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Saturday, 30 June 2012


I’ve heard that many kids nowadays have so little understanding of food and where it comes from that they’ve never even associated eggs with chickens or vegetables with gardens.  That brought back a memory.

Winter, 1950s:
     Mom mentioned that she was going to make a custard pie for lunch. 

“Really?”  I exclaimed.  “I LOVE custard pie.  Is someone coming to visit?”
“No, I’m just making it because there’s enough milk now that the boys are finally able to milk more cows.”

That’s when I learned that cows don’t automatically give milk all year round.


1 unbaked pie crust
3 eggs
scant ½ cup white sugar
i/8 tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg and some to sprinkle
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 ¼ cups milk

  1. Preheat oven to 425˚.
  2.  Roll pastry a little less than 1/8 inch thick and fit carefully into an 8 or 9 inch pie plate.  Trim and flute edges or just press around with a fork.  Do not prick the crust.
  3. Mix together sugar, salt, cornstarch, and ¼ tsp nutmeg.
  4. Beat eggs slightly, just enough to mix the yolks and whites. 
  5. Add sugar mixture.
  6. Stir in the milk.
  7. Pour into the pie plate and sprinkle with nutmeg.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 20 to 30 minutes until set.
  9. Test with a knife.  It is ready if knife comes out clean.
  10.  Serve warm.

Mom dictated this recipe to one of my daughters and it was the first pie she ever baked;  it’s definitely a family favourite.

Lonely Planet says that, in Ukraine, "Baking cakes and pies for a festive meal is common in every household."  

Thursday, 28 June 2012


Cattle were a vital part of Dad’s farm.   There were always cows for milking and a bull –  the “big animal” as Mom called him.   (That bit of Victorian prudery was picked up, I suppose from the Englishwomen Mom worked for as a little “hired girl”.)

Every few years so as to avoid inbreeding the stock, there would be a new bull, but he was always called Jim.   

One Jim was a sturdy young Hereford, but I heard one of my brothers telling Mom that Young Jim just wasn’t doing his job.

                                                             my brother, George (195?)

“”What’s the matter with him?” Mom asked.
George shrugged.  “We made a mistake keeping him in the pasture with Old Jim.   When he used to try to mount the cows, Old Jim always drove him off.  Now it’s his turn but, when the cows come into heat, he won’t do it.  Scared maybe.”
“What are you going to do?”
“The vet said to try digging a trench, put the cow at the bottom, and lead Jim onto her.  If that doesn’t work, it’ll be good-bye Jim.”

 Beef hardly ever appeared on the farm table.  A cattle truck would roll into the yard and bawling steers were driven up its ramp.  But before that, there would be an exciting round-up in which everyone took part; waving arms and shouting to discourage steers from charging past us instead of into the corral. 

It’s not that we didn’t like beef though, and, over the years, my chef-lovik and I have prepared it in many different ways.  Savella’s recipe for Hetmanska Roulada is an elegant choice for company: 



Julia Child’s   BRAISED BEEF POT ROAST from Mastering the Art of French Cooking  

I marinated the beef for 6 hours,

browned it,

reduced the marinade by half & added only 1 cup of beef stock (instead of the 4-6 cups Julia suggested)
I also omitted the veal knuckles and calf’s feet.

Three hours in the oven was definitely long enough.
(Julia had suggested  3 ½ to 4 hours for a smaller roast)

The braising juices made a delicious sauce for the beef.   Serve with horseradish.  

Best of all, the leftover  POT ROAST is perfect for making sandwiches!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012


1953:  grade 4:  

In Health class, we were taught about nutrition and asked to prepare a menu to demonstrate our new understanding of a balanced meal.  I couldn’t make myself do it.  Instead, I listed all my favourite foods:  creamed chicken, creamed carrots, and creamed potatoes.

Mary Stadnyk’s Creamed chicken  (Koorka v Smetani)

1 chicken
2 onions (one for making stock & one for the creamed chicken)
1 carrot, cut in large chunks
1 stalk celery, cut in large chunks
8 peppercorns
3 whole cloves
1 bayleaf
1 tablespoon salt (or to taste)
1 cup whipping cream

  1.  Disjoint chicken.  Rinse and drain.
  2. Put chicken in large stock pot and cover with water (8 to 10 cups).  Set on high heat.
  3. Remove scum.
  4. Add onion in quarters and the chopped carrot and celery.
  5. Add peppercorns, cloves, & salt.  Add some parsley if you have some.
  6. When water boils, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
  7. Remove chicken from broth.  Reserve broth for soup.
  8. Chop second onion finely.
  9. Sauté the onion in 2 teaspoons butter for 5 minutes or until soft.
  10.   Pour on whipping cream.
  11.   Bring to boil, add cooked chicken, reduce cream a little, and serve.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

PEROGIES and EXPERIMENTS (Bryan calls this thinking outside of the pot.)

