Christmas dinner traditions vary all over the world, but in the Ukraine there are some particularly unusual dishes served at the table. Whether your family enjoys a classic turkey roast or an untraditional Chinese takeaway on the big day, you’re sure to be surprised by these Ukrainian specialities.
Usually one of the main centrepieces of the festive feast, buckwheat is enjoyed all over the country and is often cooked in olive oil. It’s so well-loved, in fact, that many Ukrainian families end up cooking far too much of it and eating the leftovers the next day! This grainy dish is served alongside various greens and has quite a rich flavour.
A colourful vegetable stew is regularly served as a side dish at the Christmas table, and is the local alternative to the roast vegetables we would serve alongside our meals in the UK. If following the traditional recipe, the vegetables must remain al dente rather than turning soft and mushy.
Patties are a doughy dish that can be made with various fillings including potato, cabbage and mushroom. At Christmastime, they are often served as an appetizer, but can also be sweetened with cherries or apples and saved for dessert. They are quick and easy to make and are, unsurprisingly, a local favourite at the dinner table.
An important addition to the feast is cabbage soup, traditionally made with acidic sauerkraut and cooked in a broth with mushrooms. Recipes differ, but the soup remains a Christmas staple in the Ukraine no matter how it’s made.
Vareniki is a traditional dumpling, eaten at a variety of celebratory feasts and always on the menu at Christmastime. It is cooked from unleavened dough and can be stuffed with chopped vegetables, cottage cheese, mushrooms, fruits or berries. Sweet dumplings are served with jam, and the savoury versions usually come with sour cream or pork fat and onions.
If you happen to be travelling to the Ukraine this festive season, don’t be alarmed if you can’t find turkey and stuffing on the lunch menu. Embrace the culture and enjoy the local seasonal delights!