Chicken for Kyiv: a worthy weekend project

Chicken Kyiv, or chicken Kiev in another era, is a 1960s dinner party favorite that is back on the menu. Though to be fair, it never left the supermarket shelves, where it has been an enduring success. Tender chicken breast meat is stuffed with a mixture of butter and garlic, coated in breadcrumbs and baked in the oven, or fried, until crisp on the ouside and melting within.

London-based Ukrainian chef and food writer Olia Hercules, whose family are still in the war-torn country, and her Russian friend, Alissa Timoshkina, also a food writer living in the UK, recently launched a social media campaign #CookForUkraine that has already raised more than £121,000. The initiative aims to raise awareness of the unfolding humanitarian crisis, as well as much needed cash.

Supporters have been cooking and sharing Ukrainian dishes and donating to the initiative’s JustGiving.com fundraising page, where you’ll also find a selection of recipes for authentic Ukrainian dishes such as borscht, stuffed cabbage leaves, dumplings and apple cake.

Chicken Kyiv may have disputed origins, there are French and Russian influences as well as Ukrainian connections, but it resonates strongly with the war-torn country. The UK supermarket chain Sainsburys no longer sells it as Kiev, and in Dublin, the Fallon & Byrne gourmet shop is donating all profits from the sale of its chicken Kyiv for the month of March to the Irish Red Cross’s humanitarian work in the region.

With the wild garlic season in Ireland now well underway, a weekend project combining a little light foraging and some kitchen handiwork could be a therapeutic as well as effective way to show support. Gather a gang, cook up a pungently decadent tribute, and contribute whatever and wherever you can.

The traditional version

Writing for The Irish Times Magazine, Domini Kemp created this luxurious but easy version of chicken stuffed with butter, herbs and garlic. She uses basil and flatleaf parsley, but you can replace those with wild garlic leaves, for a double allium effect.

Chicken Kyiv

Serves two

Ingredients
100g butter, softened
Handful basil leaves
Handful flat leaf parsley
1 tbsp toasted pine nuts
1 tbsp grated Parmesan
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
Salt and pepper
2 large chicken breasts, skinless
Crump coating:
100g breadcrumbs
30g grated Parmesan
1 egg
2 tbsp flour
Big knob butter
Sunflower oil

Method

1 In a food processor, whiz the butter, herbs, pine nuts, Parmesan and garlic with plenty of salt and pepper until smooth. Wrap this flavored butter in cling film, roll it into a sausage shape and chill it until it is very cold. This amount makes lots of butter – more than you need for this recipe but it’s awkward to whiz less butter, and you can freeze what you don’t need.

2 When the butter is good and cold, make a horizontal slit in the chicken and stuff it with a good amount of butter. Close it up as well as you can. Wash your hands really well. Chill the breasts down till you are ready to finish cooking. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees/gas three.

3 Mix the breadcrumbs and Parmesan together and season well. Spread this out on a plate. Have the egg beaten and ready in a bowl and, on a second plate, spread out the flour and season it very thoroughly.

4 Dunk the chicken as follows: flour, egg, flour, egg, breadcrumb. Once you have coated all of the chicken, chill it again for 30 minutes.

5 Shallow fry the chicken in a large, non-stick saucepan in the knob of butter and sunflower oil. When the chicken is golden brown on both sides, transfer it to the oven and bake for seven to 10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Serve with an extra knob of the garlic and herb butter on top.

Try it with fish

For pesctorians, a version can be made with haddock, hake or any firm fleshed white fish. Irish Times Magazine columnist and chef JP McMahon delves into the dish’s background, and has a recipe for hake stuffed with wild garlic butter, here.

Fish maestro and restaurateur Niall Sabongi, of Sustainable Seafood Ireland, The Seafood Cafe and Saltwater Grocery in Dublin, created a sensation with his haddock stuffed with garlic butter, sold from his Salty Buoy food truck. Here’s how to make it:

Fish-tail Kyiv

Serves four

Ingredients
4 haddock tails, or cod, or whiting, or any fish really as suits them all. Have your fish monger cut you just the tail section below the rib cage, this way you will only have one long center bone to remove. You can also ask them to butterfly the tail to remove the bone for you. Ask for the fish to be scaled).
150g plain flour
4 eggs lightly whisked
180g panko breadcrumbs
2 liters veg oil for cooking
Mayo spiked with lemon juice
Lemon half
For the garlic butter:
60g softened butter
Handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
4 garlic cloves, smashed with salt
1 tbsp Parmesan

Method

1 For the butter, combine all the ingredients, roll in some foil or parchment and freeze it, so you can cut into long barrels.

2 Fill the cavity of the fish, where the bone was, with the garlic butter and fold over, secure with two wooden toothpicks.

3 Season the outside of the fish, then lightly flour it, roll in the egg and then in the breadcrumbs. You can repeat the egg and breadcrumbs to get a better covering if you like.

4 Chill the fish for 15 minutes.

5 Heat the oil in large pan to about 180 degrees. Fry the fish one at a time for about three minutes, or until browned and cooked through, and drain on some kitchen paper. Remove toothpicks before serving.

6 Serve with creamy mash or chips and big crisp salad. Personally I love a big dollop of home-made lemon mayo on the side of this dish.