The problem with deciding to work my way through Savella’s cookbook is that some of the recipes don’t sound appealing.  But you never know, right?  Even though boiled chicken is boring, I thought the 2 and ½ hour cooking time for Tyshkovana Koorka (Stewed Chicken) might result in a thick, savory sauce.

Green beans would be one side dish; a family favourite.  For the other, and some guaranteed zest, I decided to make Lemon and Cheese perogies by adapting a recipe from HELLO magazine, April 23, 2012.

  1.  Tyshkovana Koorka:  The chicken was tender but not mushy (except for the skin, of course, which everyone discarded as unappetizing).   There was so much juice in the pot that, even after adding flour, it was more like soup than gravy – it was tasty and we should have removed some and reduced it.   Consensus:  okay
(My mother probably would have loved it.  She always kept her own chickens and there was often one in a pot on her stove.

Mom never forgot the first chicken she cooked.  After wringing its neck, she scalded and plucked it.  Then it got up and ran away.

  1.  Lemon and Goat Cheese Perogies: 
-          a big hit with one of my daughters; the rest of us are not big fans of goat cheese


DOUGH:  Add ¼ tsp turmeric and zest of 3 lemons to the dough.
300 g goat cheese
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp chili flakes
½ tsp black pepper


1 tbsp grape seed oil (instead of butter)
2 tsp rose peppercorns, crushed
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
zest of 1 lemon

*Not necessary to serve sour cream with these.

Sunday, 24 June 2012


Both cooking and eating should be exciting.  

If a restaurant offers something  I have never tasted, that is what I choose.   Years or even decades later I still savour the memories . . .  smoked eel at Simpsons-on-the-Strand (London), kidneys at Chez Moi  (London), ris de veau (Paris), cherry vareniki at Amadeus in Lviv, salo wrapped around raw garlic at the Grand (Lviv).   

The brevity of the recipe for Vareniki with PoppySeeds in Ukrainian Cuisine intrigued me.  How could this possibly work?

1 ½ cups poppy-seeds,      ½ cup sugar
Cover poppy-seeds with hot water and soak for 15 min.  Put on heat and let it reach a boil (but do not boil).  Drain and mash.  Stir in sugar.  Fill vareniki.  
Mash?   I tried grinding with a food processor.  

 Next, Bryan tried a marble rolling-pin; that was good for laughs.   

Bryan said, “These perogies should be like crunching insects.” 

So Bryan got to do the taste test.  First bite:  “Surprisingly good,” he said.   

Next bite, “Very good!”  . . .    Later, he even went back to the bowl for a cold one.  

* These perogies also were very nice when served for breakfast along with bacon and scrambled eggs.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Perogies and Friends

Fall, 1976.  Gary Tisdale and I started working together in a school library and quickly discovered a shared interest in good food.  In fact, some of the best meals I’ve ever had were at Gary’s table.  

When my daughter, Kathleen, appeared on the scene, Gary made the cakes for her baptismal party.

Naturally, I sent Gary the link to my new food blog and he responded with the following story which he is allowing me to share here:  
Here's one back. Same mentioned cookbook. When I had left home to go to ACA in Calgary, my mom and dad's best friends there, Mabel and Allen, took me under their wing. They had me 
over for suppers on occasion and found my first board and room place for me. Time passed and whole lot of life experiences in a real short time. I had decided enough of the work world and 
it was time to return to education. My parents agreed and had planned a trip to Kelowna and would pick me up enroute. I decided to have Mabel and Allen over. Now I could make cabbage rolls, mushrooms
in cream and dill, and while I had not made vareneki (my grandmother called them by another name), I was brave enough to give it a try. I had watched my mother and grandmother make them 
for years. I was quite methodical in my approach and, while the end result wasn't quite like mom's or grandmother's, they weren't bad. Allen and Mabel arrived. We ate. After supper, Mabel turned
to me and said, "That was very good and very different. I've never eaten food like that before. Where did you learn to make food like that?" I replied, "By watching my mother, aunts, and grandmother
cook." Mabel replied, " All these years I thought your mother was an English war bride."

