Archive for March, 2009

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Sex Sells – Russian & Ukrainian Pop Music

March 31, 2009

Ahhh – where to begin?

Well, I suppose I should begin with a Parental Warning…..this blog and it’s links will contain some scenes of nudity…..almost to the point of Soft Porn, provocative language……if you understand the Russian lyrics……and has a highly sexual nature to it……..although nothing explicit……..well they are pop videos after all.

Yes, I can hear you know…..WTF??????

Ok…..we all know sex sells…..well sex sells everything except safe sex…..and Russian and Ukrainian pop have mastered this in no uncertain terms.

To be a female pop star, or in a female pop group in either Russia or Ukraine you have to look sexier than the sexiest thing you ever saw that looked sexy!!

You have to wear as little as possible…..if indeed anything……and make love to the camera at any given opportunity.

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A backgound of vocal training or choir membership is completely and utterly irrelevant……but a few years experience of pole dancing will certainly help you in your career.  The ability to dance slightly better than someone being brought back from the dead via a defibrillator on maximum voltage, or being zapped by the entire New York SWAT team with their Tazar’s simultaneously,  is only a slight advantage and in no way can compensate for the looks and actions of a Soft Porn Star.

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Now of course, there are some “serious” pop stars here who do not act like yours is the last spare prick at a very drunken wedding…….and therefore it must be teased to the point where you want to buy their wares…….but they are few and far between.

In fact, dear UK taxpayer……if our very own Home Secretary, Jaquie Smith’s husband could get Russian music channels, your hard earned tax money would not have been used to pay for his porn addiction……and Jaquie Smith’s subsequent expense claim for this from the public purse would never have been made!!!

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Yes…..Ok, if you were married to our Home Secretary, Mrs Smith MP……you’d be watching porn as well.  I can accept that……but to submit your TV porn bill as an expense to be paid by me?……When I didn’t even get to see the damned film?…..

Anyway, returning to Russian and Ukrainian Pop Music, what do I mean?………

Here is a clip from one of the most popular……well I guess the closest category would be, Russian R’n’B acts about at the moment……..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aXr0wesAxQ

That is Potap, featuring Nastia Kamenski…….who unsurprisingly features in all Potap songs…….and videos……of which there are many!!!! 

I actually have to admit I do like Potap……..and certainly like Nastia, even when she has her clothes on!!!

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Well……she’s got some clothes on……unlike the video!!!

What?……..Oh no…….that is not a one off…….here is Army……

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRIr6rIxWg4

……and the very unnecessarily named Via-Gra……

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGXuNksr7ww

So, you can then add the likes of Ani Lorak…….who came second in the Eurovision?????? – Why she entered I have no idea, she is extremely popular here…….but then, for some extremely bizarre reason, the Slavic nations adore the Eurovision Song Contest……maybe dear old Terry Wogan translated well……..I don’t know, but they certainly adore the Eruo-trash of the Eurovision.

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So, as you can see, even if the music is not to your taste, Russian and Ukrainian music channels, even with the sound turned off……is very……um……stimulating for most!!

Eh?……..Oh, yes, of course they have male pop stars and groups….but as normal, it is about brilliant white teeth, a Donny Osmand smile……..no thankfully I don’t remember him…..being masculine and physically fit. 

What?……..Oh sorry girls, here’s Dmitry Koldun…….um……well…..”Working His Magic”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MpfwTAnLTI

Yeh, I know it’s not too bad………did I say it was shit?

Then of course, there is the Russian equivalents of Tom Jones……of which there are a few, like Valerie Meladze……..

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……who like our Tom, is still banging out the tunes!!!

There is something for everyone in Slavic modern music scene……which mirrors that in the west…….even down to the slightly more……eccentric with Verka Serduchka.  Now this star gets a pic and a link……….

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………and not forgetting the link……..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlf6n7IzZYk

What?……..why does Verka get a pic and a link?…………..I know him, that’s why!

Yes, I know it’s favouritism but it’s MY blog….alright!!!

