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Ukrainian PagachIn the March chapter of Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries, he notes that the 19th was the first day warm enough to eat outdoors. The year before, his first outdoor meal was on the 13th. Reading over the passage last weekend, I looked out at the patches of snow still blanketing the yard and figured that, this year at least, I was not going to be able to follow his example.

A Slice of PagachThis semester, I’ve been taking a German class at Temple University. Every Tuesday, my sister comes into Philadelphia to meet me on campus, and then we go out to lunch together. Our outings have mainly consisted of visits to the nearby Cosi, where we order cups of soup with flatbread baked in the restaurant’s hearth oven. Just the sight of the bright flames inside the oven cheers up a bitter winter day.

Grated CheddarThis Tuesday was different. The air was balmy and the sun was shining. We still wore jackets, but there was not a hat or glove to be seen anywhere on campus. Instead of scurrying as fast as we could to the Cosi, we wandered along the rows of food trunks (a wonderful feature of Temple’s campus) and decided to get our meal from the crepe truck. Then we ate them, sitting side-by-side on a bench. Outside.

The weather is supposed to turn cold again tonight. The last few hummocks of snow are still blighting the landscape, hideous icy mounds crusted with black grime. But I know spring is here at last.

Cabbage and Potatoes for PagachTo me, the arrival of spring signifies the approach of Easter, with the six weeks of the Lenten season covering the fickle passage of the seasons: the first weeks might be cold and snowy, but the last belong firmly to spring.

Saute the CabbageIt’s a refreshing, invigorating time of year. Inspiring. Just the right time to get into the kitchen and experiment with some new recipes.

Mash the PotatoesMy latest find is this Ukrainian pagach, a dish traditionally served during Lent. Back in the days when strict fasting was required, it served as a hearty, but meatless, main dish. Technically, it should also be made without dairy products, but I took the liberty of substituting butter instead of oil, and I couldn’t resist the recipe’s suggestion to add some grated cheese to the potato filling “if not fasting.” I had bought some deliciously sharp Cheddar at my local market, and I couldn’t wait to use it.

Filling the pagach Ready for the top crustPagach is simply two rounds of bread dough sandwiched around a filling and then baked. The recipe I used had instructions for either a potato or a cabbage filling, to which I immediately replied, “Why not both?”

Covering the pagachCrimp the edgesIt was perfectly delicious. And the process of crimping the dough and making a decorative pattern of steam vents on the top is glorious fun. It is so pleasant to be able to make food look beautiful as well as taste good.

Scoring the top of the pagachHot from the ovenTo serve the pagach, you can either eat it warm, with a fork and knife; or you can let it cool before slicing it into wedges, which you can then pick up and eat like slices of pizza. If you choose to eat it the latter way, this dish makes a very good on-the-run supper dish. It would also serve admirably as a picnic food—eaten outside, naturally.

Cutting the pagachShop Local MosaicSince I used a local cheddar in the pagach, I am submitting it to the Shop Local challenge hosted by Elizabeth over at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary . . . which is now a blog hop! You can join by clicking on the link below.

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AlphaBakes LogoIt is also my contribution to this month’s Alphabakes challenge, which is hosted by Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline of Caroline Makes. We have reached the end of the alphabet now, and Ros is hosting the final letter, which is “U.” I immediately knew that I would either be trying a Ukrainian or Ugandan recipe, and the pagach won out. Although I did see a very interesting recipe for Ugandan peanut soup, which I shall have to try sometime . . .

Serving the pagach A Bite of PagachUkrainian Pagach

Adapted from easteuropeanfood.com


 For the dough:
1 ¼ cups lukewarm water
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 ½ tablespoons melted butter or oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
For the potato filling:
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into even chunks
½ cup grated Cheddar cheese, optional
Salt and pepper to taste
For the cabbage filling:
½ lb. cabbage, finely chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or oil
Salt to taste


  1. Dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup of the lukewarm water with a pinch of sugar, and let stand until bubbly.
  2. Whisk the sugar and melted butter or oil into the remaining cup of water. Set aside.
  3. Place the flour and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  4. On low speed, mix in the sugar-water mixture and the yeast.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until satiny and elastic, about 10 minutes. (Or you can switch the paddle for the dough hook attachment and knead the dough in the mixer for about 7 minutes, but that’s no fun.)
  6. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and set aside to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  7. While the dough is rising, prepare the fillings.
  8. For the potato filling, place the chopped potatoes in a saucepan and cover them with cold, salted water. Bring to a boil and then simmer until tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain and mash. You should have about two cups of mashed potatoes. Mix in the cheddar and season well with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.
  9. For the cabbage filling, melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the cabbage and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender, 12-18 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely.
  10. Once the dough is doubled in size, punch it down and divide it into two equal pieces. Cover them and let them rest for 15 minutes.
  11. Line a large baking sheet or pizza pan with parchment paper.
  12. Take one piece of the dough and place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll out into a 12-inch circle.
  13. Place the circle of dough on the lined pan. Do not, like I did, assemble your pagach on the counter and then have to transfer it, gingerly, to the prepared pan. Thanks to some teamwork from my brother, I managed to do it without destroying its appearance, but the process was nerve-wracking.
  14. Spread the potato filling over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Sprinkle the cabbage filling evenly over potato filling.
  15. Roll out the second piece of dough into a 12-inch circle as well. Lift it up and carefully arrange it over the fillings.
  16. Press the edges of the top and bottom crusts together and crimp them to seal. Use the tip of a sharp knife to prick a decorative pattern of steam vents in the top of the pagach.
  17. Cover and set aside to rise for another 30 minutes.
  18. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  19. Place the pagach in the oven and bake until both the top and bottom crusts are deep gold, 25-30 minutes.
  20. Use the parchment to help you slide the pagach off the pan onto a wire rack. Let cool slightly.

Yield: 6-8 servings, depending on what else you serve with it