Traditional Cuisine of Polissya: History and Recipes

Ukrainian potato pancakes deruny with sour cream

The west of Ukraine is famous for delicious pastries like Strudel, the south boasts numerous seafood dishes, and the Carpathian cuisine is famous for banosh and bograch. What about the north? Polissya region grasps several districts in Ukraine and is just as diverse and intriguing in terms of authentic dishes.

History

Polissya is a large region that stretches from Poland and Belarus to Ukraine and Russia. In Ukraine, Polissya grasps the northern areas of Volyn, Rivne, Zhytomyr, Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions. Due to its geographical peculiarities, the region is quite diverse in both culture and cuisine.

Historically, dwellers of Polissya eat a lot of porridges, namely buckwheat and millet. The region's porridges are usually quite dense when paired with milk or pork lard. The most famous dish of Ukrainian cuisine, borshch, is also an iconic dish of Polissya. Here it's not only a meal but also a symbol of prosperity.

Until the first half of the 19th century, meat dishes were mostly served on holidays. Nowadays meat is more affordable, so it's consumed every day. Traditionally, meat dishes are prepared in the largest quantities during winter holidays (from Christmas to Maslyana) and on Easter.

Harvesting is another trait of the region that survived through the centuries. In Polissia, it's even more popular than in the Carpathians: people still pick berries like blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and cranberries to dry or make digestifs out of them. Mushroom picking is also widely spread in Polissia, that's why white mushrooms are often an ingredient in many dishes.

To talk about traditional beverages, the region is famous for kvass - a usually non-alcoholic drink made from bread rye. Authentic Ukrainian digestifs and tinctures - "nalyvkas" and "nastoyankas" - are popular here as well. The flavors range from cherry, cranberry, prunes to thyme, mint and Saint-John's-wort.

Deruny

Ukrainian dish deruny - potato pancakesDeruny, or potato pancakes, are incredibly popular in northern and western regions of Ukraine. The name derives from the way of cooking: verb ‘derty’ means ‘to strip’ or ‘to skin’, which is exactly what Ukrainians do with potatoes to prepare this dish. The dish is so popular in the north of Ukraine that there's an annual International Deruny Festival in Korosten. The park that hosts the festival also boasts the only in Ukraine monument to the dish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg of potatoes 1 onion, medium-sized
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sunflower oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Peel the potatoes and onion, wash them. Grate on a small grater.
  2. Add flour, egg, salt and pepper to the mashed potatoes and mix thoroughly.
  3. Form small pancakes. Put on a well-heated pan with sunflower oil and fry to a golden crust on both sides.
  4. Serve hot deruny with sour cream.

Mushroom Zrazy

Ukrainian dish zrazy with mushroomsZrazy is a dish made of rolls of meat, usually beef, veal or pork, peppered and stuffed with vegetables, mushrooms, eggs and potatoes. In a classic recipe, the rolls are usually secured with a toothpick while frying and then placed in a casserole with celery and stewed. Before serving, toothpicks are removed.

While it's debated where exactly zrazy originated from, it's usually referred to as a dish that comes from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Nowadays zrazy are popular in Poland, Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine. In Polissia, the dish is usually made with mushrooms.

Ingredients:

  • 800 g of potatoes
  • 500 g of fresh white mushrooms
  • 4-5 tbsp of flour
  • 1 onion
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbsp of sunflower oil
  • breadcrumbs
  • salt ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Finely cut onion and mushrooms, fry on vegetable oil. Add spices to taste.
  2. Boil potatoes in salted water, mash them, adding some boiled water from potatoes if necessary.
  3. Add flour and egg, mix well. Divide the dough into small pieces, make small circles.
  4. In the center of each circle, lay out 1-2 tsp. of stuffing. Pinch the edges, forming a prolonged cutlet.
  5. Roll in breadcrumbs. Fry in a well-heated frying pan on vegetable oil to a rough crust on both sides.