It wasn't always fun to have a Ukrainian background those days.

India, 1972:
     At a cocktail party, the host, a Canadian Trade Attache, marched over to me in the middle of his living room and practically shouted, "I didn't know you were Uke!"
     "Ukrainian," I responded.
     "I thought you were English, but you're Uke!"  It was as though I had done him a personal injury.
     "Ukrainian," I repeated.
     "No!  Hunky!  Uke!"


Perogies and Ukraine

Just imagine!  In Kiev, the Varenichnaya Restaurant offers nearly 25 different varenyky fillings!

The bad thing about Ukraine restaurants is that I have so much trouble reading the Cyrillic menus.   Also, they don’t all have vareniki!

July, 2004:  Visited Ukraine with one of my sisters  and one of my brothers, and Bryan, my cholovik. 

There I am in the beautiful cemetery at Lviv in front of the monument to the Stadnicki.  Relatives?  So elegant, not likely.  Oh, wait a minute, why not?
Our little group kept breaking away from the tour, but it was hard sometimes.  One restaurant's menu totally baffled me and we ended up leaving and buying deep-fried cabbage-stuffed buns from street vendors.  Yum?   Yes, indeed, but still there was that element of frustration.

September, 2009
No tour group this time.  Just me and my daughter and wonderful, terrifying Ukraine.  My daughter was so patient, and HUNGRY, while I painfully deciphered menus, syllable by tortured syllable.  

  Kamyanets-Podilsky  was delightful -- not just because it has the most romantic castle I have ever seen, but also because we unearthed there Vareniki with mushrooms! 

                In Kiev, we found vareniki at Puzata Khata .   The great thing about Puzata Khata is that you just walk past all these food stations and point to what you want to try so we went there several times for breakfast. 
June, 2012
My daughter is visiting now and, of course, I made vareniki.
Here’s my interpretation of the filling for Bean and Mushroom Perogies from Ukrainian Cuisine, translated by Odarka Boychuk, et al:
1 and ½ cups beans
2 tbsp. lard
1 pound button mushrooms
2 onions
½ tsp pepper
1 tbsp salt

1.       Soak beans overnight.
2.      Cook and drain beans.
3.      Puree the beans.
4.      Add finely chopped and sautéed onions and mushrooms.
5.      Mix together with salt and pepper.

My daughter had asked me if we could have rabbit, too – no problem since my brother had just told me that a local meat shop, Penguin Meats, stocks rabbit.   My cholovik, Bryan followed Savella’s recipe for Tishkovanie Zayets (Rabbit Stew) giving us the best rabbit ever served to the girls.

(We used to have delicious wild rabbit when I was growing up.  Mom’s sauce was a rich caramel colour – unfortunately, I never asked for her recipe and I’ve never been able to reproduce it with any recipes I have found such as the one I tried some years ago from Cordon Bleu. )
 Our meal also included Savella’s Smazhena Kapusta  (Panned Cabbage,  p. 245) and we enjoyed it even it was overcooked.   (I could try to blame Savella who didn’t  specify the time but really next time I’d just watch it more closely.)

Thursday, 21 June 2012


Summer, 1967.  I’m leaving home at the age of 20 for a job in a big city in another province.  Mom puts 2 cookbooks into my trunk; one of them is  Traditional Ukrainian Cookery by Savella Stechisin. 
Fall, 1967.  I want to impress my new WASP boyfriend with my most favourite Ukrainian food – those dumplings that nowadays everyone calls perogies.  At home, we called them pyrohi – even though their real name is, as Mom told me, vareniki.  Pyrohi/vareniki, whatever, I was going to make them for Mr. White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (common terminology back then) and he was going to swoon with delight. 
                  I could bake a cake --  the sum total of my culinary skills at that time, but I had confidence and I had Savella.   Not only would I make dozens of plump, pretty, little pyrohi but they would be cherry pyrohi.  (Savella p. 212)   I’d never actually had cherry pyrohi but they sounded good.  Details on how to make them were a bit sketchy but that turned out to be the least of my problems. 
The scene as my friend arrived:  a kitchen counter piled high with unwashed dishes, a floury floor, and a pot boiling over onto the stove.   I placed a bowl of thin, watery, grayish blobs onto the table.   My friend looked at them and then we went out for dinner.

