Monday, November 18, 2013

Prairie Kitchens - Baked Kasha Casserole

Varenyky (aka perogies), cabbage rolls, borshch. Ukrainian dishes are entrenched in prairie cuisine, thanks to the loyal attachment of Ukrainian settlers to the traditional recipes of home.

From 1891 to 1914, more than 170,000 Ukrainians immigrated to Canada, one quarter of them settling in Saskatchewan. Most came from the provinces of Galicia and Bukovyna, which at that time were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, an area that was poor and over-populated under a feudal farming system. Canada promised a better future. In Saskatchewan, Ukrainian families tended to settle in close-knit communities in the parklands where there was wood for their buildings and their stoves.

While many ethnic recipes survive in Saskatchewan, few carry with them the deep spiritual and agrarian symbolism of Ukrainian foods. This rich tapestry is lovingly chronicled in the cookbook "From Baba, with Love," produced in Saskatoon by members of the Hanka Romanchych Branch of the Ukrainian Women's Association of Canada. For instance, we learn that fall fruits were blessed before eating and that braided wedding bread symbolizes everlasting happiness.

One of the authors is Marie Kishchuk, whose mother, Mary Maduke, helped establish the Ukrainian Museum of Canada in Saskatoon, where Marie was director for many years. She still cooks the dishes of her mother, who came from Ukraine as a child. A favourite for Saturday supper was baked buckwheat, known as kasha, which her mother made in a favourite bean pot.

This recipe is from the cookbook, which is available in Saskatoon at the Ukrainian Museum of Canada, McNally Robinson Booksellers and SaskMade Marketplace.*

Baked Kasha Casserole
4 tbsp butter
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
2 cups diced bacon (optional)
4 1/2 cups water
2 cups coarse buckwheat
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter. Sauté onion and garlic. Set aside. Cook bacon until crisp. Boil water in a saucepan. Rinse buckwheat in a sieve under hot running water. Stir into the boiling water. Return to boil. Add onion and garlic. Cook until most of the water is absorbed. Mix in bacon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place buckwheat in an 8-cup greased casserole dish. Cover and bake at 350F for one hour or until kasha is cooked. Serve with a green salad and pork cracklings (if you can get them!).

Do you have prairie recipe with a story? Send me a comment. Follow at

* Also available at Saskatoon Airport Gift Shop, Slavianka Deli (3421 8th St. E., Saskatoon) and the Ukrainian Coop (1805 Winnipeg St., Regina).

The article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.


JoyD said...

Your post reminded me of my mother's table. I do regret that I didn't record my mother's recipes which of course were handed down from her mother; but I do remember them and am cook enough that I may be able to recreate them. She would have laughed and shaken her head saying, who would have thought that anyone would be writing about kasha. Thanks for this post.

Amy Jo Ehman said...

So old it's new again. At least in my kitchen! I didn't grow up with Ukrainian dishes so it's a treat for me to discover!