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Kulish

Ukrainian Cossack porridge KulishA traditional Cossack dish, kulish, is traced to the Zaporozhian Sich era. As kulish is easy to prepare at home and in the field, it became an ultimate field dish for Cossack on missions. It is just as popular in Polissya nowadays. Fishermen, hunters and hikers often prepare this dish while out in the wild - or prepare it at home and store it in a heat-saving Tupperware.

Ingredients:

  • 1.7 l of water
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 200 g of bacon
  • 2 potatoes
  • 100 g salo (lard)
  • 200 g of millet
  • 1 onion
  • salt

Directions:

  1. Rinse millet. Put in a pot and fill with water so that it will only cover millet a little bit. Bring it to a boil and stir for 2-3 minutes. Rinse again. There will be plenty of foam on the surface - it needs to be cleaned. After that, pour 1.7 liters of water and bring to boil again. Cook for 15 minutes, until half-ready.
  2. Cut smoked bacon into cubes. Fry to dissolve grease.
  3. Put bacon with diced onions in a pan. Fry until the mix is soft.
  4. Add the chopped potatoes to the millet. Pour a teaspoon of salt. Cook for another 10 minutes.
  5. Put the fried bacon in a pot. Cook for 5-10 minutes.
  6. Cut salo and garlic into small pieces. Grind to a homogeneous mass. You can add crushed dill or parsley.
  7. When the millet is ready, add the salo and garlic mass. Stir and keep the pot on the heat for 10-20 seconds, then remove. Sprinkle salt to taste. It is important not to overcook kulish. Otherwise, the smell and taste of the garlic will quickly evaporate.
  8. Serve hot.

Pechenia

Ukrainian meat dish PecheniaPechenia is a traditional Ukrainian dish prepared from potatoes and fried or baked meat. Usually, pork is chosen as the base of pechenia. The dish was historically spread in all regions of Ukraine but the highest popularity pechenia gained in Polissia and Hutsulchchyna. Traditionally, pechenia is cooked in a ceramic pot. Pork ham is the easiest to prepare with this recipe. Some cooks also add mustard that brings out the flavor of meat and spices.

Ingredients:

  • half a kilo of pork
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 7 potatoes
  • 1,5 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3,5 tbsp sour cream
  • 3,5 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • half a glass of broth

Directions:

  1. Cut pork into pieces, rinse, mix with lemon juice, add salt, pepper, and spices to taste. Leave for 35 minutes to marinate.
  2. Mix mayonnaise, sour cream, chopped garlic, broth.
  3. Cut the onion into half-rings, grate the carrots on a large grater, and cut the potatoes in slices. Lightly fry potato slices on vegetable oil for 4 minutes.
  4. In a pot, lay out the ingredients meat, onion, carrots, sauce and potatoes in layers. Repeat until you put the whole mix in.
  5. Bake at 190 degrees for half an hour. Let it sit in the oven for a bit.
  6. Serve hot.

Kvass

Ukrainian KvassKvass is one of the most popular Slavic beverages that is almost as well-known as vodka. The drink is made from rye bread, typically black bread in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. The drink can be non-alcoholic or contain a low amount of alcohol. In Polissia, kvass is a traditional beverage due to a large amount of wheat. It is often prepared at home with the addition of prunes or raisins and served cold in summer.

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 liters of water
  • 1 kg of rye bread
  • 200-250 g of sugar
  • 25 g of fresh yeast

Directions:

  1. Cut the rye bread into slices, put on a dry baking paper and dry out in a preheated to 180 degrees oven.
  2. Put the bread in a large pot, pour boiling water and leave for at least 3 hours. Sieve the bread infusion and add sugar, yeast. Cover with gauze and put in a warm dark place for 5-6 hours for the fermentation.
  3. As soon as the kvass begins to foam, sieve and pour it into clean, dry bottles. Add 2-4 raisins or prunes to each bottle. Cork the bottles and place in the fridge. Serve cold.

Sources: radka.in.ua, cookery.com.ua, tvoymalysh.com.ua, ivona.bigmir.net, smachno.ua, polissia.com.
Photo sources: cartel.ua, craftlog.com, edu.glogster.com, Sma4ni-obidu.com.ua, gazeta.lviv.ua, shutterstock.com. All images belong to their rightful authors.

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