CHEF JP PONDERS THE FOOD LEGACY OF THE UKRAINE
Chef JP le Roux shares some thoughts on the food legacy of the Ukraine
As the world waits to see what happens next in the Ukraine and contemplates the much discussed possibility of a global food crisis – Ukraine is one of the largest exporters of grain and supplies around half the world’s sunflower oil – it is hard not to become a little despondent about how we treat this planet.
Add to that the heart breaking photographs of beautiful architecture and whole cities that have been bombed into oblivion and you can’t help but mourn the tragic losses to a nation that has a very rich cultural heritage.
As I have learnt during my travels, food is central to culture. We celebrate during festivals, sharing food or around tables enjoying traditional meals. Food is what binds us and entertains us. Through sharing our cultural recipes and adding them to what is undoubtedly a global cuisine, we are able to unite different countries in the enjoyment of good food.
It is strangely reassuring that we will still be able to enjoy traditional Ukrainian food even when the citizens of that country are displaced and desperate. In fact, this past week, I created a Ukrainian meal to both celebrate this heritage and to remember what is happening in this war torn part of our world and pay tribute to the people who are at the centre of this heart breaking conflict.
What I have realised is that food has no boundaries and it doesn’t succumb to warfare and political agendas. So, instead of focussing on the terrible destruction that I can bring into my home at the flick of a television button, I chose to celebrate the very things that I and many others would like to see restored post haste – freedom, peace and prosperity.
All of my dishes are plated on a blue plate to reflect the colours of the Ukrainian flag where the blue represents calmness and the many rivers that cross the country and the yellow speaks to prosperity and the deep yellow of the wheat which keeps the world in food.
KRUPNYK (BARLEY SOUP)
Ukraine’s food traditions are very similar to those of many Eastern European countries – with dishes based on grains such as barley, millet, rye and wheat, wild mushrooms and staple vegetables. What better way to celebrate this than with a hearty soup as a starter?
FROM THE PANTRY
¼ cup pearl barley
1 Tblsp butter
1 Tblsp oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 to 2 medium carrots, diced
4 celery sticks, chopped
1/3 cup chopped yellow pepper
1 medium potato, diced
1 to 2 Tblsp sour cream
salt and pepper
2 Tblsp chopped fresh dill
Wash the pearl barley and put it in a saucepan. Cover with water and add a light sprinkling of salt. Bring this to the boil and simmer for between 35 and 45 minutes, until tender. Using a pan large enough to accommodate the soup, heat the butter and oil over a medium heat and add the onion, carrots, celery and yellow pepper. Sauté until these soften before adding the potato and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer until all the vegetables are tender. Then add the strained barley to the soup and stir in the sour cream. Finally, season with salt and pepper and garnish with dill.
FROM THE PANTRY
2 x 150g chicken breasts
handful of breadcrumbs, enough to cover whole breast
50 g self-raising flour
40 grams of butter
1 Tblsp minced garlic
20 g chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
This world famous classic doesn’t require complicated ingredients but it can be quite fiddley to assemble!
To make the garlic butter, mix the softened butter with salt, parsley and garlic until smooth. Spread this mixture on to a small rectangle of baking or grease proof paper and put it in the fridge until it is firm. Cut lengthwise into two pieces.
Using a meat mallet, flatten the chicken breast into a thin square. Season with salt and pepper and then place a wedge of garlic butter in the middle. Fold in the sides and then, starting from the bottom, roll the chicken up into a log like a burrito. Finish with the seam side down to keep it together.
Wrap with cling wrap and freeze for 30 minutes to make it firm and easier to handle when coating with breadcrumbs.
Once the chicken in the freezer feels firm (but is not frozen solid) unwrap it and roll in flour. Make sure that you coat the ends and then shake of any excess. Whisk your egg lightly and then roll the floured chicken in this. These are the binding agents that help the breadcrumbs to stick to the chicken.
Lastly, roll in the breadcrumbs, pressing to make sure that they stick.
Return your chicken breast to the freezer for about 30 minutes until the outside firms up again. This helps the chicken o hold its shape and ensures that the crumb coating doesn’t fall off and that the butter remains in place during cooking.
Fry until golden for around two to three minutes. It will keep its shape. Once done, drain on some absorbent paper towel before serving up. As you slice it, you can indulge in the liquid golden butter and garlic as it oozes out on your plate
Last but not least,
we’d like to raise a toast to all
Ukrainian people with a shot
of grain vodka.