Last Updated on March 11, 2022
A charity to raise awareness of the crisis in Ukraine through food.
Since the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February people have been glued to the rolling news, partly horrified by the footage, partly feeling helpless. Many have donated money, clothing, time and other resources in an attempt to help the millions of people who are fleeing or trying to get to safety. The needs of Ukrainians are enormous and people all around the world are trying to help. In the UK, a charity called #CookForUkraine has been set up to channel the creativity of those in the food world who can participate to raise funds and awareness.
Established by Olia Hercules (activist, chef and author of Mamushka, Kaukasis and Summer Kitchens) and Alissa Timoshkina (a Russian food creative and author in London) along with Layla Yarjani (of NextGen London, a global UNICEF initiative) and Clerkenwell Boy, #CookForUkraine has raised a lot of money in a short time and posts on social media throughout the day with updates and information. The funds it is raising are to aid children and families displaced by the war. Hercules was born in Southern Ukraine and her younger brother is now fighting to defend Kyiv while her parents find themselves living in Russian controlled Kakhova. Her posts are very personal and help to provide her followers with a real sense of what is going on in Ukraine. She has also been working tirelessly, giving interviews on media outlets.
In addition to donating money to #CookForUkraine, we can all participate in raising awareness through food. Many on Instagram have been posting photographs of food they are cooking, many using recipes from Hercules’ award-winning Mamushka and her more recent book, Summer Kitchens. We reviewed Summer Kitchens when it was published a couple of years ago and you can read about that here. Aside from cooking Ukrainian recipes and posting on social media under the hashtag #CookForUkraine, the public can contribute to #CookForUkraine by signing up to host a supper club with the proceeds being donated to the charity. For those of us not equipped to host a supper club, inviting family or friends to dinner or even afternoon tea is an easier option where everyone is asked to donate what they can (they can do so online so the donations do not need to go through the host). You can use the recipes from published cookbooks or look online where there are many ideas.
Today I cooked another of Hercules’ recipes from Summer Kitchens. Mushroom broth with sour gherkins was so quick to make that I had it all done during my lunch hour and then ate it for dinner with a slice of rye bread and sour cream. It is absolutely the taste of Eastern Europe – lots of roots, the umami of dried mushrooms, the sweetness and brininess of gherkins paired with fabulous rye bread and the soured cream. Such a lot of flavour in one bowl. Hercules writes that this recipe was inspired by Ukrainian food writer Marianna Dushar. This dish is typically made across Ukraine with beef or pork ribs. Hercules’ mum uses duck. The brine of the gherkins cuts through the richness of the meat. This is a vegetarian version which Hercules was delighted to find that Marianna had devised.
For more about #CookForUkraine use the hashtag to search. Or to give funds, click on the link below
Ukrainian vegetarian soup
- 100 grams dried porcini or wild mushrooms
- 2 litres hot water
- 60 grams pearl barley or rice or buckwheat
- 2 onions, peeled keep one whole and dice the other finely
- 300 grams potatoes peeled and diced into 2cm cubes
- 150 grams gherkins in brine
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 carrot coarsely grated
- 1 parsnip peeled and coarsely grated
- 1/4 small celeriac peeled and coarsely grated
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 300-500 ml brine from the gherkin jar
- sea salt and black pepper
- rye bread, marjoram leaves, creme fraiche all optional
Soak the dried mushrooms in the 2 litres of hot water for half an hour.
Cook the pearl barley in salted boiling water for 20 - 30 minutes until soft. If using rice or buckwheat these will cook more quickly. Drain and set aside.
Drain the mushrooms, leaving behind any sandy residue. Reserve the liquid and pour it into a soup pot. Chop the mushrooms finely and add to the pot along with the whole onion. Season lightly. Cook for 10 minutes.
Add the potatoes and cook for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, slice half the gherkins and grate the other half.
Heat butter and oil in a large pan over a medium heat and add the diced onion. Cook until transparent and softened. Add the carrot, parsnip and celeriac and cook for 5 minutes. Add some water if pan is too dry. Now add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add all the gherkins and the brine. Simmer for a minute.
Add the contents of the frying pan to the mushroom broth in the soup pot along with the cooked pearl barley. Bring to the boil. Remove the whole onion.
Serve with marjoram leaves (optional) and rye bread spread with creme fraiche.