Christmas, 1997.    My mother did all the cooking, of course, and beamed with all our praise. 
As I stuffed myself once again on her pyrohi (starting with four and then taking a couple more and then a few more and then a few more) I realized it was high time to learn from the master.  Mom was delighted.
 “It’s all in the feel of the dough,” she said.  “If it’s not right, you just add a handful of flour -- ”

“Stop,” I said.  “I can’t do it like that.  I need exact measurements.” 
Patiently, Mom deposited her handfuls into measuring cups and we came up with the following no-fail recipe for Cottage Cheese and Potato Pyrohi/Vareniki/Perogies:

Pyrohi (Perogies)
Prepare the filling first.
Cottage Cheese and Potato Filling:  (enough for 2 batches: 50 perogies in each batch)
1.  Boil 1 ¾ pounds to 2 pounds of potatoes in their jackets until fork tender (about 25 minutes).  Drain and peel while hot.  After peeling each one, mash it.
2.  Add ¼ cup melted butter or margarine.
3.  Add 1 ½ to 2 cups of dry cottage cheese.
4.  Add 1 ½ teaspoons salt.
5.  Add ½ teaspoon pepper.
6.  Add a beaten egg.
7.  Mix all together.
Dough (one batch – about 50 perogies)
1 egg beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup water (quite warm, but not hot)
3 cups flour
1.  Mix egg, oil, salt, and water in mixing bowl before adding flour.
2.  Mix well and knead into a dough.  Dough should not be hard. 
3.  Leave the dough on the table on a floured surface.  Turn mixing bowl upside down over the dough.  Leave one-half hour. 
4.  Punch down or knead a bit.  Now it’s ready to use.  (You can let it stay much longer.)
5.  When rolling it out, use a little flour, but not much.  This is very important – as this is what will make the difference in having tender or tough perogies.
Making the Perogies 
1.  Put a tea towel on the kitchen table and sprinkle it lightly with flour.  Lay another tea towel over that one.
2.  Put some filling in a small bowl and set it on the table beside the towels.  Put a small spoon in the filling.
3.  Put some flour in a small bowl and set it beside the filling. 
4.  On the kitchen counter, cut a piece of dough out and roll out on lightly floured surface.  Cut in strips about 2 inches wide.  Then cut in squares.  Put these squares on the floured tea towel and cover them.
5.  Fill a square.  After you secure it once, dip fingers in flour and go around once more to make sure it’s sealed.

6.  Dip the bottom of the perogy lightly in flour and cover it with the towel.
7.  Use up all the dough in this way (one batch).
Boiling the Perogies
1. Set large pot of water to boil.  Water should be 3 inches from the top.  Add 4 tsp. salt to water ( 3 teaspoons in my smaller pot: this won’t be too much).
2.  Fill a large mixing with cold water and set beside the stove.
3.  Put a slotted spoon beside the large pot.
4.  Melt about 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine in a mixing bowl and set aside.
5.  Set up another mixing bowl in the same way. 
5.  Set a colander in the sink.
6.  The water in the pot should be at rolling boil. 
7.  Put in about 25 to 30 perogies.  Stir them and cover with lid.

8.  Bubbles will come up under the lid.  Stir again. 
9.  Boiling time from when they go in is 3 to 4 minutes only.
10.  If you are freezing this batch, dip the perogies out and drop into cold water.  Then drain them and stir them in the melted butter.  Set aside to cool.  Then bag them and freeze them.
11.  If you are serving this batch immediately, skip the cold water bath.  Mix them with the butter and set aside.

12.  Drop the rest of the perogies (about 25) in the same boiling water and proceed as directed above.
Reheating Perogies
Steam for about 5 to 10 minutes.  They’re ready when they look swollen.
Heat in Oven:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put about 25 to 30 perogies in casserole.  Put in about ¼ pound butter or margarine and ¼ cup water.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes.  They’re done when they look swollen. 
Fry:  Melt butter or margarine in frying pan over low to medium heat (4 on dial) and add the perogies.  Cover with lid and turn when they are browned (about 5 minutes on each side).  Check to see that heat is not too high after 3 minutes.


Note To Bloggers:  My mother made the best perogies ever and I have shared her recipe.  If you decide to use and copy her recipe, great, but I would appreciate it if you would acknowledge her when you do so.  Thanks!