Sunday, 20 April 2014

Traditions of Ukrainian Easter Breakfast


Falling on the same day as Western Easter this year, Easter for many Ukrainians is more of a celebration than Christmas.  As well as it being the celebration of Christ rising, Easter also acts as an event to welcome in the spring and denotes the end of the solemn period of Lent that precedes it.

Breakfast is the focal meal on Easter Day which consists of a feast that would have been blessed either the day before or early on Easter morning in a special holy service.  Typically, the feast would be an elaborate continental style breakfast compiling of items such as cold meats (namely kovbasa style sausages or indeed vegetarian versions), cheeses, breads and salads which form the lion share of the table.  Emphasis is placed on hard boiled eggs which are usually eaten first and seen as a symbol of new life, depicting Christ’s re-birth. 

The main centrepiece for a Ukrainian Easter table would be Paska.  Paska is only really baked at Eastertime, is somewhat exclusively unique to the Ukraine and taste-wise, it is a cross between a cake and a sweet bread which is eaten with butter and jam.


Easter Table Display
 

Equally making an appearance on the feast table for many households would be fresh horseradish.  A traditional condiment which plays an integral part of Easter breakfast in the Ukraine.  Over the years I have enjoyed hearing my father’s tales of foraging for horseradish as a young boy with his friends in Western Ukraine around the village he grew up in, selling it to elders for their breakfast tables and spending his earned profits on Easter treats.  

Eaten on its own, horseradish possesses a strong, fiery taste but when mixed with other ingredients, it provides a gentler flavour without compromising its power.  An example of which is Tsvikly, which is combination of grated beetroot and fresh horseradish which is favoured as the perfect accompaniment for cheeses, eggs and meats; is a stalwart on all Ukrainian Easter breakfast tables and yet of course can be used all year round for any occasion.

Tsvikly


 

(Use of fresh horseradish is traditional, although creamed horseradish sauce is a suitable alternative.  Quantity of horseradish in the recipe is indicative, more or less can be used as per personal preference).

Serves 2 – 4 people

300g Beetroot (Ready to use, vacuum-packed in natural juices)
1-2 tsps Freshly Grated Horseradish (or creamed horseradish sauce)
1 tsp Cider Vinegar
½ tsp Brown Sugar
Pinch of Salt

 
Place the freshly grated horseradish (or creamed horseradish sauce) into a bowl.
                                                                                                                               

Add the brown sugar and salt.
Discard any beetroot juice and grate the beetroot into the horseradish mixture and mix thoroughly.
Add the cider vinegar and mix well.
Taste to ensure it is to your preference.  Increase the ingredients if required.
Serve straightaway or place into a sterilised jar and store in the fridge.

 
Happy Easter - or as they say in the Ukraine - Hrystos Voskres!
 
~~~
 Note: This article and recipe have also been published in the Ukrainian Thought newspaper, printed in London for Ukrainians and those of Ukrainian descent in the UK.

An adapted version of this article is also available on the Warwickshire Life website.  Click here for the link.

 
 

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Paris Mash

I used to work with a couple of girls who (like me), used to enjoy perusing through online recipe sites and picking out meals to make at home.  One conversation led to the question – “Have you ever tried Paris Mash?”  Answer to that was no.  They enthused about its qualities as a gloriously, smooth mash that arguably excels the home-made rustic style mash most of us make for bubble & squeak and such like.
 
I parked the idea of Paris Mash for a while and it has only been recently that I have resurrected the thought of it again following my husband’s request for something “potatoey yet different”.  Googling the recipe, I saw that it is a signature dish at Bistro Guillaume in Australia, with a legion of fans and is often described as 'creamy and dreamy'.  Time to find out......
 
Trying to add a bit of ‘joie du vivre’ (keeping the Parisian theme going there!) into my version of the recipe, I thought about using some ingredients that I love albeit that I use sparingly.  So, to add a little colour and spice, I added some saffron threads to the hot milk element and some earthy Truffle Hunter delights I have in my pantry to finish the dish with, namely chopped  black truffle carpaccio and a drizzle of Truffle Hunter truffle oil.
 
 
 
In my husband’s eyes I completed the “potatoey yet different” challenge with aplomb, combined with the plaudit of “you have to do this again” echoing in my ears.  Who I am to argue?
 
Here’s the recipe if you want to try a little Paris Mash yourself and feel free to add whatever you like make it your own.
 

