I have worked on gardens in the Ukraine for some years, spending time between the bustling streets of places like Kharkiv and Kiev before venturing into the vast grassland-like countryside or deep woods.
The Ukraine, despite its troubles with Russia, the Soviets before that and Fascism, still feels like a country for simple rural pleasures. They are a people who understand the seasons, don’t take anything for granted and count a rich harvest of preserved fruits among the wealths of life.
Although 'Mamushka' came out some time ago, I bought it quite by mistake while preordering a book about Siberia slow fermenting. It popped up, its golden cover inspired by local decorative patterns and foods of Ukraine.
Olia Hercules, the author, was was born in Ukraine and lived in Cyprus for several years before moving to London and becoming a chef. This for me is what makes the book personal, it's not a list of ‘national dishes’ but a gorgeous reflection of old friends. She shares favourite recipes from her home country with engaging and loving stories about her culinary upbringing and family traditions.
Beautiful illustrations add to the sense of a memoir of food, and I think Mamushka showcases the cuisine from Ukraine and beyond in a truly original way. Olia weaves together vibrant food with descriptive narratives and a rich sense of cultural identity.
Having tasted similar dishes and variations of dishes she describes, I feel transported to the rich, rural landscape I have a deep feeling for . From broths and soups to breads and pastries, vegetables and salads to meat or compotes and jams, the Ukraine and a love of seasonal food resonates.
Some things I love include the rich doughy breads, while Moldovan giant cheese twist is something I hope to spend many attempts at perfecting.
Details: Mamushka: 'Recipes from Ukraine and Beyond' by Olia Hercules
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Mitchell Beazley; 01 edition (4 Jun. 2015)