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Banks & Money – Ukraine

March 31, 2009

Well coming up is a surprising statistic……at least if you live outside Ukraine……or Russia, as it was the same when I lived there……relating to money and banks.

Now, I am not going to witter on about the global financial crisis, although my views and remedies would probably be no worse than those who claim to know what they are doing…….but will blog a little about why the Ukrainian banks……all of them……are appealing for people to put their money back into the banks.

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Before we go any further, I feel it appropriate to toss you a very quick and in no way detailed history of banking in these here parts over the past 20 years…..relating to why people are not so trusting of the banks.  This has absolutely nothing to do with the current crisis……..we will come to that.

Firstly, let us look at the 1990’s……..the period when the USSR collapsed and re-emerged as a number of independent sovereign States.

In the early 1990’s…..1991 I think…..but can’t be bothered to check…..Sberbank collapsed together with the USSR.  But it’s only one bank, I hear you say.  Very true…..but throughout the whole of the USSR, there was only one bank, and that was Sberbank……..no, I’m not kidding, it was a 100% monopoly.

Everybody lost absolutely everything they had in the bank…..every single Kopek of it.  Ukraine, even now, in 2008/09, has only just started to implement any form of compensation to those who lost money nearly 2 decades ago……..and so far have coughed up a staggering 200 UAH……about $25 per account thus far……which of course is an absolute insult.

Anyway, this inevitably led to the Private Sector moving into Russia from both within Russia and the international community……for the following to happen…… 

In September 1998, without any warning whatsoever to it’s people, the Russian Ruble was devalued overnight by Russia…….causing the loss in value of savings of 95%.

What, you think I’m joking?

My good lady wife had the equivalent of $50,700 in a bank account in Russia the day before the unannounced revaluation……..the following day it was worth $3000……….. Oh yes, she was very pissed off!!!

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So, now you have a massive population in Russia and Ukraine, who have not only been bitten once…..but for many, twice over the period of the last 20 years…….bringing us up to the situation today.

Now, thus far, there has not been a bank collapse in Ukraine since the financial crisis started…..although that is not to say it will not happen…..even if unlikely. 

What do you mean it is unlikely?

Well, the majority of the High Street names are subsidiaries of major western banks these days……and to gain entry into Ukraine by buying the existing banks here will not have been a cheap process……by any means.  Therefore to withdraw completely from Ukraine will make it very costly to return…..and have to pay those “administrative fees” all over again.

Add to this not being present here, with the Ukrainian court system as it is, there will be next to no chance to recover any loans already made to either company or individual who cannot pay…..for whatever reason…..as it will be a case of “out of sight = out of mind”.

Confidence in the state of the “western bank” which allows it’s Ukrainian subsidiary to go to the wall, at this moment in time, would probably mean a run on the shares of the parent company back in the “West” too…..having both financial and political overtones as the European government of whichever bank would more than likely part-nationalise or have to completely nationalise that bank…..to stop a run on their other national banks……at a cost to it’s taxpayers……who are all, already very pissed off.

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Nicely tangled web eh?

So, anyway, the Russian and Ukrainian people have got used to putting wall safes, floor safes and industrial sized safes…….. the likes of which “Gentle Johnny” Ramensky, who was an infamous Scottish safe-cracker, would have spent more than a few minutes trying to open……in the apartments, houses and offices.

This is not just to keep their money in……here the deeds to your apartment, house, office et al, are held by you and not your lawyer if you fully own them, as many people do……so hence the need for the safe……even if you have very little actual cash!!!

Of course, if you have cash and have a safe……given the banking history of this region and the current global situation……you are very likely to put your cash in your own safe and not risk it in a bank, even if it is one which is not going to collapse, at least until global confidence in banking has returned.

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Add to this……despite Ukrainian banks offering some outstanding interest rates….. 7% on the Euro, 12% on the US$ and 18% on the Ukrainian UAH, if you will lock it into an account for 6 months or more which you will not touch…..the Ukrainian government has decreed you cannot access your money early, whatever the reason for needing it, until your 6, 12, 18 month agreement on that account is fulfilled……in an effort to keep the cash in the banking system.

