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Recipe: Kutya

This sweet porridge, served for centuries on Christmas Eve, is eaten by all guests and family members from a single bowl to symbolize unity. In keeping with tradition, some families throw a spoonful of kutya up to the ceiling. If it sticks, a plentiful honey harvest is said to be in store.

1 cup whole wheat berries
4 cups milk, with extra as needed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup honey
1 cup poppy seeds, ground in a coffee grinder or food processor
Ground cinnamon


  1. Place the wheat berries in a medium bowl and add water to cover. Cover with plastic wrap and soak overnight. Drain.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat the wheat berries, milk, and salt and simmer until berries are tender, about 2 hours. Check occasionally to make sure there’s ample liquid in the pan. Add more milk, if needed. Remove the berries from the heat, drain, and place in a large bowl.
  3. In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the honey; then stir in the ground poppy seeds. Remove from the heat.
  4. Preheat the oven to 325˚. Stir the honey poppy-seed mixture into the wheat berries, and add 1/2–3/4 cup boiling water. The mixture should be slightly soupy. Place the mixture in an ovenproof casserole and bake, uncovered, 20 minutes.
  5. Remove the casserole to a cooling rack, and let stand 15 minutes. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon. Serve warm or chilled.
Variation: Stir 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots, raisins, or toasted slivered almonds—or all of them—into the wheat-berry mixture just before baking. Serves 6.

Recipe from CHRISTMAS IN RUSSIA—Christmas Around the World, from World Book. (c) 2001 World Book, Inc. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

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