A taste of Ukraine

Recreate these easy, inexpensive and delicious recipes from a Ukrainian Family with local ties. 

Gene Laykish is shown wearing a World Cup scarf and waving the now-familiar Ukrainian flag. The blue and the yellow represent the country’s role as Europe’s breadbasket. Blue denotes the skies over the vast land, while yellow stands for the grain growing in the huge wheatfields beneath.

LOCAL Life reader Gene Laykish is a Ukrainian-Canadian who spent many winters on Hilton Head playing golf and tennis and overindulging with friends and family. He loves the recipes in LOCAL Life and shared two Ukrainian family favorites for this International Issue. Gene’s parents, Stephan and Pauline Laykish, emigrated from Lviv, Ukraine, to Canada in the 1920s and worked hard to build a family in a new country. As new immigrants they didn’t speak English and had to work hard for every penny. Fortunately, Canada had the ingredients for their traditional Ukrainian food, and luckily Ukrainian food is not expensive to prepare – flour, potatoes, beets and cabbage. There is truth in the expression “Cheap like Borscht.” 

Baba Pauline Laykish’s Cabbage Rolls


1 head cabbage

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

1 onion

1 bunch fresh parsley

2 eggs

1 15-ounce jar tomato sauce

2 cans diced tomatoes

1/2 cup beef stock

1/2 cup uncooked rice

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions [1] Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Boil water in a large pot. Peel off the first two cabbage leaves, then add the entire head of cabbage and boil for about 10-15 minutes until softened. Drain and rinse with cold water. Remove the thick veins from each leaf so it’s easier to roll. [2] While the cabbage is boiling, dice the onion and chop the parsley. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, eggs, chopped parsley, cayenne pepper, onion, and uncooked rice. Season with salt and pepper.[3] Stuff each leaf with the beef and rice filling. Tuck the ends in a roll. You can use toothpicks if desired to keep them tight. [4] To prepare the sauce, in a pan on medium heat, combine the beef stock, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 3 minutes. [5] Line a dutch oven or a dish with uncooked outer leaves. Stack the cabbage rolls on the leaves and pour the tomato sauce over them. [6] Bake covered for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the lid and bake for another 30 minutes or until tender.

Not-so-secret ingredient

“The best part about Ukrainian food is the sour cream,” Gene Laykish said. “We add it to cabbage rolls, pierogis and even add a dollop to Borscht.”

Pro Tip: Pickled herring is a popular and easy appetizer or side dish, and it pairs with sour cream as well.

Baba Pauline Laykish’s Borscht


2 tablespoons olive oil

4 red beets ½ inch diced (approx 1 ½ pound)

2 carrots ½ inch diced

1 large russet potato peeled and ½ inch diced

½ small green cabbage, shaved

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups vegetable broth

4 cups beef broth

2 tablespoons dill fresh, minced

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions [1] Add olive oil to a large soup pot and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add in the beets, carrots, potatoes, and cabbage. Stir to combine. [2] Cook for 10 minutes to slightly soften the vegetables. [3] Add in the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. [4] Pour in the beef and the vegetable broth and add the bay leaf. Simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the beets and carrots are tender. [5] Discard bay leaf. Stir in the fresh dill, lemon juice, and lemon zest—taste and season with the desired amount of kosher salt and black pepper.

Ukraine Relief Fund

Donate to the Ukraine Relief Fund, a fund administered by the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry. The fund was established to provide support for organizations assisting with relief efforts in Ukraine. Proceeds from the Hilton Head for Ukraine Benefit, held on May 22 at Lowcountry Celebration Park, went to the fund.

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