Nalysnyky is a Ukrainian dish of cottage cheese filled crepes that are baked in cream until puffy and golden.
I remember the day like it was yesterday. Which is so completely strange that it would stay with me like that. I dare say, it was the day I started thinking about and looking at food differently.
I was playing at a friends place, just like any other Saturday afternoon. Her mom and baba were busy in the kitchen. Perhaps there were more people there, of the details of the day, the people are not what peaked my interest. It was the food.
They were using one of the girls rooms to cool and store everything while they worked. I remember being told to stay out! But being 9, the words stay out made us want to go in even more so. I remember the door being cracked and we peaked inside. Every surface was covered with clean sheets and on those sheets were 1000’s of tiny little lightly golden walnut sized buns.
1000’s. The aroma of freshly baked bread filled the space. Of course, once you have entered there was no going back. We had to taste just one. The dough has just the slightest hint of sweetness and they were filled with cottage cheese. They were the most fabulous thing I had ever tried. I am not sure how many we ate that afternoon? In fact I don’t even remember the rest of the day but I can still see the room like it happened yesterday.
And I never forgot those amazing little buns.
When I got older and began cooking I found myself being drawn to traditional Ukrainian foods. The labor intensive dishes that you not only cooked to eat that night but always made extra for the freezer. Things like perogi (verenyky) and cabbage rolls (holubitsi) . Where you make 30 – 40 dozen in one sitting. Essentially what is known as peasant food.
If you google peasant food Wikipedia describes it as the following:
Peasant foods are those dishes specific to a particular culture made from accessible and inexpensive ingredients. Peasant foods often involve skilled preparation by knowledgeable cooks using inventiveness and skills passed down from earlier generations.
Such dishes are often prized as ethnic foods by other cultures and by descendants of the native culture who still desire these traditional dishes even when their incomes rise to the point where they can purchase any food they like.
I grew up in a predominately Ukrainian area of Alberta, just north of Edmonton. Both my Baba and Gido spoke Ukrainian and English, my great Baba only spoke Ukrainian. Well except for all the names of her great grandchildren and a few words like keep, as she would hand you a $20 bill. I never knew where she got her money from, but she always spoiled her great grand children. As would my baba and gido as well.
They were a huge influence on my first experiences of growing your own food. They had 2 gardens. One in town that grew the main foods for fresh eating and the freezer. The garden on the farm was raspberries and potatoes. Rows and rows of raspberries and potatoes. I remember many hours out there picking berries and digging for potatoes. Or the hours of watching Baba turn her garden goodies in to pots of Borscht or freezing beans for winter.
I learnt that not only can you create amazing food in your kitchen I learnt that the best food is the food you grow yourself.
Those memories have fostered two of my greatest passions, cooking and gardening. It is who I am.
Here is a dish that has it roots in Ukrainian cooking. These are fantastic as a side with ham. The cream and dill really work well with the saltiness of ham.
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup of milk
- 6 tablespoons of water
- 1 cup of sifted flour
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- canola oil
- 2 cups of dry cottage cheese
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons of whipping cream
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of dill (fresh chopped) or dried
- 2-3 cups of whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- ½ of a small white onion (chopped fine)
- Beat the eggs with a beater until light, add milk and water, beat again.
- Gradually add the flour and salt, continuing to beat as you add the flour.
- Beat until smooth.
- The batter will be thin.
- Using a paper towel, just lightly oil the surface of a non stick pan and heat on medium.
- Using a small measuring cup pour roughly 3 tablespoons of batter into the center of the pan.
- Tilt to distribute the batter evenly across the bottom.
- Cook over moderate heat.
- They will have air bubbles like what you see when making pancakes.
- When the bubbles pop it is a good indication that the crepe is ready.
- When lightly browned on the bottom and the top firm to the touch remove to a plate.
- Continue until all the batter is used.
- For the filling combine the cottage cheese, egg yolks, 2 tablespoons of whipping cream, salt and dill.
- Spread the filling down the center of each crepe and roll into a tube.
- Lay the Nalysnyky side by side in a butter casserole dish.
- Spread 1 tablespoon of butter over the each layer.
- Add the chopped white onion to the 2 - 3 cups of whipping cream and pour over the Nalysnyky. Cover with foil and bake at 325 for 30 minutes.
- Uncover and bake another 5 minutes.
Fill trays nice and snug. If you are going to freeze your nalysnyky do not add cream. Wrap tightly and freeze.
If baking cover with cream and bake until lightly browned. It is a good idea to place the pan of Nalysnyky into a larger pan as the cream make cook over.