Saturday, January 08, 2011

Christmas Kutia

Many Slovak Orthodox Christians prepare a traditional dinner on Christmas Eve called the Holy Supper which consists of 12 dishes for the 12 apostles. Included in the tradition is Kutia. Kutia is the Slavic version of Koliva, a sweetened boiled wheat and fruit dish which is served at services for the dead. Here is some information and a recipe for the Lebanese version from a prior post about that.

For the past six or seven years, my parish has come to together for the Holy Supper just prior to Christmas Eve Great Compline and Matins, and each year, our celebration seems to become a little more traditional. I usually am the one to make the wheat for the Holy Supper, since I'm the only one who makes this traditional food in my parish. This year was no different, but I decided to make it Russian style instead of Lebanese style. It was a big, big hit! Maybe even a bigger hit than my Lebanese style - and let me tell you, that is VERY popular! I did receive the highest of praise when my dear Russian friend told me that my kutia was just like her mother's, only better, because I put more fruit in it. High praise, indeed.

I do have a photo, but no way to get it off my camera right now. I'll post it as soon as I can.

Christmas Kutia
2 1/4 C soft wheat berries, soaked for 24 hours and strained
6 3/4 C water
1 C poppy seed
1 C sliced almonds or chopped walnuts, toasted till fragrant
1 lb honey
1 C white raisins
1 C chopped dried fruit, such as apricots, craisins, berries or cherries
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs cinnamon (heaping)

Drain the wheat berries well and put them in a dutch oven type pan with a lid. Stir in the water and loosely cover the pot. Crack the cover open so the steam can escape a little bit and it won't boil over. Simmer the wheat for 2 - 3 hours until very tender.

After the wheat has simmered for about an hour, you should prepare the poppy seeds by scalding them. Put them in a heat-proof dish, cover them with boiling water and let them soak for half an hour. Drain them well, then grind them in a blender or food processor. Continue your preparations by toasting the nuts and chopping the fruit.

Once the wheat is tender, drain the kernals, reserving about a cup of the water, and put them in a very large bowl together with the ground up poppy seeds. Add the honey and mix well. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, adding a little bit of the reserved water if it seems too thick and the honey won't mix well.

You can eat it just like this, which is what we did this year, but there is an additional step to this which makes it even more yummy. Once everything is mixed together, bake it in a 3 qt casserole, uncovered, at 325F for 20 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Kutia is best if you put everything together 2 or 3 days in advance and bake it right before serving. This is yummy hot or cold or room temperature. This recipe makes a lot, but that's ok because it freezes extremely well too!, and will last about two weeks in the fridge.

It has become increasingly difficult to find soft wheat berries in Savannah, and I'm simply not organized enough to order them online in advance.  I've begun using pearled barley (in equal amounts to the wheat) which is barley with the fibrous outer hull and bran removed, and cooks on top of the stove in one hour, without soaking. It's very similar to the Romanian arpacas which is traditionally used for coliva in Romania. Arpacas is not necessarily wheat berries with the hull removed - it can also be spelt or barley. My use of barley is not noticeable in this dish, and as it is a seed, it retains the significance of a seed dying to give new life inherent in this dish.  An excellent recipe for Romanian style coliva is in the works for this blog, once I perfect it.  Soon....

Here is a link to my tried and true .Lebanese style koliva

1 comment:

ofgrace said...

Denise, I love your cooking blogs. Makes me wish I could invite myself over for a meal! :-) I'm looking forward to trying some of those vegan recipes for Lenten fare. Thanks!