Introduction to Ukrainian Cuisine

Ukraine (known as Kievan Rus back then) reached its zenith and Golden Age in 11th century, under the leadership of Slavic and Scandinavian elites. By that time, it had become the largest state of Europe, formidable military power as well as thriving center of culture, arts and trade. Kiev prospered from controlling three main trade routes of Eastern Europe: the Volga trade route from the Baltic Sea to the Orient, the Dnieper trade route from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea (from the Varangians to the Greeks), and the trade route from the Khazars to the Germans. The end of the Viking Age and decline of Constantinople weakened Kiev, and final disintegration was brought upon by the Mongol Invasion of early 13th century. History of Ukraine has been very turbulent since then – for centuries it had been part of Lithuania and Poland, before being absorbed by the Russian Empire in 17th century.

Bearing in mind Ukrainian’s history, it is easy to see that the national kitchen is somewhat similar to other Eastern European cuisines (with some added Turkish, Tartar and Cossack influence), yet there a lot of unique features. Abundance of rich farmland, livestock as well as hunting and fishing made Ukrainian menu very diverse.

One of the most famous Ukrainian dishes is borsch. It is quite a complex dish, beet-based, and involving up to 20 different ingredients. There are many types of borsch in Ukraine, with or without meat.

Vareniki are another famous Ukrainian dish. They are somewhat similar to Siberian pelmeni and Caucasian manty, but instead of forcemeat, vareniki are usually filled with vegetables or berries. For example, there are vareniki with cherries, potatoes, cabbage and cottage cheese.

Pork plays a very important role in Ukrainian cuisine. Invading Turks and Tartars usually took domestic animals and livestock away from local population, but did not touch pigs, considering them “dirty”. This allowed many Ukrainian families to survive during these tough times. Pork (especially fatback) is used in wide variety of dishes.

Traditional Ukrainian drinks are mead, kvass, beer, grape wine, gorilka (vodka) and various infusions. First written records mentioning kvass date back to 10th century. Kvass contains vitamins B1 and E, quenches thirst well and is easy to make. Although bread is usually used to prepare kvass, it can also be made with berries or vegetables.

Mead is old and legendary drink. Ancient pre-Christian Slavs first used it for religious rituals. It is made with yeast, honey, hops, spices and berries. Mead’s alcohol content is similar to wine, and it is usually consumed as aperitif.

Modern Ukrainian cuisine is famous for its beverages, such as honey vodka with pepper, famous not only in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, but in Western Europe as well.

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“Uzbek Cuisine” Introduction – Foreword from Publisher/Translators

Uzbekistan has a fascinating history. Its cities were main centers of Persian civilization as early as 6th century BC. The Silk Road passed right through it – making a significant contribution to trade, scholarship, culture, religion and laying the foundation in the development of the great civilizations of China, India, Ancient Egypt, Persia, Arabia, and Ancient Rome. Marco Polo marveled at it. Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan, Czars of Russia and the Soviets led military campaigns to conquer and control it. Fearsome Timur (Tamerlane) has made one of its cities, Samarkand, his beautiful capital. Remaining archeological monuments tell stories from those days. One can also turn back the clock by enjoying some of the delicious Uzbek dishes.

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“Uzbek Cuisine” Introduction – Third Edition (1976) Foreword

Nutrition is one of basic human needs. Culinary techniques were formed in ancient times. Further developments were influenced by economic and climatic specifics of particular countries, as well as history of society and cultural developments.
The art of cooking has undergone change and enrichment.
Friedrich Engels stated: “Consumption of meat led to two major, decisive accomplishments: the use of fire and domestication of animals”.
In Middle Asia, including Uzbekistan, soviet scientists discovered ancient human settlements. At these man sites, along with monuments of ancient culture, object such as fireplaces, ash, coal and charred bones were found – the remainders of ancient kitchens. This proves that peoples of Uzbekistan, like other peoples, were skilled in culinary arts from most ancient times.
During times of slavery in Uzbekistan there have been developments in irrigation, gardening and cattle breeding. Advancements in these technologies led to further culinary growth.
It is known that during the middle ages many wars (both external and civil) were fought on Uzbekistan’s territory. Irrigation structures, gardens were destroyed and fertile lands were turned into deserts. Exploitation, hunger, drought caused culinary arts to decline. Many dishes were gradually forgotten, while some dishes were only enjoyed by the feudal lords.
After Uzbekistan became part of the Russian Empire, there has been a certain renaissance in Uzbek cuisine. Russian restaurants have helped local chefs to discover various new dishes. Tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, radishes, beets, currants, strawberries and raspberries were now being cultivated, in addition to new varieties of apples, cherries, grapes from Caucasus and Crimea regions. This certainly led to enrichment of Uzbek cuisine. Local chefs, following the example of Russian ones, began making dishes such as holubtsi, borsch, using ingredients such as tomatoes and potatoes.
Pilaf is considered favorite dish in Uzbekistan. There are many ways of preparing it. Each town and region adds its own unique characteristics. Fergana Valley, regions along Amu Darya, Syr Darya and Zaravshan River banks where rice has been grown since ancient times, have their own varieties of pilaf.
Women were usually responsible for the cooking, although during weddings and other big feasts food was prepared mainly by men. Every young man reaching adulthood had to learn to cook pilaf. Sometimes it turned into a pilaf cooking competition.
Nevertheless before the revolution food for the majority of Uzbekistan’s population consisted mainly of different porridge, broths and soups. For example, typical peasant food was made up mostly of rye bread, thin baked flat bread (chevati), flat bread baked in hot ash (kumach) as well as millet, barley and corn flat bread.
The Great October Socialist Revolution has united the economy and culture of all peoples and nationalities of the Soviet Union. This unification paved a wide road for the development of Uzbek national cuisine.
Currently Uzbek cuisine has big opportunities for development. It is connected to cuisines of other nations and at the same time the art of food preparation of each nation retains its unique qualities. Uzbek cuisine has long ago incorporated various Russian, Ukrainian, Tatar, Tajik, Kazakh dishes as well as dishes from other nations – stews, roasts, lyulya kabab, bogirsak, kulchatoi, paramach, tuhumbarak, hunon, etc. In turn, Uzbek dishes – pilaf, hasip, manti, mastava – beautify dining tables of brotherly nations of our country.

