I tend to post a lot of hutsul or Carpathian cuisine on this blog. Mainly because I adore my frequent trips to the Ukrainian Carpathians no matter the season. Whether coming back from a day of skiing at Bukovel, or some autumn mushroom hunting, nothing warms you up quite like an authentic Hutsul banush.
Banush, also spelt banosh, is a type of savory porridge made from corn meal. It is similar in that way to Italian polenta, or even American southern-style grits. However the Ukrainian Hutsul version is, in my opinion, quite a bit simpler in terms of skill.
One of my favorite things about traditional Ukrainian recipes is the focus on easy to get ingredients. For example this dish only needs 5 (sometimes 6) ingredients and all are quite easy to find, at least here in Ukraine.
What Is Banush?
Banush is a simple dish of cornmeal simmered in dairy such as sour cream or milk. It is topped with fried salo (cured pork fat) and bryndza, a salty sheep’s cheese popular in the Carpathian mountains.
The traditional dairy used to cook banush is called smetana, which is a very rich, high fat sour cream popular in Eastern and Central Europe. It is a bit similar to creme fraiche.
How To Make A Traditional Hutsul Banush
The ingredients for a traditional banush are quite common, and cheap to get. At my local grocery I can get all the ingredients to make enough banush for 8 people for about $10. That makes this recipe perfect for large groups, especially when camping.
200 grams Cornmeal – make sure not to get corn flour, as it is too fine. If you have bought cornmeal for grits or polenta then that is what you need.
350 ml Smetana – or another high fat sour cream. You want the fat to be 20% or higher.
250 ml Heavy Cream – this ingredient is considered optional, many people will just use only Smetana (in that case use 600 ml total of just Smetana). I like to mix them as I find the final dish can sometimes be too tangy with the sour cream and salty sheep’s cheese.
250 grams Salo – you can of course use more if you want. It is a topping so be as generous with it as you wish. If you cannot find salo you can substitute with bacon or lardons.
Bryndza – to taste. I just crumble some cheese over the final dish so use as much as you like. It is quite salty, similar to a Feta.
Salt – to taste. I recommend using very little salt if any (maybe around 1/4 tsp) for the entire dish, because both the salo and bryndza are salty and you don’t want the final banush to be too salty to eat.
The first thing to do when making banush is to prepare the topping. Since the final dish is served hot and fresh, you don’t want it sitting around while you make the fried pork fat, so do that first. Just slice your salo into large chunks.
Add the fat pieces to a pan on medium heat and cook until the fat renders and begins to fry. You want the final fried bits to be somewhere between golden brown to black (depending on how ‘burnt’ you like your cracklings).
In a pot begin heating the smetana (or smetana + heavy cream mix). Stir it with a wooden spoon so it is fully combined.
Stir the liquid constantly while slowly pouring in the cornmeal. You do not want the cornmeal to clump so it’s important to stir non-stop while trickling in the dry cornmeal. Once everything is combined, stir slowly for about 15 minutes until the banush is cooked. You know it is done when the mass of porridge no longer sticks to the side of the pot when you stir.
If you find the banush getting too thick before it is fully cooked, stir in some water a tablespoon at a time to thin it out. It can sometimes be hard to measure if you used the right amount of liquid since the fat content of a sour cream and heavy cream ratio is ever changing based on passed down recipes.
Spoon the finished Hutsul banush into a traditional clay bowl (or any bowl you like) and top with the fried pork fat and some crumbled bryndza. Serve and eat as soon as it is plated because that is definitely when it tastes the best!
Some people prefer to top their banush with fried mushrooms instead of pork fat. You can do this as well, or use both pork fat and fried mushrooms! The most popular mushroom used is porcini, which is also in my Carpathian mushroom soup!
- 1 Pan | to cook the pork fat
- 1 Pot | to cook the banush
- 200 grams Cornmeal make sure not to get corn flour as it is too fine. If you have bought cornmeal for grits or polenta then that is what you need.
- 350 ml Smetana or another high fat sour cream. You want the fat to be 20% or higher.
- 250 ml Heavy Cream this ingredient is considered optional many people will just use only Smetana (in that case use 600 ml total of just Smetana). I like to mix them as I find the final dish can sometimes be too tangy with the sour cream and salty sheep's cheese.
- 250 grams Salo you can of course use more if you want. It is a topping so be as generous with it as you wish. If you cannot find salo you can substitute with bacon or lardons.
- Bryndza to taste. I just crumble some cheese over the final dish so use as much as you like. It is quite salty similar to a Feta.
- Salt to taste. I recommend using very little salt if any maybe around 1/4 tsp for the entire dish, because both the salo and bryndza are salty and you don't want the final banush to be too salty to eat.
- Begin by cutting your pork fat into large chunks. Add them to a pan on medium heat and fry them until the fat renders and what's left is golden brown. Remove and set aside.
- Add the liquid to a pot and bring to a simmer. Slowly trickle in the cornmeal while stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until the mass detaches from the sides of the pot when you stir. If it is too thick, add some water a tablespoon at a time to thin it out.
- Scoop the banush into a bowl and top with the fried salo and crumbled bryndza cheese. Enjoy!
Traditional Ukrainian Banush / Banosh
Popular Ukrainian Recipes
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