large cloves of garlic
peeled off
1 bay leaf
Old and black pepper
6 baby potatoes
100 grams of sorrel
75g young nettle tips
(the top few leaves on each stem)
50 g wild garlic leaves
sliced ​​(petals saved for garnish)
3 spring onions
thinly sliced
A handful of chopped dill
A handful of chopped parsley

em offmeserve (optional)

Pour the oil into a cast iron casserole over medium heat. Once the oil is sizzling, add the onion, carrots, celeriac, celery stalks, and leeks and sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes: They should caramelize partially, but not burn. (If the pan feels too crowded, sauté the vegetables in batches.) Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and colored, about 2 minutes.

Add two and a half liters of cold water and the bay leaf, salt lightly and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and simmer, half covered, for about 40 minutes.

Add the potatoes whole and cook for 10 minutes or until tender, then add the sorrel, nettles and wild garlic and remove from the heat. Taste the soup and add more salt if needed.

Place a potato in each soup bowl and mash lightly with a spoon. Ladle over the broth, then sprinkle with wild garlic flowers (if using), spring onions and herbs. Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche and a good pinch of pepper, if you like.

Cauliflower Fritters

Cauliflower fritters by Olia Hercules.
Cauliflower fritters by Olia Hercules.

This simple batter is used across Ukraine to fry everything from chicken or pork cutlets to whole river fish. I also love fried vegetables like this – especially cauliflower. Nowadays, plain white flour is usually used, but buckwheat flour used to be popular and it’s healthier and much tastier. I like to eat these with a spoonful of mayonnaise with dill and garlic.

preparation 5 minutes
a cook 25 mins
serves 4

1 small cauliflower
Old and black pepper
1 egg
100ml whole milk
60 grams of buckwheat flour
or plain flour
vegetable oilto fry

For the dill garlic mayonnaise
150 grams of mayonnaise
1 clove of garlic
peeled and finely grated
A handful of finely chopped dill

Cut or break the cauliflower into small florets, keeping small leaves as well. Blanch the cauliflower and its leaves in a saucepan of boiling, salted water: remove the leaves after about two minutes and the florets after five minutes. Rinse both in cold water, drain well and pat dry with kitchen paper.

Heat four tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat – it should cover the bottom of the pan, so add a little more if needed.

In the meantime make the dough. In a bowl, beat the egg with the milk, then add the flour, mix until smooth and season well; If using buckwheat flour, make the batter just before frying as it will get stickier by the minute.

Place four pieces of cauliflower in the batter at a time, making sure they are all thickly coated. When the oil is really hot, take the bowl to the pan (or it will get messy) and carefully add the breaded cauliflower to the pan – depending on the size of your pan, you should be able to fry between 4 and 8 donuts at a time. After a few minutes flip and fry on the other side until the fritters are golden brown all over, then lift out with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper and keep warm over medium-high heat while you repeat with the remaining cauliflower batter. (Between batches you may need to drain and wipe out the pan with kitchen paper and add more oil.)

For the mayonnaise, mix all the ingredients in a small bowl and serve with the hot cauliflower.

  • Recipes from Summer Kitchens: Recipes and Memories from Every Corner of Ukraine, by Olia Hercules, published by Bloomsbury for £26. To order a copy for £22.62 go to

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