What?…..Yes, I completely agree…….now is the time to be a supplier of wall, floor and Fort Knox style safes in Ukraine!!!

So, what was the statistic I mentioned at the start of this blog?

I’m glad you reminded me……I do tend to stray a little, sorry…….well, yesterday Oleksandr Suhonaiko, from the Association of Ukrainian Banks, appealed to the Ukrainian public to put their money into the banks……as it would remove the need for loans from the IMF, World Bank, EBRD…..and anyone else who will lend money to Ukraine.

F*ck me!!!……I know that’s what you’re thinking, how much personal cash is held in peoples homes throughout Ukraine then because those international banks have loaned, or will loan a lot of money.

Well, strap yourself in………held in the homes of the Ukrainian people, in cash, is…………

60 Billion US$……..yes, that’s $60,000,000,000…… in cash, hidden under the mattress.

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What?……Bollocks?……Here’s the press release…….

http://www.nrcu.gov.ua/index.php?id=148&listid=88048

Told you………and yes, mine is in a safe at the moment too!!!

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Metronome Nightclub – Odessa

March 30, 2009

Ok loyal reader…..or readers if some is with you…..after a few successive blogs which went kind of political….we are going back to……Tourists and Tits!!!!!!

This is for no other reason than, well, I am nowhere near through all the nightclubs in Odessa yet.  Also, this is not meant to be a political blog……just one about Odessa.

Now dear reader, I appreciate you have suffered the last few blogs……and are starting to consider looking elsewhere for your adolescent “jolly’s”……after all, Ukrainian politics are entertaining for those of us in Ukraine…..for you dear reader, they are of course, less than interesting and the subject is about as welcome as a stale fart!!!

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Well……..”Stop right there!!!!!…….Before we go any further, do you love me?  Will you love me for ever?  Do you need me, will you never leave me?  Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?”………….ah here’s Meatloaf……he does it better than me……

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qJLEc3aAf4

Anyway – The Metronome nightclub can be found on Shampansky….which is in the Arcadia region of the City.

For a nightclub, the food isn’t that bad and is certainly not the most expensive to be found.  It also has two dances floors and a number of snooker Russian Billiard and Pool tables.

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What?……..Oh yes, they are strippers…………..it also has strippers…….lots of strippers!!

There is not much else to say about Metronome other than it’s not bad at all…….although not in the very centre of the city……………

 

 

………….Eh?……What?…… I mention strippers but you haven’t seen the “jubblies” yet!!…….Ok, Ok………Brace yourself!!!………………..

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Happy now?

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Я говорю по-русски – I Speak Russian – Odessa

March 30, 2009

Blimey……..the last few posts have turned quite political and I am loathed to put up another now as I am really wanting…….and feel the need…….to write something quite juvenile and full of sexual double entrendres, as usual………BUT, has someone mistakenly tried to force speaking  Ukrainian……again…..on the people of Odessa over the last week?

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I was in the office of my very nice….and very good…..lawyer last week and could not help but notice numerous stickers and flags around his office with the Odessa symbol on it and the statement “Я говорю по-русски”……….which means I speak Russian!!!

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Bit non PC for an old school Jewish lawyer born and bread in Odessa…….particularly one with an excellent reputation.  He does, after all, work within the legal system of Ukraine…..and not Russia.

Well, today I had to cross the city to the steel suppliers to order a large amount of balk steel.  I must have seen close to 100 cars with the same Я говорю по-русски stickers on them and a few more flags saying the same.

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Now I know there will be much of the nations TV channels here for the Humourina celebrations on April 1st…..and there is nothing better for an Odessian to tell those in Kyiv to……….

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……..throughout the day on national TV, and I am sure they will not miss the opportunity…..because as they say here, Ukraine is Ukraine BUT Odessa is Odessa…….although I have not seen or heard anything on the news here to state that somebody in Kyiv, has again tried to commit political suicide, by saying Odessa must speak Ukrainian and not Russian.

Not that it will ever happen, no matter how much they try……..at least in my life time!!!

