Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Eternal memory, Nicollo Neri.

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the work of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. –1 Thessalonians 4:13-17

On Saturday, friends of ours lost their sweet baby boy during labor.  Words cannot express our sadness for their loss.  I thought I would post the Kutia recipe that so often accompanies the panikhĂ­da (memorial service).

Kutia is a sweetened grain pudding (usually either wheat berries or rice or less commonly barley) that is commonly served at Eastern Orthodox funerals.  If you are newly (or not so newly) Orthodox or Byzantine Catholic and you would like to contribute in an unintrusive, but meaningful way volunteering to make the kutia is almost always welcome and appreciated.

By learning to make kutia, you are learning to establish a tradition of active memory.  It is important to remember and pray for those who have passed on to keep their memory alive and to help us heal.  As Orthodox Christians, we believe that intercessions on behalf of the dead are possible through the fervent prayers of those remaining on earth.  We are a church made up of both the living and the dead.  The most commonly observed memorials are the 40th day and the first year anniversary.  The departed may also be remembered during the scheduled Soul Saturdays throughout the church calendar. 

Kutia is also the first dish of the traditional twelve course meal of the Holy Supper on Christmas Eve.

There are several good recipes for the wheat version, often called  koliva.  I am posting my recipe because I have had such difficulty in finding a good rice version.   You can also sprinkle the top with powdered sugar.  This dish represents the tomb.  So when you are decorating the surface keep this in mind.  

Kutia Recipe

  • 2 cups of good white rice
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 7 whole cloves
  • finely grated lemon zest
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins plus a handful for decoration
  • 1/2 cup good Riesling white wine
  • 1/2 cup blanched almonds
  • 1/4 cup white sesame seeds, plus more for decoration
  • 1 beeswax taper *

In a small sauce pan add raisins, wine, lemon and honey.  Bring to a boil, cover, and remove from heat. Set aside.

Cook the rice, cinnamon stick, cloves, and star anise in 3 cups of water and a pinch of salt.  Bring the water to a boil and reduce to low.  Cover and cook for 30 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Gently fluff with a fork and remove whole spices.  Add the raisin-wine mixture and combine gently, but thoroughly. Stir in the sesame seeds and lemon zest.

Turn the rice out into a beautiful serving bowl and smooth the top.  Slice the blanched almonds half-wise into ovals and line the edge of the bowl with the almonds.  Slice more almond lengthwise and form a cross.  Use the reserved raisins to make flowers in the four vacant quadrants.  Use the sesame seeds to fill in the arms of the cross.  Place the taper in the center.  Take the kutia to Church and give it to the priest to bless.  

*it is important to use a beeswax taper because it is food safe

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