Say hello to the kurnik (a mighty fine pie)
This fine pie, ladies and gents, is called a kurnik. It’s a celebratory pie with roots in Russia and Ukraine, often served at weddings and festivals. This magnificent pie is a labour of love, layered with mushrooms, chicken, rice and chopped hard-boiled eggs, flavoured with fresh parsley and tarragon and held together with a velvety bechamel. Yes, it’s gorgeous.
It was sent to me by the talented food writer and cook (and my former food and drink writing student!) Katrina Kollegaeva, one half of the team at ’boutique caterers’ Rosehip + Rye, based in London. Katrina grew up in Estonia; her mother was from Ukraine and her father from Crimea.
Katrina tells me: “Kurniks were baked in many parts of Russia and Ukraine since the 17th century. Some say that the roots of kurnik pies go back to 11–12th century, but Olga Syutkina (a wonderful food historian based in Moscow) says that there is no mention of a kurnik until the 17th century. She explains that this late mention makes sense because chicken was rarely eaten in Russia or Ukraine until then. Until the 17–18th century, it was mainly the eggs that were used, not the meat.”
The kurnik is a pie that’s full of symbolism: “Eggs and chicken and rice are all, of course, symbols of fertility.” Hence their popularity at weddings.
If you want to have a taste of this prodigious pie (you really do!), you can order one from @rosehipandrye (£45 plus delivery).