Saturday, November 14, 2009

Kutia or Kutya (wheat porridge)

Sound the horns and give me a drum roll! I actually broke out my slow cooker for the first time and it was okay! It was actually more than okay! Even if I only used it a couple of times a year making Kutia it would be worth it because it made it almost effortless. I bought about one pound of organic red hard wheat for $3.29. You can make about 18 hearty servings of Kutia for that price. Now that's thrifty! I got this recipe from Company's Coming Whole Grain Recipes.Here's what the author Jean Pare has to say about Kutya. In her book it's called Kutya -- but on the Ukranian Women's Association website it's called Kutia.

"Kutya, a cold porridge, is traditionally served at Ukranian Christmas Eve dinners. It is meant to represent an abundant life--but also makes one heck of a healthy breakfast. The preparation is a tad involved but the kutya will keep in the fridge for 10 days, or may be frozen for longer."

I agree with her on the healthy breakfast -- the nutritional profile is awesome:
1 cup = 393 calories; 10 gm fibre; 13 gm protein

2 cups Hard red wheat - or spelt (see notes in update below)
8 cups water

water - 5-1/2 cups (maybe as much as 7 cups - see expert's pointers below)
salt - 1 teaspoon

poppy seeds - 1/2 cup
water - 1 cup
*golden syrup* -- 1/3 (maybe up to 1 cup - see expert's pointers below)

Step#1 -- Rinse your wheat really well in a sieve under water. Put your 2 cups wheat into a large bowl and add your 8 cups of water. Let stand, covered for at least 8 hours. Drain. Put into slow cooker (should be at least 3-1/2 quart size).

Step#2 -- Add the 5-1/2 cups water to the wheat in the slow cooker. (You might prefer 7 cups of water -- see notes below). Add salt. Cook, covered on high for about 7-8 hours. (Taste your wheat at this point -- you might like to cook it for longer - see notes below). Original recipe instructions say on high for 3-1/2 to 4 hours but there was no way my wheat was ready after that short a time. You'll know when it's ready. The wheat must be split open and liquid should be thick and creamy. Anyhow once you have decided it has cooked enough drain it and reserve 1 cup (or more -- see notes below) of the cooking water and set it aside.

Step#3 -- Combine poppy seeds and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Boil gently, uncovered for 10 minutes. Drain through a fine sieve. (I did not have a fine enough sieve so I used the re-usable coffee filter which is mesh and it worked just fine for this purpose).

Step#4 -- Put syrup and poppy seeds in blender and process for about 1 minute until poppy seeds are ground. (I used my magic bullet with small container for this and it worked perfect for this purpose).
Add this to wheat. Stir, adding reserved cooking water a little at a time, until desired consistency.Serve at room temperature or chill until cold. Makes about 6 cups.

Veggie Prairie Girl Rambles
Image below is a special "kutia pot". This is the traditional Ukranian pattern. I would say Ukranian people love dishware as it seems they have special dishes for almost everything. I know my mother-in-law does -- she has an overflowing cupboard full of beautiful dishware. I love the white and red contrast of the dishes. It's certainly very festive looking for Christmas.

Ukranian Expert's Pointers for Improving this Recipe
The Ukranian Expert (my husband) advised that the whole cup of reserved cooking water must be added if it is to look and taste the same way mama made it! No problem -- I agree with him. I asked for further pointers in improving it to his satisfaction. He was happy to oblige. He said next time I make this for him to put more than the 5-1/2 cups water called for in the recipe because he likes even more liquid than what we had leftover. So I'll have to remember to put in about 7 cups water and hopefully that will produce the result he's looking for. Plus he told me he likes the wheat even softer so next time I will also be increasing the cooking time by about an hour or two. Also he said it wasn't sweet enough. Apparently 1/3 cup syrup is way too little -- he would like that increased to close to a cup. Overall he said it was good and it must be because he ate a big bowl for breakfast this morning and came back for an afternoon snack as well. There are variations for Kutia that I saw on the internet -- some called for raisins or walnuts to be added to it but my husband said no they never added either of those ingredients. He did tell me that what his mom did, to make it extra special for xmas time, was to add one cherry to each serving and to top with some heavy cream. We're interested to see how it tastes with another grain so we have spelt soaking on the counter now. I'll let you know which one our "resident Ukranian expert" prefers :)

Update Nov.17, 2009-- Well he prefers the spelt hands down. So do I. It's a milder flavor so you don't need as much sweetener to make it tasty. It was also slightly softer. Of course I did do the larger amount of water this time. The wheat also had a significantly stronger "grassy" smell when soaking than did the spelt. All in all quite a few differences but of course it still comes down to personal preferences. I'll have to look for it in Bob's Red Mill brand because I certainly noticed a difference between buying bulk spelt and the hard spring wheat prepackaged (Bob's Brand). The difference was that I had to pick out at least 10-12 little hard black pebbles in the bulk spelt and there was absolutely nothing to pick out in the prepackaged wheat.

*original recipe calls for honey and for vegans that use honey go ahead and use that in place of golden syrup. I read on internet that half maple syrup and half agave nectar is supposed to give you a similar flavour to honey. I'll have to give that a try next time as well. Didn't have either on hand today. *


  1. I read your writing with great interest. I wanted to add a comment as I have discovered something about the hard red wheat which I used last year and this year, but have always over the last 30 years used a softer golden variety. The hard red wheat never burst open and required a cooking time of 1 to 2 days. After 2 days we gave up and threw it out; it smelled "grassy" as you describe above. The softer golden wheat cooks in 3 to 5 hrs, and is much easier to digest, with a milder flavor. My 80 yo mother says this the the wheat her mother always used.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to let me know your experience - it's much appreciated! You got me interested in trying to make this again and I will definitely be seeking out the softer variety as you recommend. I was just doing a google search and see that Bob's Red Mill does indeed offer a Soft White Wheat Berry and so I will have to go make a purchase. It's such a healthy dish and it's going to get more popular as it was featured yesterday on the Dr. Oz show!

  3. We make this every year, like my 89-year old mom from Ukraine taught me from very early childhood. Now my husband often makes it for me. (We always have the traditional Xmas Eve dinner.) I use King Arthur's Red wheat berries. We soak them for a day and then cook it all up. It comes out very creamy. We do add chopped walnuts, raisins. I found your recipe because I wanted to know if kutya can be frozen!
    Every Ukrainian family has its own recipe, much depending on which area you come from. I never use sugar, only honey.
    Funny, I would make this more often but it would feel too sacrilegious. I do want to try some other wheat berry recipes however!
    One of the traditions we always followed: you can eat nothing whatsoever all day until the first star appears in the sky. Fun!
    BTW: "Kutya" vs "Kutia": It all depends on how you want to transliterate the Slavic letters. xx
    P.S. I'm going back for some left-over Kutya, now. I've been eating it all day. Sooo delish!