One day I will write “The Bessarabian cookbook”. Do you know where Bessarabia is? It’s a historical region in Eastern Europe between the Danube and the Dniester rivers, located both in the South of modern Ukraine and Moldova. Bessarabia was a kind of melting pot of many nations and in their culinary traditions, you can see and taste influence of not only Ukrainian and Moldavian cuisines but also Turkish, Balkan and Greek cuisines there. My native Odessa is not located directly in Bessarabia (well, it’s just around 40km from the place where the Dniester meets the Black sea) but being the biggest city in Ukrainian South it has a lot of Bessarabian people living there. That’s why you can find many Bessarabian staple dishes in Odessa restaurants and that’s why I know how to cook them – I’ve just got used to them since my childhood.
Here is one of classical autumn dishes from that region, it’s called vertuta and it’s phyllo pasty roll of spiral with different fillings. I will share a recipe with a pumpkin and apple filling. I baked it with “ready to use” puff pastry which is closest to phyllo pasty.
(makes 4 spirals)
1 package of puff pastry (500g)
400g butternut squash or hokkaido pumpkin
2 middle sized apples
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbs brown sugar
black pepper (no joke!)
Butter (or sunflower oil)
- Pill and remove seeds from a pumpkin. Original technique recommends to grate the pumpkin, but I’m always trying to avoid this process so I just bland it on blander to almost minced pieces.
- Do the same with apples, pill, remove seeds, bland it.
- Mix apples and pumpkin and stew together in a pan with melted butter or sunflower oil on a medium hit until it becomes soft.
- Add sugar and pinch of black pepper, stir properly and set aside.
- Roll out puff pastry into rectangle and then into 4 stripes. Put the filling on the center of each stripe, press down firmly to seal edges. You can make it properly with a folk.
- Roll up the dough into spiral.
- Brush your spirals with some of an egg mixture, spread sesame seeds over the spirals and bake in the oven preheated to 185C for 40 minutes.
Tip – you can make this vertutas with any filling you like: apples, mushrooms and potatoes, cabbage.