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Celebrity chef Steven Saunders’ new column: Dining for Ukraine - and my recipe for Chicken Kyiv



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In a new fortnightly column, celebrity chef Steven Saunders, of The Willow Tree in Bourn, shares his stories and a recipe with us. This week, he discusses visiting the Ukrainian Embassy in Warsaw and attends a London hospitality event that helped to raise £200,000 for Ukraine.

Steven Saunders at the Willow Tree, Bourn. Picture: Keith Heppell
Steven Saunders at the Willow Tree, Bourn. Picture: Keith Heppell

Welcome to my little column. I will be here regularly, sharing with you my personal stories and my food passions, including what is seasonal, what’s on trend, what’s in and what’s out. I am delighted to help steer you towards homemade recipes that will be easy to prepare at home.

On a personal note, last year was a very difficult year for me. I lost my restaurants in Spain, my marriage and my home in Covid times.

However, it has made me stronger and more determined to help people especially in times of trouble. I know that we all want to help Ukraine in some way. On May 12, we are holding our own fundraising event, Dine4Ukraine, at The Willow Tree in Bourn. Tickets are now available via Eventbrite (bit.ly/3rpIGrQ) or email us at the address below.

All event profits will be donated to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) operating in Ukraine. Our target is to raise £20,000 for Ukraine. It would be wonderful to see you there at this major Cambridgeshire fundraiser.

My business partner Shaina and I recently came up with a simple solution to support war-torn refugees of Ukraine.

Steven Saunders at the Willow Tree, Bourn, with owner Shaina Galvin planning The Odessa Project to help refugees from Ukraine find jobs and new homes in the UK within the hospitality industry. Picture: Keith Heppell
Steven Saunders at the Willow Tree, Bourn, with owner Shaina Galvin planning The Odessa Project to help refugees from Ukraine find jobs and new homes in the UK within the hospitality industry. Picture: Keith Heppell

We call it The Odessa Project, a scheme to bring safe homes with secure and well-paid jobs in hospitality to displaced Ukrainians.

The hospitality industry, national and local media, and more importantly Ukrainian people themselves have embraced the project with open arms because, unlike the government’s scheme, this one is safe because hotels and restaurants have HR teams who will protect them and offer welfare. People’s private homes cannot provide that.

Recently, I visited Poland and met with the Ukrainian Embassy and last week we attended a huge event in London at The Grosvenor House sponsored by industry leaders, to be part of raising around £200,000 for Ukraine.

While in Warsaw, I visited central bus stations and train stations where a lot of the refugees are living. Tragically, so many have lost their homes and loved ones.

It was crucial to be on the ground to understand what they’re going through and how we can best support them.

Steven Saunders with author and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth at a Ukraine fundraiser at The Grosvenor House London
Steven Saunders with author and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth at a Ukraine fundraiser at The Grosvenor House London

The best contribution I feel we can ultimately make at present, beyond our fundraising, is to put continued pressure on the government to improve and open the visa process to offer homes and jobs together as an approved route into the UK.

We have more than 2,000 UK hospitality sponsors, ready now, who would like to be matched with displaced Ukrainians looking for a new life and a promise of more than short-term ‘charity’ and state benefits. They repeatedly emphasised to me that would be their preference.

Back at home, this weekend I am cooking for my girlfriend. She doesn’t eat much, and she doesn’t eat red meat, so what better dish than the national dish of Ukraine, Chicken Kyiv. This homemade version is really something special and relatively simple. I hope you will try this fantastic recipe and fly the flag for Ukraine. It would be wonderful to see you posting pictures of your own Kyiv on social media – I will be watching!

I’m back in two weeks, where I will be sharing some of my award-winning tapas recipes.

Recipe: Chicken Kyiv

Steven Saunders' Chicken Kyiv
Steven Saunders' Chicken Kyiv

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts, skinless
  • 100g of plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 200g of (gluten free) Panko breadcrumbs
  • Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • Tender stem broccoli (or asparagus) to garnish
  • A little chicken stock gravy to finish
  • Pea shoots and garlic cress to garnish

For the filling

8 cloves of garlic peeled, chopped and minced

150g of unsalted butter

100g of plain flour

Some chopped herbs - parsley or even tarragon

Method

 For the filling, which can be made in advance, melt the unsalted butter in a saucepan and add the garlic into it. Cook for two minutes, then add the flour and cook out for a further two minutes and add the herbs. Continue to cook until thickened.

 Cool the mix then roll the butter into a long log on a sheet of cling film and then wrap tightly. Place in the freezer.

 While the butter sets hard, butterfly the chicken breasts. Place each breast between 2 sheets of cling film and hit gently with a rolling pin until even. Put in the fridge until needed.

 Once the butter has frozen, unwrap it and cut into 4 equal portions. Put the butter into the middle of each chicken breast, then roll the meat around it evenly, so that it cooks perfectly.

 Heat your deep-fat fryer to 190°C and preheat an oven to 180°C.

 Dip the chicken in flour, then the beaten egg, then the gluten free breadcrumbs. Repeat this process twice to ensure they are strong enough to hold the garlic butter inside.

 Deep-fry the chicken two at a time for three minutes, until the breadcrumbs turn golden brown, then transfer to the oven and finish cooking for a further 10 minutes.

 Serve the Kyiv whole to each guest on a little mashed potato and a drizzle of sauce made like a gravy from chicken stock.

 Garnish with pea shoots and garlic cress (as per picture). Enjoy!

Read more

Chef Steven Saunders and The Willow Tree owner work on campaign to help Ukrainian refugees



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