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Kutia – Slavic Christmas Poppy Seed Dessert

Kutia is a sweet grain pudding, traditionally served in Ukraine, Belarus, Russian and some parts of Poland. Sochivo, a dish similar to kutia, is very popular in Russia. Kutia is often the first dish in the traditional twelve-dish Christmas Eve supper (also known as Svyatah Vecherya). It is rarely served at other times of the year.

Description

It resembles koliva from Serbia or Romania (used usually for funerals), but the latter is mixed only with walnuts, sugar and raisins.

Kutia was also part of a common Eastern Orthodox tradition in the Russian Empire, which had waned in popularity as a result of the official atheism of the former Soviet Union, but has had a subsequent resurgence in Ukraine, Belarus and other former Soviet Republics. Radonitsa is one such holiday during which it is served. To this day kutia is served at funerals across Russia as a dish of remembrance.

Traditionally it was made of wheatberries, poppy seeds, honey (or sugar), various nuts and sometimes raisins. In many recipes milk or cream is also used. In some Slavic countries, rice is the main ingredient.

Nowadays, other ingredients (which were unavailable or just too expensive in earlier centuries) like almonds and pieces of oranges are added. In some places (like Poland, Ukraine, and western Canada), unprocessed wheat grain for kutia is easily available in stores. In others, where it is harder to find, it can be replaced by other similar grains like barley.

Kutia - Slavic Christmas Poppy Seed Dessert
A Slavic Christmas concoction of poppy seeds, honey, wheat, nuts and fruit was consumed on the longest night of the year, during a ritual to remember family ancestors. The dish has survived for millennia and has been adopted as part of the Christian Christmas Eve tradition.
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups poppy seeds
  • 600 ml milk
  • 1 cup large grain pearled barley
  • ½ cup honey
  • ⅔ cup raisins
  • ⅓ cup whole blanched almonds, toasted, coarsely crushed
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted
  • zest of 1 small lemon
  • zest of 1 small orange
  • 30 g candied orange peel, chopped
Instructions
  1. Place the poppy seeds in a saucepan and add milk, stir, and bring to the boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes, stirring frequently so the milk doesn’t burn, set aside until cool. Cover and leave to soak overnight in the fridge.
  2. The next day, stir the soaked poppy seeds, pour out any excess liquid, then grind in a food grinder or meat mincer with the finest setting, or with the finest hole plate.
  3. Place the barley in a heavy-based saucepan with 3 cups cold water. Bring to the boil then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently for 30 minutes, or until tender. If the barley starts to dry out as it cooks, top up the water. Drain and set aside to cool.
  4. Chop the nuts together coarsely, setting a selection of the nuts, dried fruit and citrus zest and candied peel aside for garnish. Add the nuts, barley and all remaining ingredients to the poppy-seed paste. Stir together well and serve in bowls, topped with remaining nuts. Any leftovers are delicious eaten for breakfast.
Notes

    Soaking time 12 hours
    Chilling/freezing time 2-3 hours
    You will need to begin this recipe 1 day ahead.
    To get a fine, smooth result, a food grinder or meat mincer is essential.

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