Two chefs from Ukraine and Russia have teamed up to help raise vital funds for UNICEF’s Ukraine appeal.
Alissa Timoshkina, who is originally from Siberia but moved to the UK in 1999, has launched Cook for Ukraine with Olia Hercules in a bid to help families affected by the Russian invasion.
Olia was born in Kakhovka, Ukraine, but now lives in London. So far, the pair have raised more than £300,000 by putting together a feast of Ukrainian and Russian recipes and inspiring others to organise supper clubs, fundraisers and bake sales to support the appeal.
Alissa told how her “heart breaks for the children and families impacted by this conflict”. She said: “Like millions of Russians, I too have Ukrainian roots and grew up on a beautiful diet of Ukrainian and Russian dishes.
Dave Benett/Getty Images for Har)
“These countries have shared a complex and rich history, and the culinary language reflects this relationship in the most powerful and relatable way.
“Let’s cook for peace, for freedom, for truth, for common sense, for rational thought and for love.”
So, here are some of Alissa and Olia’s favourite recipes for you to try at home…
Beetroot and Walnut dip with Prunes
Ingredients for the pate:
■ 3 tbsp vegetable oil
■ 1 onion, finely sliced
■ Sea salt, to taste
■ 4 medium beetroots, peeled and grated
■ 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
■ 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
■ 1 tsp mild honey
■ A large pinch of chilli flakes
■ A small bunch of dill, stalks removed
For the topping:
■ A large handful of walnuts
■ 6 soft prunes
1. Heat up 1 tbsp of oil in a medium frying pan with a lid on medium heat. Add the onions with some salt and let them soften for 8-10 minutes. Next add the grated beetroot and half the garlic, season with more salt to taste, add a tbsp of oil, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add a splash of water, cover with a lid, and let it simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
2. While the beetroot is simmering make the garlic-walnut-prune topping. In a separate frying pan, warm up the remaining oil on a low heat. Add the garlic and let it cook, infusing the oil for 1 minute, stirring regularly to prevent burning. Add the walnuts and the prunes, and cook for another minute, coating generously in the garlic oil. Remove from heat and sprinkle with some sea salt flakes.
3. Add the vinegar, honey and chilli and give it a good stir. Blend with a stick blender or in a food processor to turn into a puree.
4. To serve, sprinkle with the walnut-prune topping and decorate with fresh dill.
■ 6 baby aubergines or
3 large ones
■ 100ml clarified butter
■ 6 medium flavoursome tomatoes, halved across the equator
■ 10 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
■ 200ml water or vegetable (or chicken) stock
■ Sea salt and pepper, to taste
■ A small bunch of each or any of the following: dill, coriander, basil
■ Some lavash flatbreads or similar
1. If you are using baby aubergines, take the tail off and then make two incisions as if you were to quarter them lengthways, but do not cut until the end. Sprinkle some salt inside the incisions and leave in a colander. If you are using large ones, slice them lengthways into 4 or 6 wedges and salt them in a similar way. Leave them for an hour.
2. Now heat 2 tbsp clarified butter in a thick-bottomed casserole pan and fry the aubergines until they are well-browned all over. The skin will blister and the white flesh will turn golden brown and crispy. Take them out and set aside. Do not clean the pan.
3. Now heat another 2 tbsp of butter in the same pan and add the tomatoes cut-side down. Cook them just on that side over a high heat until they catch some colour and the skins wrinkle. Using tongs, lift the skins off the tomatoes and discard. Take the tomatoes out and pop them in with the aubergines for now.
4. In the same pan, heat another 2 tbsp clarified butter and over a medium heat, fry the garlic. Keep stirring it. You want it to turn deep golden, but not burn. Tilt the pan so the butter and garlic collect in one corner – this way you will confit it. It should take about 2-5 minutes.
5. Now return the aubergines and tomatoes to the pan and add the liquid. Do try chicken stock if you are not vegetarian – it adds an extra layer of flavour. Season with salt and pepper and cook over a medium-low heat for about 15 minutes. Serve with pieces of torn lavash or any other flatbread or regular bread. Alternatively, you can use a simple rice.
Tvorog Pashka cake
■ 75g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
■ 3-4 tbsp sugar
■ 500g ricotta
■ 5 tbsp sour cream
■ 1 tsp vanilla essence
■ 80g toasted almonds, roughly chopped
■ 100g dried fruit mix (sultanas, apricots), apricots chopped
■ ½ lemon, juiced and zested
■ A pinch of salt
1. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Then add the rest of the ingredients until well incorporated and all the dried fruit and nuts are evenly distributed.
