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Beet leaf rolls with buckwheat and mushrooms from Summer Kitchens.
In her third cookbook, Summer Kitchens, Olia Hercules explores a common thread in Ukrainian culinary culture.
Our cookbook of the week is Summer Kitchens: Recipes and Reminiscences from Every Corner of Ukraine by Olia Hercules. Tomorrow, we’ll feature an interview with the author.
To try another recipe from the book, check out: Sauerkraut with whole cabbage leaves , and lazy dumplings with green beans, poppy seeds and crispy shallots .
Light and summery, Olia Hercules was inspired to create this recipe for beet leaves filled with toasted buckwheat and mushrooms after a visit to the Carpathian highlands. “They’re delicious and interesting,” she says. “It’s one of my favourite recipes in the book.”
Hutsul people, who live in the northwest of Ukraine, are known for their hearty cuisine, says Hercules. While learning how to make banosh (Hutsul polenta; the recipe is in Summer Kitchens ) from a woman in the verdant region, she mentioned a variation on holubtsi (cabbage rolls) which swaps cabbage leaves for beet greens in summertime.
“She said, ‘We take beetroot leaves and leave them in the sun during the day so they wilt and become more pliable, and then you use them to wrap things in it,’” says Hercules, who ran with the idea for this vegetarian dish.
“If you get beetroot leaves in your veg box, they’re already kind of wilted so that’s great. But I’m actually growing some right now and they’re quite sprightly so I steam them very lightly. But you can even use them raw when they’re fresh.” (Swiss chard makes a great substitute if you don’t have access to beet greens.)
Savoury and satisfying but still conducive to the warmer months, Hercules stuffs the beet leaves with a mixture of toasted buckwheat, browned mushrooms and zasmazhka (sautéed aromatics similar to sofrito), and cooks the rolls in a classic sour cream-spiked tomato sauce (smetana would be used in Ukraine; Hercules calls for crème fraîche here).
“I made them twice in the last week, and you make about 16 to 20 at a time,” says Hercules. “My husband, my son and I, we just destroyed them within a day and a half.”
BEET LEAF ROLLS WITH BUCKWHEAT AND MUSHROOMS
80 g (1/2 cup) toasted buckwheat
2 tbsp vegetable oil
200 g (8 oz) mushrooms, finely diced
2 onions, 1 diced and 1 sliced
1 carrot, scrubbed and coarsely grated
Leaves from 16 medium beets (or 16 chard leaves), stalks removed and reserved
500 g (1 lb) ripe tomatoes or 1 x 400-g (14.5-oz) can of diced tomatoes
2 tbsp crème fraîche
Sea salt and black pepper
Crusty bread, to serve
Cook the buckwheat in a saucepan of salted boiling water for about 10 minutes, or until cooked through but not falling apart. Drain well and set aside in a bowl.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add the mushrooms and cook until they brown a little. Scoop them out into the bowl of buckwheat. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the diced onion to the pan, along with a pinch of salt. Cook until it softens and starts to turn golden, then add the carrot and cook for about 2 minutes, letting it colour a little. Tip the contents of the frying pan into the bowl, mix well, and season with salt and pepper, then leave the filling to cool slightly.
Lay a beet leaf on your worktop and put 1 heaping teaspoon of the filling close to the stalk end, then flip the bottom of the leaf up and over the filling. Fold in the sides and roll up as tightly as possible, leaving the finished roll on the worktop, seam side down. Repeat with the rest of the beet leaves and filling.
Choose a saucepan or cast-iron casserole with a lid that will hold the beet leaf rolls snugly in a single layer. Add the rest of the oil and place over medium heat, then add the sliced onion and cook until soft and mellow. Finely chop the beet stalks, add to the pan and cook, stirring, for another minute or so. If you are using fresh tomatoes, cut them in half and grate them on the coarse side of a box grater, discarding the skins. Add the tomatoes to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, or until they have broken down into a sauce, then whisk in the crème fraîche and season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to low and carefully add the rolls, seam side down, then cover and cook for 15 minutes.
Serve with plenty of crusty bread to mop up the juices.
Serves: 4 (makes 16 rolls)
Excerpted from Summer Kitchens: Recipes and Reminiscences from Every Corner of Ukraine by Olia Hercules. Text © Olia Hercules, 2020. Published by Weldon Owen. First published in Great Britain in 2020 by Bloomsbury Publishing. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020