Kutia, a sweet mixture of cooked wheat, poppy seeds, and honey, is the most important dish of the Ukrainian Christmas Eve meal. Part of the tradition is for everyone to eat some. But, what if you have friends or family members who are celiac or avoiding gluten?
Here’s a kutia recipe that uses oat groats instead of wheat kernels. And, you’ll be done in 60 minutes!
I recently found oat groats in my local bulk store. They’re basically the whole oat before they’re steel cut into oatmeal.
Because they were close to the wheat berries, I noticed that they were about the same size and a different colour. But, very similar.
Oat groats on the left and wheat on the right. So, what’s kutia?
Along with the boiled wheat, you add honey (мед, “med”) which is said to represent good fortune or the spirit of Christ.
Based on how often мед comes up in Duolingo’s Ukrainian lessons, it’s a word that’s just as important as borscht.
The poppy seeds (мак, “mak”) represent fertility. On the solstice/Christmas Eve, there was a tradition of scattering poppy seed around your yard to ward off evil spirits. If you want to do that and make this recipe, the quantity needed here makes it most practical to buy your poppy seeds in a bulk store. The combination of мед i мак is amazing.
There are some myths that the head of the household takes the bowl of kutia and throws a spoonful onto the ceiling – the more that sticks, the better the harvest to come.
No one does that.
While wheat is central to everything Ukrainian, there must be some Ukrainian oat farmers out there? So, here’s my “traditional” version of kutia using oats.
Looking for more traditional gluten-based kutia?
I started out by rinsing the oats.
I put 1 ½ cups of oat groats into the Instant Pot along with 2 cups of water. Added a bit of olive oil. I set that to cook on High Pressure for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, I boiled water in a kettle and poured it over ¾ cup of poppy seeds. This “scalds” the poppy seeds and causes them to swell slightly.
After about 10 minutes, the water turns milky and the poppy seeds are softened slightly. Drain and discard the water.
Then, you need to grind the poppy seed. I’m using a food grinder (mostly used for making nut butters). If you don’t have one, mix together the honey with the poppy seeds and blend it.
This happened to be the 1500th time I’ve used my blender. The poppy seeds will have a milky liquid.
Let the pressure come down naturally. Start to finish, the pressurization, cooking and depressurization will be about 50 minutes.
Combine the poppy seeds with 1 cup of honey, ½ cup of toasted slivered almonds and the cooked oat groats.
How long does the traditional recipe take? There’s still the manual labour stays the same but…
- Soaking the wheat overnight now not necessary
- Boiling: over 3 hours cooking the wheat on the stove now 50 minutes in the Instant Pot
Serves: 8 servings
- 1 ½ cups oat groats
- 2 cups water
- ½ teaspoon olive oil
- 1 cup honey
- ¾ cup poppy seeds
- ½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
- Rinse 1 ½ cups oat groats
- Add the oat groats to the Instant Pot with 2 cups water and ½ teaspoon olive oil. Seal and cook at High Pressure for 20 minutes. Wait for the pressure to come down naturally - about 50 minutes.
- Scald ¾ cup poppy seeds with boiling water, enough to cover. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes.
- Grind poppy seeds in a food grinder.
- Combine 1 cup honey, ½ cup toasted slivered almonds and cooked oat groats.