2. Place the mixture into a muslin cloth and suspend it over the sink, the same way as you would when making lebneh, and leave to strain overnight.
3. The following morning, transfer the mix into a mould, still keeping it wrapped in muslin.
4. Press the mix into the bowl and cover the bottom with another cloth. Place a weight on top to keep it pressed into the shape. You can use a plate and a pint of water for that.
5. Leave to chilll in the fridge for 2-4 hours.
6. Before serving the cheese cake, remove any extra liquid that might be released, as well as the muslin cloth from the bottom. Tip it over on to a plate and remove the bowl and the rest of the cloth.
Stuffed cabbage leaves
■ 2 tbsp
■ 1 large onion, finely diced
■ 1 carrot, grated
■ 1 tsp caster sugar
■ 1 tbsp tomato paste
■ 1 fresh bay leaf
■ 1 tin chopped tomatoes
■ 1 head Savoy cabbage, 12 leaves separated
■ 250g beef mince
■ 250g pork mince
■ 160g rice, parboiled and drained
■ 40g barberries (optional)
■ Sea salt flakes
■ Freshly ground black pepper
■ ½ small bunch dill, finely chopped
■ sourdough bread
■ 100ml sour cream
1. Make the sauce first. Heat the oil in a heavy-based casserole dish. Fry half of the onion and the grated carrot over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes until soft. Add the sugar and the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the bay leaf, tomatoes and 400ml water and season well.
2. Blanch the cabbage leaves for 2 minutes in boiling water. Then refresh them in cold water and drain well on kitchen paper.
3. Mix the minces, parboiled rice, barberries, seasoning and the remaining diced onion. Place 50g of the filling on to each cabbage leaf and fold into parcels.
4. Place the parcels on top of the sauce, folded side down, tucking them next to each other snugly so they do not unravel.
5. Cook over a low heat for about 45 minutes or until cooked through. Serve with lots of chopped dill, sourdough bread and a generous dollop of sour cream on the side.
Blini stuffed with apricot tvorog
Ingredients for the blini:
■ 200g plain flour
■ 200ml full fat milk
■ 150ml boiling water
■ 50g unsalted butter, melted, plus more for frying
■ 2 eggs
■ A pinch
■ A pinch of sugar
For the filling:
■ 200g goats curd (or 100g ricotta cheese and 100g plain cottage cheese)
■ 150g semi-dried apricots
■ 1 tbsp sugar
■ ½ lemon, juiced
■ 50g unsalted butter
■ 1 tbsp sugar
■ 4 ripe apricots or peaches (or a mixture of both)
■ Flaked almonds, toasted
1. To make the blini, sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl. Gradually pour in the milk while whisking away to make sure there are no lumps. Add the melted butter to the mix. Break an egg into the same bowl and whisk more until evenly integrated. Once a thick batter is formed, gradually add 150ml of hot water and continue whisking until the mixture reaches the right consistency – which should be similar to pouring yoghurt without any lumps. Season with a pinch of salt and sugar.
2. Heat up a non-stick frying pan with some butter. Pour half a ladle of the mixture into the hot pan and swirl around till the batter covers the entire surface in an even, paper-thin layer. Cook on one side for approx 2 mins. You know it is ready when the edges start to curl. Flip the crêpe (in the air if you wish or dare) and fry for another 40 secs or so. Pile into a nice stack with a slice of butter in between every other crêpe.
3. In a food processor, blend the goats curd (or the ricotta/cottage cheese mix) and dried apricots. Make sure to use the plump, juicy apricots because the really dry ones won’t mix well and will just make a lot of noise in your blender. Blend for 5 mins until you have a semi-smooth paste with a few chunky bits. Add sugar and lemon juice to taste.
4. To assemble the blintzes, place 2 tbsp of the cheese mixture on each crêpe and roll it into a burrito shape. Then, in a frying pan, heat the butter and sugar together. Cut the fresh apricots or peaches into 4 slices and fry in 50g of butter and 1 tbsp of sugar, until slightly caramelised
5. To serve, place 2 blintzes per plate, add a few of the fried fruit slices and sprinkle with some toasted almond flakes.