And chefs and home cooks are coming together to #CookForUkraine, too.
From the same team who launched #CookForSyria and #BakeForBeirut during earlier conflicts, this latest effort is seeing chefs, food writers, restaurants, hotels and bars joining forces to raise money for Unicef UK’s Ukraine appeal, with all proceeds going towards children and families caught up in the conflict.
“I don’t want people to get stuck in the headlines and to lose sight of the human beings behind this story,” says food writer Olia Hercules who is one of the chefs leading the campaign, and whose family are still in Ukraine. “And what’s more human than people getting together and sharing food?”
Hercules, 38, who has written three cookbooks drawing on the diverse cuisine of her native country, wants the campaign to raise money, but also awareness.
“Ukraine is such a fascinating country that not everybody knew about before this, full of rolling fields and people who love to cook the recipes their grandparents taught them,” she says.
“But it is absolutely urgent that we act now, before too much is lost. What they are experiencing is a tragedy – please help us!”.
More than 50 hospitality businesses around London alone have pledged their support, including the Big Mamma Group, Blacklock, Kol, Soho House, St. John, Ottolenghi, Homeslice, Petersham Nurseries, Sabor and Fallow – with £40,000 already raised for the Unicef fund.
Some of these restaurants are donating a portion of of their guests’ bills to fundraising efforts, while others are adding a Ukrainian dish or cocktail to their menus. The campaign also wants to collect Ukrainian recipes and stories.
Members of the public are being encouraged to hold fundraisers of their own – from supper clubs to bake sales – and to cook a Ukrainian dish at home. You can share a picture or recipe with the hashtag #CookForUkraine, and donate any money raised to the campaign’s JustGiving age.
Co-founder and food writer Alissa Timoshkina says the #CookForUkraine idea came when she met up with her friend Hercules at a protest for the crisis.
“I know her family very well and they’re in Ukraine right now. Though she was distressed, she also had so much courage and strength,” Timoshkina says. “She said she wanted to do lots campaigning and lots of charity dinners and I said, well, let’s join forces”
Timoshkina is a quarter Ukrainian and described Ukrainian food as “wonderfully hearty and nourishing at the same time”.
“In the summer, it’s full of fresh fruits and vegetables and fresh herbs. Whereas of course, autumn and winter, you get the most fantastic comfort foods, like stews and dumplings and rich soups,” she says.
Her favourite dishes are holubtsi, or stuffed cabbage rolls, and borscht, which is a soup. Timoshkina was raised primarily by her great- grandmother, a Ukrainian Jew, until she was eight. She has fond memories of them cooking together.
“I remember her making an Easter bread,” she tells HuffPost UK.“She would work with the dough and bake lovely, beautiful cakes, that are then glazed and decorated on top. They almost look like church domes. I think that’s probably one of my most magical and beautiful memories of her cooking Ukrainian food.”
There’s a wealth of gorgeous recipes on the campaign’s JustGiving page or if you’d like to get started with #CookForUkraine immediately, here is a recipe for delicious Biskvit to follow from Olia Hercules.
Olia Hercules’ Biskvit (Ukrainian Apple Cake)
200g caster sugar
200g plain flour
1 tsp cinnamon
4 green apples, cored and thinly sliced
Icing sugar to serve
1) Butter a 22cm cake tin with a removable base.
2) Beat the eggs and sugar until very fluffy. There is no raising agent in this cake so the amount of air you beat into it is essential.
3) Gently fold in the flour and cinnamon.
4) Place the apples at the bottom of the cake tin and pour in the cake batter. Cook for 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
5) Dust with some icing sugar and serve.