What?……..Oh, yes Я говорю по-русски as well. 

What do you expect?  Russian is not that easy to learn…..to try to learn Ukrainian at the same time would make my head explode!!!!

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Tourist Visa’s Again A Possibilty – Ukraine

March 30, 2009

Well, it was bound to happen eventually.  After several years of Visa free tourist travel into Ukraine ………Ukraine is considering their reintroduction.

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It is not that Ukraine has been over run by foreigners stealing jobs or buying up the best assets……far from it, to do business here, it is done their way or not at all……and it always involves a Ukrainian.  Add on to this the language difficulties, and Cyrillic alphabet and Ukraine and Russia is a place for the determined only when it comes to work or business!

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So why is it then? 

The EU promised Ukraine easier travel for it’s citizens……albeit still via a Visa system, throughout the EU and put a ceiling price on the Visa’s at Euro 35.

And?

Well, to be honest, it is impossible to get a Visa if you are Ukrainian for Euro 35.  All EU countries make it as hard as possible for a Ukrainian to get the Visa.  One in four Ukrainians get refused a Visa…….for no reason at all…….and of those that do get them, only one in four gets a Visa which is valid for more than 6 months.

This obviously leads to 2 problems for the Ukrainian government who have allowed free entry for EU citizens for over 2 years.

Firstly, the treatment of their own citizens by the EU has caused and is causing some unhappiness amongst the population………with an election coming up in under 12 months.

Secondly, political egg is over political face here because of the EU saying one thing and openly doing another.

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Now there will be some “westerners” reading this thinking…….well they will cut themselves off from western investment, technology and business models……it’s stupid, they need us!!  This is indeed a comment which has been aired by some I know…..although they have been mostly American…..and therefore have little comprehension of Ukrainian mentality…..or anyone elses for the most part. 

Before you think I am America bashing……one of my best friends here is an American and he states that the problem with Americans is that many do not have a passport or have indeed even left the State the were born in…..why would they ever need to leave the US when it is so big and has everything anyone could possibly want?  Here he has a good and valid point…..unless you are indeed an American basher, in which case you would consider everything US is shit….which I don’t.  What he goes on to say, is that with a people so insular…….many never leaving the US in their lives…..it is hardly surprising they don’t understand Ukraine…..or many other countries.  I have no choice but to agree with him…….as I am not an American….and he is, so therefore would know more than me!

Anyway, going back to the “western” thought that reintroduce Visa’s for EU citizens would “cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face”……..we should consider that the Ukrainian parliament does not consider the 50 million or so Euros spent in Ukraine by visitors, in the grand scheme of things, really sufficient to warrant the political heat……..particularly with the election in 2010 closing in.

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We can also look at it as a bluff……..to get the EU to honour it’s promises.  Then again, those who know Brussels will know there is more chance of falling into a bucket of tits……..and coming out sucking your thumb!

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So, what are the chances of you good readers once again needing a Visa to visit Ukraine?……..Well, how long can, what is in effect, a “one-way street”, remain in place with an election coming?

What?……..No, no, no….it won’t effect inwards investment or EU citizens working here as they need Visa’s and Work Permits now anyway……..it will only effect tourists………and those who live here but don’t work too I suppose.

Me?……..No. I’m alright……but thanks for asking…..remember I am married to a Ukrainian!!!!!

Anyway, I will keep you “up to speed” as to any changes which occur……if they indeed do change…..considering this has to get through the Ukrainian parliament……which is not renowned for it’s speed…….or ability!

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A Political Split Between East & West Ukraine – Ohhhhh Yes!!

March 29, 2009

Ok……a sensible post……so skip this and go to the other posts of mine if you are looking for my usual juvenile outlook on Ukraine.

Many people ask me why the Ukraine is so politically unstable…….despite being a “democracy” and being classed as “Free” by Freedom House.

Well, the place to start looking is not with the current politicians or governmental actions…….hmmm, in-actions is probably more accurate.

