It’s been a tough and tiring time in our house this year, but a girl’s still gotta eat, and lately one particular book has been filling my cookery needs and feeding my little family – Mamushka by Olia Hercules. Inspired by the women in her life, growing up in the Ukraine, and featuring her own son Sasha too, Mamushka is a love letter to cooking through the generations, a celebration of both passing down recipes and loving your family through food. This is my kind of cookery book.
There are so many delicious sounding (and looking!) dishes in here, but so far I have plumped for some of the most simple and comforting, and comfort me they certainly have.
One midweek evening I was home alone and needed something quick to make (to fit around bedtimes), filling (breastfeeding is hungry work!), and still tasty. I quickly got to work rustling up the potato cakes with goats’ cheese and a blackberry sauce which required my first ever flambé, not that the Little Miss was impressed. Rich, saucy and featuring one of my favourite herbs, lemon thyme, I devoured the lot. Simplicity at it’s best I can’t wait to make these again.
Another favourite has been Olia’s stuffed Ukrainian pasta, or Varenyky. A few options for fillings here, but as I was cooking for me and Mr Husband this time, the potato filling with crispy pork seemed the obvious choice. Pasta, potatoes and pork, what’s not to love? The making of these made me think of my grandmothers and wish they were still here to cook and eat with me. How different that meal might feel now that I am grown up with children of my own, and can, perhaps, better understand them and their lives. I’m not usually so moved to nostalgia when cooking, and I think it speaks to just how successful the book is in telling a story, in sharing snippets from other tapestries of life.
I love these kind of dishes which take a little effort (think hand-rolling and individually making ravioli) because they make you stop and just be for a little bit of time while you roll and cut and stuff. Cooking relaxes me, and there’s something very therapeutic about this sort of cookery for me. There’s no rushing them, they take as long as they take. I can already imagine how I might adapt the fillings for family favourites and make them as my own quiet little parcels of food love.
The recipe also suggests that any leftovers are good the next day, fried in butter until crispy. I tend to think that frying stuff in butter is always a good thing so I was happy to try this out (check me out taking one for the team there), and I can confirm that they are indeed amazing this way too. I love in general how Olia includes trimmings and herb stalks and such in her recipes, and makes suggestions for leftovers. Such thrift and utilisation of everything is something important to me as I try to make ingredients and meals stretch (tonight will be our third meal this week from the chicken we roasted on Sunday for example).
Lastly I made the Moldovan breads with cheese & sorrel. Salty with feta and fresh with herbs these were doughy loveliness in lunch form. Next time I plan to make them to pick at in the garden with a glass of wine on a warm summer’s night.
Other recipes I am itching to make are the Kefir and herb barbecued chicken, Mutton in coriander, Ukrainian stuffed buns (chicken hearts & livers with Madeira and shallots sounds amazing), and of course the Garlicky Georgian poussins that you might have seen Olia making on Saturday Kitchen. The recipe for that one is online if you want a sneak peak of the book:
One of the things I hope to be able to do in this blog is celebrate strong, talented women, especially mothers, who are holding it all together somehow and blazing a trail for others, for our sons and daughters, and for everyone who will follow.
Olia seems like the perfect place to start. She is often doing pop-ups and classes if you want to try some of her incredible food – you can follow her, her cooking, and her lovely little boy on instagram @oliahercules, on twitter @OliasGastronomy and her website https://oliahercules.com/