Ukrainian Christmas Eve

December 12, 2012

A 12 Course Traditional Meat-Free Holiday Feast

The ritual dinner enjoyed on Christmas Eve in the Eastern Orthodox Christian homes of the Ukraine was, in fact, semi-vegetarian. Ukrainians have always celebrated Christmas Eve with a twelve course meatless feast (Sviata Vechera). Traditionally this dinner was meat-free, with the exception of fish. Here, we present a version that is completely vegetarian (with vegan options). The reason for 12 courses is variously linked with the “12 days of Christmas” or with the 12 apostles. In addition to the recipes below, pyrohys (potato onion dumplings) and Kallach bread (Challah) are often served and available commercially. This holiday menu reflects many cultural traditions from Eastern Europe – some of these dishes would not be out of place on a festive table for Chanukah.

Kutya
An important ritual dish that starts the Ukrainian Christmas Eve celebration but is also reminiscent of the Passover haroset.

1 cup cream of wheat
1/4 cup margarine or butter
2 cups water
1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Bring the water to a boil and add the cream of wheat and chopped nuts. Stir until soft and the water is absorbed. Then pour the mixture into a serving dish, and add the butter and maple syrup or honey. Mix in the poppy seeds, saving a few for sprinkling over the top.

Around the World Vegetarian Cookbook, p.23

Mock “Zakusky”
Normally this course consists of pickled herring. Here we’ve suggested a relish with cooked, marinated cucumbers.

2 cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tsp margarine
1 small onion, peeled and minced
1 Tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Saute all the ingredients in a large frying pan over medium heat for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Wasserman, The Lowfat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook, p. 162.

Borsch
(Serves 15)

3 beets, each the size of an orange, cut into thin strips
1 carrot, diced
8 cups water
1 medium potato, diced
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup beans (string beans or green peas)
1 large onion, sliced
1 Tbsp margarine or butter (optional)
1 1/2 cup cabbage shredded
1 cup tomato juice (or tomato soup)
1 1/2 tsp flour
1/2 cup water, cold
2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Cook beets and carrots in water for 20 minutes. Add potatoes, simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add lemon juice, beans or peas, and simmer until tender. Steam fry the onion or saute in margarine or butter until soft. Add cabbage to onion with 1/4 cup water, simmer until cabbage is tender. Stir into the beets. Add tomato juice or soup, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend flour with 1/2 cup cold water, stir into vegetables. Add dill, and bring to boil for 5-10 minutes. Serve hot.

Adapted from Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada, Ukrainian Daughters’ Cookbook, p. 10.

Salata
We leave the salad to your imagination!

Mock “Fillets”
1 Tbsp hijiki seaweed*
1/2 block firm tofu, sliced in 1/4″ lengths
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 small onion or 1/2 tsp onion powder
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast*

Place hijiki in 1 cup of cold water. Add the onion and soy sauce to the hijiki and let stand. Place tofu in a shallow container in one flat layer, and pour hijiki and liquid to cover the tofu. Marinate for at least one hour or overnight. Remove from the marinate (save the hijiki for the salad or another meal.) Coat the tofu with nutritional yeast and fry in a non-stick pan (with an optional small amount of oil).

*available in natural food stores.
Recipe provided by Sally Grande

Holubtsi
(savoury cabbage rolls)

1 medium cabbage
5 Tbsps raw brown or white rice
1 cup TVP (moistened)
1 tsp mixed herbs
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp each of paprika, ginger, cinnamon
1 Tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tsp yeast extract
2 ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 cups vegetable stock, heated

Place cabbage in boiling, salted water for about 5 minutes, just long enough to soften leaves. Separate the leaves; wash carefully in cold water. Mix the raw brown rice into the TVP and add the herbs, spices, parsley, and yeast extract. Place spoonfuls of this mixture into the center of each cabbage leaf and roll up carefully, closing the sides as well. Place the remaining cabbage leaves in a well-greased ovenproof dish, and place cabbage rolls on top. Add chopped tomatoes, onion, garlic, and hot stock. Cover with a lid or foil and bake in a preheated 300°F oven for about 2 hours. Baste periodically and add more stock if necessary. Remove covering and brown during the last 20 minutes.

Adapted from Rose Friedman, Jewish Vegetarian Cooking

Kapusta
3/4 cup dried peas
3 cups sauerkraut
3/4 cup water
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 tsp canola oil (optional)
3 Tbsp flour
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt and pepper to taste

Soak peas overnight. Drain and rinse well. Cover with fresh water, and cook until tender. Rinse sauerkraut in water and drain. Add 3/4 cup water and cook for 15 minutes. Combine with peas, saving excess liquid aside. Steam fry or saute onion. Sprinkle flour over onions, and brown lightly. Pour reserved liquid into onion mixture, add crushed garlic. Stir until sauce thickens. Add sauce to peas and sauerkraut; stir. Add salt and pepper to taste; simmer for 30 minutes.

Adapted from Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada, Ukrainian Daughters’ Cookbook, p. 15.

White Beans
1 1/2 cups white beans
5 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic
1 onion, diced
1 tsp cooking oil (optional)

Rinse beans; cover in water, and soak overnight. The next day, drain, cover with fresh water and boil gently for 1 hour; drain. Add 5 cups of water; simmer until the beans are tender. Mash beans well. Mince garlic clove, and stir into mashed beans. Steam fry or saute onion until tender. Sprinkle over the beans. Serve hot.

Pidpenky
(Dried mushrooms with gravy)

2 cups dried mushrooms
1 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp oil for frying (optional)
1 Tbsp flour
4 cups hot water
salt and pepper to taste

Soak mushrooms overnight. Drain and wash well. Cover mushrooms with water and boil for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse again and set aside. Steam fry or saute onion and garlic in oil. Sprinkle flour over the onion and add hot water to make a smooth paste. Add drained mushrooms, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Adapted from Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada, Ukrainian Daughters’ Cookbook, p. 19.

Makiwnyk
(>Poppy seed cake)

In the Ukrainian tradition, this cake is served with a compote made from dried fruit.

Cake:
3/4 cup poppy seeds
1 1/3 cup soy milk or water
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup unrefined sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Grated rind of 1/2 lemon or orange
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 tsp baking powder

Glaze:
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp. sweetener

Soak poppy seeds in soymilk for one hour in a large bowl. Add cornstarch, oil, sugar, vanilla, and rind; stir. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet. Bake in a lightly oiled, bread or cake pan, at 350°F for 45 minutes.

Make the glaze by gently heating and stirring the lemon juice and sweetener in a small pot.

Adapted from Toronto Vegetarian Association’s Tastes of Toronto, p. 110.
From the November/December 1996 issue of Lifelines.

See our Vegetarians & the holiday season page for more meal ideas, as well as gift suggestions, e-card links, dinner tips and recipe sites.