Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there has been tension among its former member countries. Russia and Ukraine have formally been in conflict since 2014, when Russia illegally annexed Crimea. In February 2022, the crisis escalated once more when Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine. In the following weeks, the rest of the world has been unified in its support of Ukraine and condemnation of Putin’s actions.
To show our own support for Ukraine, Open Road Media is pledging a portion of the proceeds from the below Ukrainian cookbook, Mamushka. A “gorgeous love letter to the food of her homeland,” chef Olia Hercules has compiled more than 100 recipes that will make you rethink Eastern European cuisine, along with dozens of charming stories about her home and family (SAVEUR).
Below, read an abridged version of Olia’s introduction to her book, followed by her recipe for deruny, potato cakes with goat cheese.
Note: A portion of the proceeds from books purchased via this page will be donated to Convoy of Hope, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping refugees. To make a direct donation, please click here.
Вступ | Introduction
Mamushka . . . is not actually a real word.
My brother Sasha and I watched The Addams Family film for the first time in 1996 (everything came about five years late in post-Soviet Ukraine). And at some point during the movie, a bunch of American actors suddenly spoke a made-up Eastern European language and danced the mamushka – “the dance of brotherly love” taught to the family by their Cossack cousins. Our whole family found this part of the film irresistibly hilarious and since then my brother and I renamed our mum Mamushka.
I now associate the word with strong women in general. I have become a mamushka myself – changed careers, worked in restaurants, had a son, and continue to work hard and cook incessantly.
Besides the pure “we can do it” aspect, mamushka is also about the old and the new. It’s about preserving culinary traditions and carrying them over into the modern world. And, boy, is my homeland of Ukraine full of diverse, incredible culinary treasures that deserve to be cherished.
I was born in 1984 in Kakhovka, Ukraine, only two hours’ drive from the Crimean border. When people suggest that I must be used to the cold, I realize how inextricably bound the Western vision of Ukraine is with that of Russia – vast, gray and bleak. Yet the south of Ukraine is only an hour away from Turkey by air. Our winters are mild, our summers long and hot, and our food a cornucopia of color and flavor.
Despite my strong Ukrainian identity, I have always cherished and taken pride in the cultural diversity that we were so lucky to enjoy in Ukraine. My paternal grandmother is Siberian, my mother has Jewish and Bessarabian (Moldovan) roots, my father was born in Uzbekistan, and we have Armenian relatives and Ossetian friends. This book is an ode to all those women (and men) whom I was raised by and grew up with, and the food they lovingly prepared. It’s food so familiar to me that I hadn’t realized it was something special until I became a chef, and even more so when the conflict in Ukraine erupted, prompting me into frantically documenting the recipes that I was so scared I might suddenly lose. This is the stuff of my childhood, a life that I want to share with you in order to dispel the myths about my home country and its surrounding areas and to give the messy geo-political mosaic a human face. As well as a rich history, culture, and traditions, Ukrainians also have that great gift of adaptability and tolerance.
Potato cakes with goat cheese
Деруни | Deruny
Goats are huge where I come from. They are superstars. They are everywhere. Every Sunday morning, the neighbor’s goat would come and graze right underneath my window, bleating its annoying goat song. Yet we don’t really cook them. My grandmother apparently slow-cooked goat, but these days they are mainly used for milk. Raw goats’ milk was my biggest nightmare, but here I am bringing the more palatable side of goatiness to Ukraine’s favorite potato cakes. They are amazing served with some roast duck and Blackberry Sauce (see recipe).
Serves 2 as a side
- 1 lb (500 g) starchy potatoes, peeled and roughly grated
- 1 small onion, roughly grated
- 1 small carrot, peeled and roughly grated
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 oz (30 g) goat cheese, mashed with a fork
- fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2 Mix everything except the oil together in a bowl and season really well with salt and pepper.
3 Heat the oil in a large frying pan, drop double teaspoonfuls of the mixture into the pan, and fry them for 2 minutes. Carefully flip them over and fry on the other side until golden.
4 Pop the potato cakes on the prepared baking sheet and finish cooking them through in the oven – they should take 5–10 minutes.
Want more? Download Mamushka now.
Olia Hercules was born in Ukraine and lived in Cyprus for several years before moving to London and becoming a chef. In this gorgeous and deeply personal cookbook, she shares her favorite recipes from her home country with loving stories about her culinary upbringing and family traditions.
“Forget what you think you know about Ukrainian food; with OIia Hercules, it's fun and colorful.” —Epicurious
Related: 5 Books to Read Abut Ukraine