Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
Christmas Eve is a special evening when all the families in Poland gather around the table to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and enjoy all the meals prepared for this occasion. According to the tradition people fast whole day to try out all the 12 dishes that are served in the evening. Apart from the most traditional ones, like borscht or dumplings, the table cannot lack in sweets. There are, however, few traditional Christmas sweets – depending on the region that the family comes from.
One of the popular desserts, especially known in the east of Poland (as that meal derives from eastern borderland and today’s Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania), is Kutia. Nowadays it is served, however, not only in the borderland but becomes each year more and more popular around whole the country.
Kutia is easy to prepare – and saves us from the fear that we add too much or too little of some ingredients. It does not require baking and is quick to prepare (what is especially important during the Christmas Eve and the whole haste to serve all the dishes one after another). Apart from this, you can easily change ingredients of Kutia depending on your taste, availability of certain ingredients or just household budget.
The main ingredient of Kutia is wheat. It must be first cooked for couple of hours (even up to 4 hours). As it is not commonly available – especially in cities – and might be hard to prepare for some that have never made any dishes of wheat, it can be easily replaced with cooked barley or white rice. The time of cooking for barley and rice is usually provided on the packages (as it depends on the sort of product that we buy) but the main rule is that they should be cooked (in slightly salty water) until they become soft.
The second – also very important ingredient – is poppy. It should be blanched with hot water and grinded. The wheat (alternatively barley or rice) and poppy should be afterwards mixed together (it is recommended to use them in more less the same portions).
Very important additions to Kutia are sweetmeats. You can choose (depending on your preferences) to use nuts, raisins, figs, almonds and others. Some add also parts of oranges (however, they tend to make Kutia a little bit sour).
To sweeten Kutia, proper honey should be used. Once again – the amount of honey depends on how sweet desserts your body tolerates. Such prepared Kutia should be kept in a cold place.
It is my intention not to provide you with fixed Kutia recipe. Most probably if you ask 10 families how to prepare Kutia, you will get to know 10 different ways of making it. For me Kutia, when you are aware of the most important ingredients , is more intuitive than fixed dish. Depending on your preferences you can decide on balance of ingredients. I, myself, prefer to use barley (or barley mixed with rice) and the same amount of poppy. My Kutia cannot lack in grinded nuts (all the types you can get in the shop) and almonds. I add only a little bit of raisins and a little bit of honey (as I am not a fan of very sweet desserts).