 ~~~
Boiling the potatoes
Saffron infused hot milk

Potatoes once mashed
Paris Mash served with Grilled Asparagus Spears


 
 
Paris Mash
 
 
Serves 4 as a side dish
 
4 large potatoes (almost jacket potato size)
Salt
200ml Hot Milk
Pinch of Saffron threads
1 large slice of Black Truffle Carpaccio (diced)
Drizzle of Truffle Oil (I used Truffle Hunter)
 
·         *  Peel and cut potatoes into cubes/wedges.
·         *  Boil in salted water until soft, drain and place back into the pan.
·         *  In the meantime, place the saffron threads into the milk.
·         *  Either boil or microwave the milk until it is warmed through.
·         *  Give the milk a stir so that the saffron can infuse into it – allow it to infuse for as long
         as possible.
·         *  Pour the milk into the pan with the potatoes in it.
·         *  Give it a stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
·         *  Using an electric blender stick, blitz the potato mixture until it is smooth and all lumps
         have been removed.
·         *  Add in the diced Carpaccio slice and drizzle the truffle oil on top of the mash.
·         *  Serve as desired.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Meridian Nut Butters

Peanut butter is much of a muchness – right?  Well, as I’ve come to discover this isn’t strictly true. 

Having being used to the clay-coloured spreads that adorn most supermarket shelves, I was keen to try new nut butter spreads and Meridian sent me 3 products from their range to sample.
 
Meridian’s focus differs from other brands. Containing only nuts, it boasts a 100% totally natural approach with no (controversial) palm oil, sugar, salt.  
 
 

 
I started my nut butter fest with Meridian's Crunchy Peanut Butter spread. Made from roasted peanuts, it is darker in colour and tastes lighter than traditional spreads, a little rustic in appearance with a pleasant, subtle taste.


The omission of palm oil, is the reason behind the lighter taste and Meridian roasts all its peanuts with the skins on for a nuttier crunch. 

Rich in vital minerals, peanuts not only have a low glycaemic index of just 14, they are packed with 25% protein and are a healthy source of mono and polyunsaturated fats, with 75% of the fat in each peanut being unsaturated.

~~~
A great alternative to peanut butter, is almond and cashew nut butters.  Not only for the provision of variety, but also an option for peanut allergy sufferers to experience nut butters without the associated difficulties.
 
Meridian roasts its almonds to lock in fibre and retain nutrients.  Loaded naturally with vitamin E, almonds boost the immune system and they are rich in essential monounsaturated fatty acids and phytosterols. 
 
The almond butter is similar in appearance and consistency to the peanut version, yet has a slight sweeter taste and works well on sandwiches or toast.
 
 
 
 
 
The cashew nut butter, probably my favourite of the three, is the one that looks-wise resembles the solid texture and ecru colouring of standard peanut butter products.  Upon taste, it has a delicious gentleness as you would experience with raw cashew nuts.

Cashew nuts have a lower fat content than most other nuts and 75% of their unsaturated fatty acid content is oleic acid, the same heart-healthy monounsaturated fat found in olive oil.  They are also high in protein, magnesium, zinc, iron and phosphorus vitamins and minerals. 
 
 
 

Available from selected Ocado, Sainsburys, Tesco, Holland & Barratt, Waitrose and independent health food stores, the jars retail from £1.99 to £2.79 dependent on product and size.  A little more expensive than standard offerings, but the justification is you get a purer product.  With almond and cashew versions available (amongst others), it offers a solution to those that like the idea of peanut butter but suffer from allergies.
 
Although I've enjoyed sampling these on toast, which is my favourite way to eat nut butters, equally there are numerous ways of consuming them including using them in cooking.  For a catalogue of recipes, visit: www.meridianfoods.co.uk
 
Meridian spreads are definitely the ‘luxury’ end of nut butters and are worth splashing out on for the natural and ethical values the brand represents.
 
~~~
DisclosureThis post was written following kind receipt of Meridian Nut Butter products.  This review was conducted honestly without bias and I was not required to produce a positive review.  For further details of my PR policy, please see the Press, PR & Food Writing page of this website.