Sunday, 5 January 2014

Ukrainian Christmas Feast - 6th & 7th January

As Western Christmas merriment draws to an end in early January, Ukrainian families all over the world will be preparing to celebrate Christmas on 7th January. 

A pre-cursor to Christmas Day is the holy supper of Sviata Vecheria on the evening of Christmas Eve (6th January) which is celebrated as more of a focal point of the Christmas period than Christmas Day itself.

Sviata Vecheria consists of 12 meatless dishes (representing the 12 disciples).  Presented on a decorated table which has hay scattered in between seat settings to denote the hay from Jesus’ manger, a bouquet wheatsheaf  nicknamed a ‘dydukh’ which represents one’s ancestors and a candle in the centre of the table which represents the guiding star from the East.

Dydukh and Candle (Guiding Star) 

Whilst table decorations and dishes can vary regionally and can even vary between families, the two dishes that remain a constant across Ukrainian households and that bookend the start and end of the feast are Kutia (a wheatberry appetiser) and Uzvar (a fruit compote drink). 

Below are recipes to make both for your Holy Supper and if you're celebrating over the next few days, may I wish you - "Merry Christmas" or as they say in the Ukraine -                               "z Rizdvom Khrystovym" - "З Різдвом Христовим"


Note: This article and recipes have also been published in the Ukrainian Thought newspaper, printed in London for Ukrainians and those of Ukrainian descent in the UK.




Serves 4 – to be served in small ramekins or espresso sized pots.  
As this dish symbolises the start of the meal as an appetiser, only a small amount per head is needed.

40g Wheatberries (I use Merchant Gourmet brand – available from larger supermarkets)
2 tsp Sweet Wine
25g Chopped Walnuts
2 tbls Runny Honey
2 tbls Poppy Seeds
*  Check any pre-cooking instructions on the packet of wheatberries, soak the wheatberries overnight if stated on the packet.
*  Cook the wheatberries as per the packet instructions and cook with the sweet wine (approximately 30 minutes).
*  Just before the wheatberries are cooked through, toast the chopped walnuts in a separate saucepan on a low heat.
*  Then add the honey and poppy seeds to the walnuts and mix together.
*  Once the wheatberries are ready, add them to the walnut mixture.
*  Mix thoroughly and then split to make 4 portions.


Uzvar - Simmering in the Saucepan


Serves 4

8 Dried Apricots
8 Dried Prunes
3 tsp Mixed Dried Fruit
1 Cinnamon Stick
2 tbls Honey
250ml Sweet Cider
½ Lemon (juiced)

·     *  Chop the fruits into small pieces.
*  Place the fruit, honey and cinnamon stick in a saucepan.
*  Cover with lemon juice and cider.
*  Gently simmer for 15-20 minutes, checking periodically to ensure that liquid is still present (approximately an inch’s worth).
*  If more liquid is required, add more cider and/or hot water.
*  Check that the sweetness is to your preference and add a little more honey if required.
*  The Uzvar is ready once the fruit has softened and the liquid is syrupy.
*  Remove the cinnamon stick and discard.
      *  To serve, divide between 4 cups.

Uzvar can also be served as a compote on top of ice cream

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