Food & Drink

Feel good food

Recipes created by Olia Hercules showing you how to create extraordinary feel good food with Maldon Salt

Olia Hercules was born in the south of Ukraine in 1984. She left her home town Kakhovka at the age of twelve, when she moved to Cyprus.

After finishing school, she moved to the UK where she studied Italian language and International Relations at the University of Warwick. After spending a year in Italy, Olia settled in London, pursuing a journalistic career after completing her Master’s degree.

Following the financial crisis of 2008, Olia decided to quit her job as a film business reporter to pursue her dream to cook for a living. She trained at the renowned Leiths School of Food and Wine and then worked as a chef de partie in restaurants, including Ottolenghi, and as a recipe developer before landing a book deal for Mamushka, a cookbook that celebrates her family recipes, from Ukraine and Moldova to Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. Mamushka has won the prestigious Fortnum and Mason Award for best debut cookbook 2016. It has been translated into five languages, and to date has sold over 100,000 copies worldwide. Olia was named the Observer Rising Star of 2015.

Her second cookbook is called Kaukasis: a culinary journey through Georgia, Azerbaijan and beyond. It was published on 10 August in the UK and Australia and in October 2017 in the US, Canada, Germany and Poland. Her third cookbook, Summer Kitchen, with Bloomsbury was published in spring 2020.

Olia lives in London with her son Sasha and husband Joe, writing, cooking and feeding her unceasing curiosity by researching food culture and culinary traditions of countries less explored.

Fermented chilli & celeriac

You can use pretty much any vegetable that’s in season, using this brine and method. A pumpkin works well, it is a bit unusual but works beautifully. To speed things along I am dicing the celeriac and also using a splash of a brine from a ripe ferment. This celeriac can be used as a little pickle, a relish or even to cook with.


To peel the celeriac, put it on the surface flat side down and then using a knife slice the skin off. Make sure to get rid of all the skin as it harbours soil and you don’t want that in your pickle! Give the peeled celeriac a wash and then slice into thin strips and then across into small dice.

Heat the water with the salt, to help dissolve it and then let it cool. Put the celeriac into a 1L jar and cover it with the brine, pop in the chilli and cover with a lid.

Leave in your kitchen for about a week, opening the jar lid whenever you remember. The celeriac is ready whenever it becomes slightly sour – taste it. When it tastes good, put it in the fridge to slow down the fermentation process.


(covers 4-6 large pizzas)

• 1 celeriac

7g Maldon salt

500ml water

1 chilli, cut in half lengthways

Layered Savoy cabbage ‘lasagne’

This draws inspiration from Ukrainian cabbage parcels called holubtsi. This is basically a simpler version that does not require you to form parcels. You can use barley or diced potato, but more often than not I have lots of cooked brown rice (we do a batch every Sunday to use for my son’s packed lunch and for our lunches too), so I like to use it as a stuffing. The tomato stock is lovely and if you are not vegan – will also be lovely with a spoonful of creme fraiche stirred through it.


To make the savoy cabbage leaves pliable put them into a steamer. I use a bamboo one, but you can always use a large metal colander and a lid. Separate, then steam the leaves for about 15 minutes or until soft. I tend not to cut out the stalky bit as it softens enough by the end of cooking and is pleasant to eat.

For the filling, heat the oil in a large, cast-iron pan and add the onions and a big pinch of Maldon. Cook for about 10 minutes over a medium-low heat, stirring often. You can add little splashes of water and deglaze the pan, if at any point it feels dry.

Then add the carrots and celery and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 7 minutes. Finally, stir through the chestnuts and the rice and scoop it out into a bowl. No need to clean the pan, just start layering it with the leaves.

Build the first layer of Savoy cabbage leaves, then scoop in a third of the filling, then layer some more leaves over, then follow with the fillings again, then leaves, then filling, then leaves. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

For the tomato stock – pour the chopped tomatoes into the same bowl where the filling was. Squash them further with a potato masher. Swirl some water through the tomato tin and pour into the bowl with the tomatoes. If you want – you can also whisk in 2 tbsp of creme fraiche into the mixture. Add the garlic and a generous pinch of salt and some pepper.

Pour the mixture over the cabbage lasagne, making sure that none of the garlic is right on top (where it can burn). Pop the pot into the oven and cook for about 45 minutes to an hour. The tomato liquid will be reduced, and the top of the lasagne will be nicely charred. Serve and enjoy with a big hunk of crusty, fresh bread.


• 1 Savoy cabbage

3 tbsp olive or sunflower oil

1 large onion, peeled and diced

2 celery sticks, finely diced

1 large carrot, roughly grated

250g mushrooms, roughly chopped

• 200g leftover cooked or blanched (for 10 minutes) brown rice

100g cooked chestnuts, chopped

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

2 garlic cloves, sliced

Maldon salt

Black pepper

Charred cabbage with almond cream and spiced salt

This is a simple but also a very impressive and delicious dish that has place both on a weekday and a dinner party table. As always – I encourage to use and substitute whatever you can easily find and that makes sense to you. The cabbage can be white cabbage, or even purple cabbage. The sauce and salt would also work well with roast cauliflower, swede, pumpkin or carrots. You might just need to adjust roasting times. I use walnuts and almonds a lot, but cashews or pecans would work very well too, just make sure, especially if you use walnuts, that the nuts are fresh and tasty – there is nothing worse than a slightly rancid nut. If you don’t have caraway seeds but have and love cumin and want to go Middle Eastern rather than Eastern European – add cumin instead! Ditto the acid – pick any good tasting vinegar or citrus. You can also blitz some caramelized onions or confit garlic into the nut cream – then it will very much resemble a Georgian sauce called satsivi. Just follow the proportions and the method in the recipe as a blueprint of sorts. But if you have never roasted cabbage wedges before – I cannot recommend it enough, it’s such game changer. This recipe is also accidentally vegan, but it would be also good with garlic yogurt if you don’t fancy the nut cream.


Soak the nuts in plenty of water, for at least 5 hours, or even better overnight in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Cut the cabbage in half through the core. Then, depending on your cabbage’s size, cut it into wedges – the thinner the wedges the quicker they will cook.

Put the wedges on a baking tray (line it to make cleaning easier). Drizzle the oil over the cabbage and massage it on and between the leaves. Put it in the oven and check after about 15 minutes. You may need to turn the wedges over and give them another 10-20 minutes or until the cabbages look lovely and charred.

Meanwhile, drain the nuts and save the nut water if there is any. Put the nuts and 70ml of (nut or regular) cold water into a blender and blitz into a smooth cream. Finely grate the garlic and add that in too along with the vinegar and a generous pinch of Maldon salt. Blitz again, then taste. It should be gently seasoned; remember there is spiced salt that is going on top when served. The texture should be that of a thick yogurt.

For the salt – toast the caraway and coriander seeds in a pan until fragrant and bash them in a pestle and mortar along with the Maldon salt. The salt will help everything grind down easily. Stir through the sumac.

To serve, pour the nut sauce on the bottom of a serving plate or small platter and put the cabbage on top (which by the way is good either hot or warm/room temp). Sprinkle over the spiced salt and serve alongside other dishes or a simple green salad or watercress.


Serves 4-6

• 1 sweetheart cabbage

• 3 tbsp olive or sunflower oil

For the cream

• 250g nuts (I used almonds)

70ml water

• 1tbsp vinegar or lemon

1-2 cloves garlic, peeled

For the salt

2tbsp Maldon salt

1/2tbsp caraway seeds

1/2tbsp coriander seeds

1/4tsp sumac

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