The war in Ukraine has brought to the fore some of the Eastern European cooks who have been writing in Britain, and if you have volunteered to take in refugees, you may need some recipes to make them feel at home.

Writers such as Olia Hercules (Ukraine), Irina Georgescu (Romania), Ren Behan (Poland) and Scotland-based Caroline Eden – whose superb book Black Sea traces her culinary travels through Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria – are worth a look.

My first recipe is for pickles. It was initially reported that a Ukrainian grandma had downed a Russian drone with a jar of cucumber pickles, but later revealed that the drone-busting condiment was, in fact, a jar of pickled tomatoes. Either way, pickles are very Ukrainian and I've stuck to cucumbers as they are easier to find in spring. These are quick to make and a wonderful side dish for any meal or even in soup. I've read that Ukrainians dip the cucumbers in honey and eat them like that. If you have access to oak or blackcurrant leaves they will add crunchiness.

Pickled Cucumbers

One Kilner jar
800 g mini cucumbers, washed, quartered lengthways
5 cloves garlic, sliced
Bunch large fresh dill, chopped
3 bay leaves
100 ml white vinegar
50 g untreated sea salt
1 tsp peppercorns
1 small red chilli, chopped
honey to dip (optional)


Sterilise a one litre jar either by running it through a dishwasher or thoroughly cleaning in boiling water or putting it in a hot oven for 15 minutes. Chop the dill and add to the clean jar along with the bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, chilli. Add the cucumbers, vinegar and salt.
Top up with water and seal. Leave for a few hours and keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Ukrainian Easter bread (Paska)

This is similar to an Italian panettone. If you have the correct mould, great but otherwise use a well-oiled 800g tin can. You can leave the Paska plain or simply iced. Slice up any leftovers for bread and butter pudding.


175 ml whole milk, warm
2 eggs plus an extra yolk if you wish
1 tsp active dry yeast or 15g fresh yeast
200 g caster sugar
pinch saffron or turmeric
100 g salted butter
50 ml sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
375 g plain flour
50 g dried sour cherries
For the icing:
100 g icing sugar
squeeze fresh lemon juice


Mix together the warm milk, eggs, yeast, sugar, saffron, butter, sour cream, vanilla. Whisk until pale.
Add in the flour, knead for 15 minutes, then fold in the dried cherries. Leave to rise for two hours.
Oil the can with sunflower oil and fill with the dough. Leave to rise for another hour, Preheat the oven to 180C.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Remove and cool. Make the icing by mixing the icing sugar with lemon juice and drizzle over.

Odessa Herring and Egg Salad (Serves 4)

This recipe is from Caroline Eden's 'Black Sea' which has a chapter on Odessan recipes, many of which are Jewish influenced. If you can get hold of unfiltered sunflower oil it's a joy. While travelling in Georgia, I would dip my bread in it and it's every bit as flavoursome as olive oil.


2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp caster sugar
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
4 marinated herring fillets, cut into chunks
1/2 lemon, juice of
2 eggs, hard boiled, halved
handful radishes, sliced thinly
freshly ground black pepper


Combine the oil, vinegar, sugar, apple and herring in a large bowl. Squeeze over the lemon juice and grind on some black pepper. Leave to marinate for 2 hours in the fridge. Drain off most of the liquid from the marinated mix, assemble the herrings, radishes, eggs and drizzle over some of the leftover liquid as a dressing.

Stuffed Peppers with Roasted Buckwheat and Sour Cream Tomato and Paprika Sauce (Serves 4)

Buckwheat or kasha is a popular Russian and Ukrainian cereal you can easily buy either plain or toasted in Polish shops


deep dish baking tin
4 large red peppers, cored, deseeded, with the 'hat' removed
1 brown onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
200 g feta cheese, cubed
150 g Toasted buckwheat, cooked
handful fresh dill, chopped
handful fresh parsley, chopped
For the Sauce
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
350ml sour cream
Pinch smoked paprika


Prepare the peppers and cook the buckwheat. Oil a baking tin. Preheat the oven to 180C
Gently fry the onion then add the garlic. In a bowl mix the cooked onion, garlic, buckwheat, feta, herbs and stuff the mixture into the peppers. Put the 'hat' back on the peppers.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. For the sauce mix the tomatoes, sour cream, paprika and salt in a pan. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes.
Add the tomato sauce to the baking tin of peppers and bake for another 10 minutes. Serve hot.