Wheat berries with honey and poppy seeds (Kut'ya)


Project form

Please fill out the form below, print it, and turn it in, in hard copy, on the due date you selected on the signed up sheet.  The Russian Food Network Event as a follow up to your Russian cooking experience will take place on December 2 during class time, in the Whitman Commons.  Please duplicate your recipe and bring it in for the event.

Recipe: Wheat berries with honey and poppy seeds (Kut'ya)

  • 1 c up wheat berries
  • 1/4 lb almonds
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup poppy seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 2 tablespoons honey

-Soak wheat berries overnight in ample water to cover them.

-The next day 1st= almond milk: place almonds in a saucepan with the water. Bring to a boil then remove the pan from the heat and let the almonds steep until the water comes to room temperature.

-Drain the wheat, and drain the almonds reserving the milk

-Pour the almond milk over the wheat and stir in the salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer slowly until the wheat is tender: 2-3 (or 4-5) hrs. (you should know when the wheat kernels burst open and the fluid should be thick and creamy)

-During this waiting period, soak the poppy seeds in water for about 30 minutes to soften them, and then grind them.

-Toast the chopped almonds at 325 degrees F for 10 minutes or until golden brown

-when the wheat is tender, stir in the poppy seeds.

-Add the honey, mixing well.

-Transfer the wheat to a serving dish and sprinkle it with toasted almonds.

(a few changes I’ve noticed online that I think might make it better if you’d like to try it, is to grind the wheat in a food processor after soaking. A food processor is also handy for the poppy seed, adding sugar can help lighten the taste and more honey if the other tastes are quite powerful. It’s supposed to be a porridge-like dish, so there are many ways to make it)

A synopsis of your research on the recipe and the area where the recipe originated:

It would seem that Kut’ya originated in Ukraine. Most often used as a Christmas meal piece as a fast-breaker. The wheat berries are supposed to symbolize immortality and hope; poppy seeds and honey are symbols of happiness, success and peaceful rest. For these reasons it was also used in funerals. Kut’ya was used as an offering to the dead during a funeral. It’s supposed to “moisten the dry lips of the dead”. This is referred to in a novel by Fyodor Sologub called “The Petty Demon”. During the Christmas season, Kut’ya may be also arranged on hay for remembrance of Christ’s birth in a manger, and another tradition is to toss a spoonful of it too the ceiling. If it sticks to the ceiling, then bees will come around and it’s supposed to mean a bountiful harvest. This is an Eastern Slav Orthodox tradition that began in Ukraine, but Russians adopted it as well. 

Your description of the experience of preparing and the tasting the recipe (any ingredients you needed to substitute, any changes you made to the recipe… does it remind you of something you tasted before?  What would you serve to accompany it? Etc.

Preparing the recipe was very time consuming. It took a lot more work and searching for ingredients than I originally planned. Once I did though, it was a simple following of instructions and making certain I had the time to watch it as it sat on the stove for a couple hours. The recipe I was given definitely tasted very unique. Like nothing I have tasted before. It was a lot more chewy than I would have liked it to be and if I could make some changes I think I would make it sweeter and make the wheat berries less chewy somehow. I think I would also try to get more of the almond flavor in the homemade almond milk so the wheat berries soak it up more. A different recipe on-line has the wheat berries go through a food processor after preparing. I would much rather do it that way. The poppy seeds make the dish almost have a peppery taste, and that counteracts the sweetness of the honey. If I served something to accompany it, I would probably serve some sort of sweet bread, but I feel it’s mainly something you eat alone as either a treat, or as said before, a breakfast meal perhaps.

Like a wine recommendation to accompany a dish, make a recommendation of a reading from Russian literature that would accompany the making or the tasting of the dish you prepared.  Perhaps the reading would suit the mood of the dish, its spiciness or its sweetness… perhaps there was a mention of one of the ingredients or the dish itself in the reading… etc.  You may select from the stories read or presented in class, or some other Russian work with which you are familiar.

Well, as I am not familiar with other Russian works, I think I would have to go with a work we have already done. The mood of the dish is definitely kind of strange, maybe a bit imaginative, yet down to earth in a dark way perhaps or at least solemn. It’s not a dish that’s considered exciting, it’s got a very homey feel. I would most likely recommend one of Gogol’s works, as what we’ve read from Pushkin so far doesn’t really fit that, neither does anything I’ve read from Chekhov. Definitely one of his older more imaginative works would go with this dish nicely. A May Night, Christmas eve, and A Terrible Vengeance could all fit the flavor of Kut’ya. I feel that A May Night is the best story to go with this flavorful dish. It has a hint of mystery, and imagination that seems to be sprinkled about this food. The light-heartedness and play amongst the mystery and slightly darker aspects of the ghost and her dark story create a good mood that matches the sweet and peppery taste created by the honey and poppy seeds. A perfect match in my eyes (and my mouth). If you’re looking for something a bit darker, A Terrible Vengeance is second best for this story. It matches the funeral aspect that goes with the dish as you read about corpses rising from the grave and the mysterious father/sorcerer as he goes about causing havoc that leads to his own demise. The plainness and toughness of the berries with the poppy seeds compliments this story well.