Wednesday, 6 November 2013

How Does One Eat Kholodets?

Back from Ukraine and full of recipes and stories. I am starting with the long promised kholodets. In a nutshell, it's meat in aspic - a much loved East European festive dish. It takes a long time to prepare, so it is made for really special occasions. My mum and babushka, when the latter was still alive, made it in honour of my British husband Tim coming to visit for the first time.

I've been raving about the dish to him for ages. The table was set, Tim and I, mum and dad, babushka and uncle Valera were at the table, chattering away. When suddenly uncle Valera shouted: 'Look at the Englishman! He is spreading kholodets on a slice of toast!'

The hilarity! Needless to say, my husband did not like kholodets. He was trying to be polite and eat it in the least offensive way for his palette. Spreading it on a slice of bread seemed like a good idea,

I suspect, the majourity of you won't like it either. It's acquired taste. But if you are feeling adventurous...

Makes 14-16 portions

There is no point of making a small batch of it. It takes ages and keeps for long time. It's a winter festive dish, as people tend to set it on their balconies, which requires cold temperatures. You can set it in the fridge too. The dish is served cold with mustard and horse radish.
Russian horse radish is coloured with beetroot juice which gives it a slightly sweeter taste and that bright pink colour. (That red stuff on the photo is horseradish).


1-2 pork legs (yes, I am not kidding. Pork legs minus hooves, washed and scrubbed)
2kg beef shank with bone - the bone will help the aspic set.
1 small rooster - for some reason you really need a rooster and not a girl chicken - they are leaner and musclier, which is what we need.
2 carrots
1 onion with skin on
12-16 black peppercorns
1 heaped teaspoon of salt
Ground pepper
3-4 bay leaves
6-7 garlic cloves
Various large, deep serving dishes



Scrub and wash pork feet. They are a very important component of the dish - they provide gelatin for the stock and chewy texture for the final dish.
You will probably only get beef shanks already in pieces - make sure you keep the bone. Or ask your butcher for the bones separately.
Cut the rooster in large-ish pieces.
Wash all the meat nicely.

Cooking two stocks:

Now put all the meat in a pan, cover with water, bring to the boil and boil vigorously for 5 minutes. All the scum will raise to the surface.
After 5 minutes of boiling. Take the meat out. Discard the stock and wash the meat in fresh water again. Doing this will ensure that your second stock is clear, which is what you need.

Now put the washed meat into a large pan. Pork legs first, followed by the beef and the rooster.
Add one onion - quartered with skin on - and roughly chopped carrots.
Add the bay, peppercorns and salt.

I was surprised how little salt goes into the dish. Only one heaped teaspoon. Normally, Ukrainians and Russians love salty stuff. But it seems to work.

Cover generously with fresh water- it needs to cover the meat by at least 1-2 inches.
Bring to the boil, put on low heat, cover and cook for 6 hours.

Assembly and setting:

After 6 hours of cooking, the meat will be falling off the bones.
Take the meat out, leaving the veg and spices in the stock.
Put the stock through a fine sieve and set aside. Let it cool a little and skim as much fat off the top as you can.

When the meat cooled down, take all meat off the bones. Down to the tiniest bits. Make sure no bones are left.

Roughly chop the meat (including that gelatinous meat from the pork feet).  

Place the chopped meat 1 - 1.2 inches deep in the serving dishes. Spread it on the bottom so it covers it all. Pour the stock on top of it. Now crush garlic cloves and add to the stock - you will kind of need to sprinkle it all over. Sprinkle with the ground black pepper.

Leave kholodets in a cold place (in the fridge or on a cold balcony/conservatory) to set. Serve cold with mustard and horse radish, as part of a celebratory mezze.

This recipe is courtesy of my mummy. She has now truly taken the cooking baton from my babushka and her kholodets was every mouthful as good as granny's. I loved your kholodets!

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