…is obviously worth far more than two in the bush. ‘A dumpling, a dumpling, my kingdom for a dumpling’ and so on. Clearly with the cold weather upon us and Pancake Day no more than a distant memory, we still crave comfort food, so let us celebrate the dumpling in all its cultural diversity. The English favour the stodgy suet dumpling, an unstuffed ball which is robust enough to prop up the meatiest stew, the Chinese have Won Ton, the Japanese Gyoza, the Italians have Ravioli, to name but a few, but the Poles have Pierogi, which, quite frankly, knock the rest into a cocked hat.*
*I hereby declare my bias, being Polish.
Pierogi** are similar to ravioli: dough parcels which are stuffed and boiled. Traditional fillings are cheese and potato or sauerkraut and wild mushroom, though you can also fill them with meat, fruit or preserves. There is also an unstuffed version Lazy Pierogi which are similar to English dumplings but without the suet. (I’ll add a recipe for Lazy Pierogi at a later date :))
**Pierogi (Pyeh-roghee) is the plural of Pierog, so if you see reference to “pierogies” or “pierogis” you can sneer disdainfully and point out the error.
They are very easy to make (my 9 yo daughter is a dab hand), although the process can be quite time consuming if you are making a large batch, which I would recommend as they freeze well. It is also quite a fun family activity, my daughter helps with the stuffing while I’m rolling, just as I helped my Mum when I was little, and having a production line speeds up the process.
The following recipe will make around 50:
10oz plain flour
1 egg (some purists say that egg is superfluous but I have always included it, as did my mother)
The traditional method is to pile the flour on a table or work surface, make a well in the centre, add the beaten egg and work in the remaining flour together with a little warm water to make a loose, soft dough. Of course, a quick whizz in the food processor works just as well, but take care not overwork the dough and ensure that you use warm water, which will make the dough soft and pliable.
Once you have your dough, roll it out in batches on a floured surface and cut into rounds using a glass (a straight pint glass works very well) or round cutter. The dough should be rolled very thinly as it will expand when cooked, so keep rolling until the point where it is almost too thin to stuff but not quite.
To stuff the pierogi, put a teaspoon of filling in the centre of the dough (fill them generously), brush a little milk or water around the inside edge of the dough. Fold the round in half and press the edges together, taking care to avoid catching the filling between them. Crimp the edges between your fingers (thumb and first two fingers works for me), giving a frilled effect, then drop them carefully into a large pot of salted boiling water to which a little oil has been added. They are cooked when they float to the surface, though allow an extra minute or two if your filling has been chilled. We do them in small batches of 3-5 as they are stuffed, taking them out of the water with a slotted spoon and stacking them on a plate (the oil in the boiling water prevents them from sticking together, so top this up as needed).
You can obviously eat them straight out of the boiling water like pasta, plain or topped with some breadcrumbs fried in butter, or we just fry them up in butter until golden. Fruit or jam filled pierogi are lovely with a drizzle of cream.
They’ll keep in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months.
Sauerkraut and Mushroom Filling
This is the traditional Christmas filling for Pierogi and a lot nicer than it sounds. I know that the English do not care for such things as sauerkraut, but do give it a try.
1 jar sauerkraut (drained)
1 small onion, finely chopped
dried wild mushrooms (ceps), rehydrated in boiling water (you can use fresh if preferred, but choose mushrooms with some flavour, like oyster, shitake or chestnut, not bland, white champignons)
Fry the onion in the butter until soft and translucent, then add the remaining ingredients, together with a little of the mushroom liquid and saute gently until cooked and the surplus liquid has evaporated. Mince or pulse the filling in a food processor so that there are no large pieces, but still retains some texture. Allow to cool before stuffing the pierogi. This can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for a day or two until needed, or put into hot, sterile jars for longer term storage.
What will you fill yours with?