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There are people in Ukraine who are still very much alive…albeit in their 90’s who can say the following:

They were born into the Austro-Hungarian Empire, grew up in what was then Poland…..but is now part of Ukraine, lived under the Nazi’s in during WWII, got married and had children under the USSR regime and became grandparents in an independent Ukraine……….without ever leaving the city they were born in!!!!

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Yeh, and?   Where is the split between East and West I hear you say.

Well, keeping things brief…..or in a nutshell…..west Ukraine, cities such as Lviv, actually joined the forces of Nazi Germany, not only forming standard Army units, but also joined a local Galacian SS Regiment. 

They did this under the belief that Mr Hitler was going to give them an independent Ukraine……and when it eventually became apparent that he would not, they changed sides and joined east Ukraine and the Soviet Machine in fighting the Nazi’s.

This of course, has never been forgotten or forgiven by central and eastern Ukraine……even though the goal of western Ukrainians was for an independent Ukraine……as western Ukraine fought with Nazi Germany against the rest of Ukraine and the then USSR……even if under a honestly held belief of an empty promise.

You can wander around Lviv and in the markets you can buy genuine German Iron Crosses, next to Soviet Medals of Valour on the same stall, even today……which does little to allow some to forget, let alone forgive.

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Yes but that was 65 years ago, your thinking.  Very true……..but it is still within living memory for some and many of the following generation who bore family loss from this are in fine fettale.

Ok, but what has this got to do with 2009?

The legacy of this means that western Ukraine has made it a point to only communicate in Ukrainian……..together with Kyiv…….which is understandable, being the capital of the country.  

The rest of Ukraine still communicates primarily in Russian and has no desire to have to learn a new language……even though it is similar……it is in no way the same.  Here in Odessa, for example, it is extremely rare to hear Ukrainian being spoken and only official documents are written in Ukrainian….for political reasons……..most of the time needing translation into Russian for the Odessian to understand it……I’m not joking!

The current, now extremely unpopular, President went on a personal crusade to dumb down Russian and make Ukrainian supersede it……to the point of banning Russian TV channels at one time……but later backed down on the ban…..although insisting that all Russian programmes were voiced-over or subtitled in Ukrainian……..which is of course a completely pointless move as the whole country understands Russian, even if a small part of it does not use it as the first language.

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We must then add to this, the Ukrainian Presidents drive to get Ukraine into NATO…….despite the promise by all major Ukrainian political parties to the nation of a referendum on NATO.  The current polls state that the population is almost 75% against joining NATO…….although this has not stopped the President continuing to try and force the issue. 

Fortunately the French, Germans, Spanish and Italians threw a spanner in George W Bush’s  attempt to strong arm Ukraine and Georgia into NATO in the Spring of 2008………..particularly fortunate as the Georgia v Russia spat started in August the same year.

Unsurprisingly, the only voice to condemn Russia was that of the Ukrainian President……who was then condemned himself by every other Ukrainian politician, who stated Ukraine should remain neutral……very wisely!!

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The President is primarily backed by western Ukraine.  The “Opposition” is primarily backed by eastern Ukraine.  The “Opposition” do not want to force the Ukrainian language onto the Ukrainian people and see no problem with Russian being widely used for communication………which in reality, of course is still the case.

At this point, it is important to understand that the “Opposition” are not wanting to come under Moscow rule again and want to keep Ukrainian independence…….obviously……as in such a corrupt government, the last thing you want to do is give power to another corrupt government because you lose out on the “black income” you get by personally ensuring some things happen and others don’t.  If you no longer make those decisions…….the money goes to those who do!!!

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It is also unwise to provoke Russia unnecessarily when 50% of your trade is with Russia and 50% with the EU……to lose half of your trade by alienating either has obvious downfalls.

We must then throw into the mix, the fact that many Ukrainians have married, are marrying and will continue to marry Russians…….especially if from the east of Ukraine, and far less will marry Polish if from the west…..  So we therefore have generations of families in Ukraine with direct and immediate family in Russia and vice verse.

