Here’s a Canadian interpretation of kutia [koo-tcha], also spelled kutya. Using a traditional recipe but adding some maple flavour, this kutya is really easy in the Instant Pot. Plus, it saves so much time when you’re busy getting other 11 dishes of your Christmas Eve dinner together.
Just a reminder that I’m too lazy to sell anything or run an ad-filled, affiliate-monetized food blog. These are just plain links to the products I used.
I got some red spring wheat berries grown by Will Robbins of Laura, Saskatchewan. Will’s face is on the box. They’re quite nice wheat berries – slightly smaller than bulk wheat berries I’ve used before.
Inspired by one of Olia Hercules’ recipes in Summer Kitchens, I decided to try something different this year. Her recipe for Sweet Christmas Porridge uses birch water for soaking dried fruit. I decided to use maple water for cooking the wheat. I found Maple 3 water – essentially sap.
I’m not sure it made that big a difference to the flavour. You could totally use water. I’m interested in trying it for Stewed Fruit for Christmas Eve.
A comparison of three kinds of wheat berries on my shelf. On the left, Flourist’s wheat berries grown by Will in Saskatchewan. They’re smaller than the other two types but also less brown.
In the middle, it’s “red wheat berries” from a bulk bin. They’re more brown (in a dull way) and bigger kernels. On the right, some “white wheat berries” also from a bulk bin.
Kutia is the first dish that is served in the traditional meal served on Christmas Eve. In Ukrainian, the meal is called Sviata Vecheria. The traditions that are part of the meal are a blend of a pagan solstice meal and Christmas meal. It’s said that Ukrainians have been cultivating wheat for 5000 years – Christianity has only been around for a little over 1000 years.
The wheat symbolizes life and poppy seed represents fertility. Honey represents good fortune and, well, sweetness.
When kutia is served, it’s served alone. Every member of the family takes some (some family members take more spoons than others).
Poppy seeds – “mak”
In the other recipes, I’ve soaked (or steeped) the poppy seeds in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Then, I’ve ground them in a food processor.
I tried to see if the poppy seeds would cook at the same time as the wheat. Nope. That didn’t work.
Then I took my coffee/spice grinder, and I ground the dry poppy seeds until they got a little sticky. I think that this is a lot easier. But, if you have a small food processor, you can grind soaked poppy seeds. I just found that it didn’t work as well. This recipe “steeps” the poppy seeds in the cooked wheat instead.
The traditional recipe – without an Instant Pot – takes multiple days.
- Soaking the wheat overnight now not necessary
- Drying/toasting: 15 minutes in the oven still the same
- Boiling: over 3 hours cooking the wheat on the stove now 75 minutes in the Instant Pot
Instant Pot Canadian Kutya/Kutia with maple
- Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker
- Coffee/spice grinder
- Rimmed baking sheet
- 2 cups wheat berries
- 4 cups maple water or plain water
- ½ cup poppy seeds finely ground in a spice grinder
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ¼ cup honey
Toast the wheat
- Preheat your oven to 250°F to 300°F
- Shake the wheat into one layer on a rimmed baking sheet
- Toast the wheat in the oven for about 15 minutes, shake the pan, and toast for another 10-15 minutes. It should smell nutty.
- Add 2 cups of water or maple water to the Instant Pot with the toasted wheat
- Use 60 minutes with the manual setting at High Pressure.
- Do a quick release when the cooking time is up
- Add the poppy seeds to the wheat mixture and stir. Put the lid back on the Instant Pot for 10-15 minutes.
- Add the ½ cup of maple syrup and ¼ cup of honey
- Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve
- If the kutia is too "soupy" when you open up the Instant Pot, drain the wheat in a colander. Reserve the cooking liquid, steep the ground poppy seeds in the cooking liquid, and drain the poppy seeds before adding back to the wheat.
- If you like softer wheat, increase the cooking time to 90 minutes.
- Sweeten with whatever sweet things you like. Brown sugar Splenda also works well here. For maple flavour without added sugar, add maple extract to taste.
It’s Christmas 2020. How are you preparing to celebrate on a smaller scale? I will be making re-heatable Sviata Vecheria packs to share with relatives virtually instead of sharing a meal in person. Ukrainian bento boxes?
Be kind. Be calm. Be safe.