Koliva is made of a few simple ingredients added to boiled wheat and decorated. This dish is brought to church for All Souls Saturday memorial service and also for funerals and 40 day/1 year memorial services.
Bob’s Red Mill brand of soft wheat berries is a good bet and you can purchase them online here or check your local market.
This recipe makes 7 cups of koliva that is a good amount for an All Souls Saturday memorial service where many people will also be bringing koliva to church.
For a typical All Souls Saturday memorial service, the following is a good schedule to follow:
Thursday night – soak wheat berries, Friday morning – cook wheat and set out to dry, Friday evening – prep ingredients and mix with dry wheat, Saturday morning before liturgy – plate and decorate your koliva.
You can choose to soak or not to soak your wheat depending on time constraints. Soaking your wheat ahead of time helps to cut your cooking time in half and gives you cooked wheat that is much less sticky/starchy.
For a funeral service or 40 day/1 year memorial service, just double this recipe and you’ll have a good sized platter of koliva. For a very large group, feel free to triple the recipe, you’ll still have excellent results.
Feel free to decorate the top of the koliva as elaborately as you like. A simple, traditional decoration includes a cross made of whole almonds with added silver dragess which are available at some groceries, cake decorating stores or online here.
- 2 cups dried wheat berries (uncooked) / 6 cups cooked
- 8 cups water
- 1 1/3 cup toasted almond flour
- ½ cup toasted sesame seeds
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 pomegranate (approx. 1 cup pomegranate seeds)
- ½ cup golden raisins
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- whole, shelled almonds or candy covered Jordan almonds
- silver dragees
Soak wheat berries overnight in 10 cups of cold water. Drain in the morning and add to large pot with 8 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook for about an hour until soft and soft but not mushy.
Add dried wheat berries to large pot with 8 cups cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 hours or until soft and plump but not mushy. Keep about a cup of water on hand to add to the pot if water level goes too low before the wheat is cooked.
Drain cooked wheat well and transfer to a clean towel or sheet laid on the countertop. Spread wheat in a single layer and cover loosely with another light towel or sheet. Allow at least 3-4 hours for wheat to dry completely. Feel free to leave it, covered, up to 12 hours at this point.
While wheat is drying, lightly toast almond flour in frying pan over VERY low heat until just soft brown in color. Stir frequently and be careful not to burn! Set aside.
Next, lightly toast sesame seeds in frying pan over VERY low heat for max 3-4 minutes until the seeds just begin to release their sesame aroma. Set aside.
Cut and de-seed pomegranate. Separate seeds and set aside.
Chop fresh parsley well and set aside. Chop walnuts small and set aside. Break up golden raisins and set aside.
Once wheat is completely dry, remove transfer from towel/sheet to large bowl. Combine wheat with all other ingredients and only 1/3 cup of the toasted almond flour. Do not add the powdered sugar at this time. Mix gently and well to incorporate everything completely.
Transfer wheat mixture to bowl or platter and gently pat down. Cover with remaining 1 cup of toasted almond flour and pat down gently and well. The back of a wooden spoon does this job perfectly. Once the toasted almond flour has covered the wheat completely and the wheat is no longer visible, carefully sift powdered sugar over the almond flour.
Decorate with whole almonds and other edible embellishments like the silver drags as beautifully as in picture at top of page or as simply as below.