Mamushka: Recipes from Ukraine and Eastern Europe, written by Olia Hercules, features over 100 favorite recipes with seasonal ingredients and flavors from Ukraine and surrounding countries in Eastern Europe. Highlights include Kholodnyk (Cold Beet Soup), Frumentaty (Moldovan Lazy Flatbreads), Deruny (Potato Cakes with Goat Cheese), Som (BBQ Catfish), Nudli (Pork Ribs and Dumplings), Kvashena Kapusta (Sour Cabbage), Zapinkanka (Baked Ukrainian Cheesecake), and Horilka (Black Currant Vodka). I am also sharing Olia’s recipe for Uzvar, a spiced Ukrainian Winter Punch, at the end of the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Weldon Owen in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.
Olia Hercules is a chef, food writer, and food stylist. She was born in Kakhovka, Ukraine with Siberian, Jewish, Bessarabian (Moldovan), Uzbek, and Armenian roots. She lived in Cyprus for 5 years before moving to London for school, receiving a BA in Italian followed by a MA in Russian and English. Her interest in cooking grew and she trained as a chef at Leith’s School of Food and Wine. Her work can be found in Sainsbury’s, The Recipe Kit, and the Guardian. Olia also recently released a second book, Kaukasis (the US version will be available at the end of the month).
Chapters are divided according to course: Broths & Soups, Breads & Pastries, Vegetables & Salads, Dumplings & Noodles, Meat and Fish, Fermented Pickles and Preserves, Sweet Conserves, Desserts, and Drinks.
Olia begins with an introduction to her life and home in Ukraine. She talks about her memories, including seasonal eating and flavors in a country with mild winters and long, hot summers. After the introduction, she sticks mostly to the recipes with personal stories scattered throughout in the headnotes.
Measurements are written in US Customary and Metric. Each recipe has a headnote with background information, personal stories, tips, and serving ideas. The titles are listed in English and Ukrainian (Cyrillic script and Romanization).
The absolutely beautiful photography is provided by Kris Kirkham with styling by Olia. Along with the food photography, there are also scenic and family photos. Nearly every single recipe includes a quarter to full page photo, generally of the finished dish. A few, such as the Varenyky (Stuffed Ukrainian Pasta), Plakopsy (Greek Breads withe Green Onions), Vertuta (Moldovan Giant Cheese Twist), and Pyrizhky (Ukrainian Stuffed Buns), also have step-by-step photos.
This book is a great pick for those interested in Ukrainian cuisine. Along with Ukrainian recipes, dishes from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, and Armenia are also included. I had such a difficult time narrowing down what to try first. Everything in the Breads & Pastries and Dumplings & Noodles in particular look incredible. The Desserts too. Well, pretty much the whole book. I definitely see myself pulling Mamushka off of the bookshelf often. Some ingredients may be more difficult to find if you do not have any markets nearby that stock Eastern European ingredients such as kefir, smetana, parsley root, buckwheat, allspice berries, pomegranate molasses, saffron, fenugreek, barberries, golden raisins, piri piri sauce, pork belly, live crayfish, blackcurrant leaves, juniper berries, rose petals, black cardamom pods, rosewater, and buckthorn berries. Olia does provide substitutes when possible.
Uzvar is the winter version of the summer Ukrainian Kompot (recipe also in the book). This recipe takes advantage of dried fruits and warming spices to get through the winter months when fresh produce is hard to come by. A combination of dried apples, apricots, prunes, and sour cherries along with vanilla, star anise, cinnamon, lemon, and orange zest are added to a large pot of water. The mixture is simmered over low heat for an hour to infuse (which also makes the house smell amazing). We all recently recovered from colds and this drink was particularly helpful.
A shot of brandy can be added for extra warmth on a cold, winter day (over 21, please drink responsibly) or mix in some honey for a little extra sweetness.
I also made Pampushky (Ukrainian Garlic Bread), Chebureky (Tartar Lamb Turnovers), Morkovcha (Korean Carrots), and Varenyky (Stuffed Ukrainian Pasta).
Pampushky is a soft Ukrainian yeast bread that is brushed with garlic oil before serving. I used regular minced garlic cloves, but the bread can also be made with green garlic. The rolls are traditionally served with Red Borshch.
Chebureky are large Tartar Lamb Turnovers. A pastry dough is rolled into a circle, then thinly spread with a lamb filling. The dough is folded over to enclose the filling, then pan-fried on each side until golden and cooked through. This street food is the national dish of the Crimean Tartars.
Morkovcha is a creation from the half a million Koreans living in Central Asia, Russia, and southern Ukraine. It was used as a substitute for the more difficult to locate Chinese cabbage. Julienned carrots are seasoned with salt, then mixed with a sugar, vinegar, garlic, and spice mixture. If added to a sterilized jar, it can keep in the refrigerator for around a month.
Varenyky are the Ukrainian version of pasta dumplings. I filled them with the potato mixture topped with crispy pork (Varenyky z Kartopleyu). Other filling options include curd cheese (Varenyky z Syrom) and cabbage (Varenyky z Kapustoyu). Olia says that this meal would be her last supper on death row. The dumplings would be a contender for me as well. She also recommends frying any leftover dumplings in butter until crispy. I didn’t try this since there were definitely no leftovers to be had.
Uzvar (Ukrainian Winter Punch) Recipe
Uzvar (Winter Punch)
Excerpt from Mamushka
~1 1/2 quarts (48 fl oz/1.5 L)
10 ounces (315 g) each dried apple slices, dried apricots, and dried pitted prunes
7 ounces (220 g) dried sour cherries
1 old, dried vanilla pod, without seeds
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
A few strips of lemon and orange zest
Clear honey, to taste
3 quarts (96 fl oz/3 L) cold water
Mix everything together in a large saucepan and cook over low heat for 1 hour.
Strain the fruit and spices out (blitz the fruit without the spices in a food processor and serve with yogurt, porridge, or rice pudding), cover, and refrigerate until ready to drink. It will keep for up to 2 weeks and is amazing drunk warm with a shot of brandy.