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“Uzbek Cuisine” Introduction – About the Author

Karim Mahmudov was a scientist, researcher, philosopher, historian, writer and cook. His name is known well beyond Uzbekistan. Mr. Mahmudov devoted many years of his life to Uzbek cuisine research, traveling around Uzbekistan (cities as well as smallest villages), acquiring encyclopedic knowledge of not only recipes, but also chemistry and physics of culinary processes, history, culture, biology and geography.
His daughter wrote: “40 years of his life he spent perfecting the art of cooking Uzbek national dishes. From the time he was a student, he displayed interest in archeology and ethnography, written many scientific articles and his thesis. He has organized expeditions to Samarkand and other parts of the country. While teaching philosophy to university students, Mr. Mahmudov spent his free time writing books about Uzbek national cuisine. Although cooking was his hobby, he called it his second profession. He wrote about thirty books, including “Uzbek Dishes”, “Uzbek Delicacies”, “Pilaf for Every Taste”, etc. Mr. Mahmudov always said that each person, when departing from life, should leave something useful for family, society, some kind of legacy.”

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Salads became part of Uzbek cuisine only after the appearance of tomatoes, radishes, and other vegetables in Uzbekistan.  Previously  salads were made with grated or sliced black radish, thinly sliced onions, and blackberries or cherries.

Uzbek cooks learned to make various salads with raw or cooked vegetables from Russian or other nationality cooks living in the Middle Asia. A single word that defines salads does not exist in Uzbek language. A dish that is called “shakarob” in Fergana valley, is called “achik-chuchuk” in Tashkent region.

Salads are made with different raw, cooked, brined, or pickled vegetables, and herbs. They are rich in vitamins and other beneficial elements. Salads made with meat, kazi, or eggs can be served as cold appetizers.

Salads can be dressed with sour cream, sour milk, or wine vinegar. Seasonings like black or red pepper and herbs — cilantro, dill, basil, scallions are found in many salads.

As a tasty and easily digestible dish — salads promotes improved digestion of high-calorie dishes. Salads enrich high-calorie dishes with vitamins and mineral elements.

Appearance of the salads is very important. They should be assembled in such a way that all the primary ingredients should be visible and easily identifiable.

It is necessary to know which dish the salad will be served with. For example — salad with tomatoes, cherries or blackberries should be served with pilaf, while salad with raw vegetables and sliced onions should be served with shashlik.

Salads also depend on season for their ingredients. For example — radish salad is usually made in the spring, while salads “Fantasia”, “Chumuk Tili”, or with black radish, are made in the winter.

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Conversions of Measurements

Some time ago, while translating special diets, we switched from listing weight of ingredients in both metric and imperial measurement systems, to just metric. The reason for that change was the fact that those recipes listed ingredients for just 1 serving, and converting metric measurements into imperial created too much clutter. Kitchen scales capable of measuring weight in 1 gram increments are very affordable and a most likely present in the kitchen of every cook who likes to get consistent results in cooking. We strongly encourage you to invest into this necessary instrument if you still have not done so. Meanwhile we present a page that provides a table of measurements and some most frequently used conversions. Refer to this page any time you have a question.

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That’s All, Folks?

Previous recipe was the last recipe in the book “Book of Tasty and Healthy Food”. We finished translation of this book, but we are just starting — there are so many different books that we are planning to translate. So, do not go away, we will be right back.

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Old Recipes

It’s hard to believe, but we are almost done with “Book if Tasty and Healthy” food. Almost, but not completely. A side bar is printed throughout most of the book, sometimes describing ingredients, sometimes glorifying Soviet industry; however, from time to time old recipes, perhaps from pre-soviet time also appear there. We are including these old recipes in translation of the book.

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Preserves can be made from any berries or fruits.

Berries and fruits for preserves should be selected fresh and not overripe.

For each kilogram of fruits or berries use no less that 1 kg of sugar. This allows to obtain sufficient volume of syrup during cooking in which fruits or berries keep their shape, which improves the quality of preserves. In addition to that, correct proportion of fruits to sugar allows to store preserves longer without spoiling.

Preserves could be cooked with honey instead of sugar, which should be taken in the same quantity as sugar. It is also possible to use half of required amount of honey to the same amount of sugar, or adding some molasses to the sugar to prevent crystallization.

Most of the time making preserves starts from making syrup. Put required amount of sugar into a copper or aluminum pan, add water indicated in the recipe and boil until sugar is completely dissolved. Once all the sugar is dissolved, take the syrup off the heat, add berries or fruits, quickly return to boil slightly shaking the pan so that berries or fruits submerge in syrup.

Skim the foam while cooking preserves and slightly shake pan from time to time. It is very important to correctly identify when preserves are cooked — because quality and how long preserves will keep depends on it.

Readiness of preserves is determined using the following technique — if a drop of preserves dropped onto a saucer does not spread, but keeps its shape — preserves are ready. Also, fruits and berries do not rise to the top in a cooked preserves, but are rather evenly distributed throughout the syrup, and usually become transparent.

Remove foam from the cooked preserves, let it cool, then transfer to class jars which should be covered with dump parchment paper and tied with a twine.

Keep preserves in a dry, cool place.

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