So we now have an economy which is 50% east facing and 50% west facing.  We have a political situation where the major parties are all pro Ukrainian independence, but with 50% anti Russian and 50% not anti-Russian…..even if not pro-Russian.  We have a very large amount of Ukrainians with mixed marriages with Russians…..many more so in the east than in the west of Ukraine.  We have west Ukraine and Kyiv speaking Ukrainian and the rest of Ukraine speaking Russian……..and going back, within living memory, we have west Ukraine fighting with the Nazi’s against East Ukraine and the USSR.

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We can then, on top of all this, add the personal corruption of the politicians themselves, who over the years have “acquired billions” through insider dealing, business relationships and outright theft during the period of Soviet collapse and the vacuum it left………many of whom have 50% business partners and interests in Russia and 50% in the west.

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So, with a historical and current east-west split between a country which is a buffer zone between Russia and the EU/NATO countries……..and yet another East – West split, it is therefore not surprising that the country is led by a coalition……which regularly splits.

As for the 2010 elections……..toss a coin!!!

What is probably good for Ukraine is the fact NATO has been kicked into the very long grass by every nation……even if the current President has no got the message yet.

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Cabbaged? – Try Galubsi

March 29, 2009

Well, you know what it’s like……if they’re young they hate it, if they’re old they like it…….but it creates havoc with their intestinal gases, meaning an afternoon on the sofa with the occasional body tilt followed by a rasping fart….if you’re lucky…..or a wet one if your not……escaping on an all too frequent basis!!!

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Yes, we’re talking CABBAGE!!!!!…………..Hang on, stay with me here.

This is not a blog about cabbages, you can read about Tony Blair and Gordon Brown anywhere….who are after all complete and utter cabbages…….we are talking about an Ukrainian ingredient which makes up another favourite of mine…..Galubsi.

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Ok…….having found your favourite comedy Christmas pinny……put it on, because we are about to create something from cabbage that you will become addicted too.

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For this recipe you will need, minced meat, rice, garlic, salt, pepper, carrot, a sprig or two of parsley, tomato puree and……..a cabbage!!!

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Ok…….Now for the Rule of “P“.   What?……What’s the Rule of P?   Planning  and Preperation Prevents  Piss Poor Performance…….Ok, I will continue……

Finely slice the carrot and grind the garlic.  Now, boil the rice…..which ever rice you like the most…..until properly cooked.

Find a large bowl and throw in the cooked rice, raw sliced carrot, crushed garlic, uncooked mince meat, salt and pepper and your parsley……..and mix it up thoroughly.

Now place the whole cabbage into boiling water for about 7 minutes and then remove it.  At this point the cabbage still looks like when it left the ground…..other than the stripping of some leaves you maybe didn’t like the look of!

At this point you start to cut off the cabbage leaves.  Place one leaf flat and take a small amount of you mixture and place it in the centre.

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Ok, so far, so good……..easy in fact.

Now we get to see who wraps the presents at Christmas…….and who just puts they’re finger on the paper when you are looking for the tape!!

Wrap the filler in the cabbage……so you end up with something looking like………

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No, it’s Ok………I’ll wait, it takes a bit of practice to wrap it up……..and you will be making a lot of them.  I’ll go have a cuppa and a quick smoke while you get on with the rest.   No….I won’t smoke in the kitchen……just give me a shout when you’re done!

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………..Hmmmm,

What?……..You’re ready?  Ok, I’m coming.

Ok…..very nice job.  Place them into a tray with high sides with no gaps in between. 

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Ok……boil some water, squeeze in your tomato puree and mix it up……..so it looks like a very watery tomato soup…..and then pour it over your perfectly created raw Galubsi…….

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Cook this for about 45 minutes……..no not boil it so hard that the cooker is covered in tomato puree you twat…..let it simmer for 45 minutes.

Ok……..that’s it.  Take them out, put them on a plate, cover them in cream, mayonnaise or ketchup…..or nothing at all…….and eat them whilst they’re hot!!

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The only word of warning I can give about Galubsi, is that they are incredibly “more-ish”……….which will have obvious repercussions in the trouser department.

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