4 July 2016

Pierogi - 'ruskie' and with meat

Pierogi are probably the most popular dish from the entire Polish cuisine. And rightly so - I've never met anyone who doesn't like them. They can be stuffed with literally anything. They are just as popular in a savoury variation as they are in sweet, stuffed with things like fruit and mascarpone, or poppy seeds and honey. Here you'll find recipes for the two most common (savoury) types. Pierogi 'ruskie' are stuffed with curd cheese, potatoes and onion. Pierogi with meat are stuffed with your neighbour Irek who has been playing Polish hip hop too loud after 10pm.

Pierogi Ruskie Stuffing:

  • 1kg of waxy potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1kg of Twarog – Polish curd cheese (either full- of half-fat)
  • 1 large or 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5ish allspice berries
  • 2tbsp of butter
  • Salt, pepper and Vegeta spice, to taste
  1. Boil the potatoes in salty water until they’re soft. Drain them, return back to the pot and put back on the heat for a minute, tossing them constantly, to evaporate any excess water. Let them cool down a little bit until they’re warm to touch.
  2. Break up the curd cheese into small bits with your hands or with a fork and add to the potatoes. Mash the cheese and the potatoes together. It may be a bit tough to mash it, but make sure it’s quite smooth and evenly combined. Do not use a mincer or a food processor, as this will overwork the mixture and make it too runny.
  3. Melt the butter in a pan. Add the onion, bay leaves and allspice berries. Fry on very low heat until the onions are completely soft and glossy, and infused with the spices.
  4. Transfer the onion and spices into the potato and cheese mix. You can add some of the butter as well, but stop if it starts getting too runny. It should have the texture of raw shortcrust pastry. Mix everything together, but be careful not to break up the bay leaves too much, as we’ll have to fish them out later.
  5. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Vegeta. Always add Vegeta before salt, as it’s quite salty itself.
  6. The mixture is ready to use, but if you have time, you can leave in the fridge to marinate for a couple of hours or overnight.
  7. Before stuffing the pierogi, make sure you remove all the bay leaves and allspice berries from the stuffing.

Meat Pierogi Stuffing:

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 4 beef ribs or other equivalent of beef on the bone
  • 3 small or 2 large carrots
  • 2 small or 1 large parsnip
  • 1 leek
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 allspice berries
  • 3 stock cubes (a combination of poultry and beef would be the best)
  • 1 large or 2 small onions, chopped
  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • 1 egg
  • Salt, pepper and Vegeta spice, to taste
  1. Place the meat, vegetables, stock cubes, bay leaves and allspice berries in a large soup pot. Make sure it’s big enough to fit all of it comfortably – if not, split it between two pots or halve the ingredients. Fill the pot with enough water to cover all the meat and place over a low heat. Keep it simmering very slowly for at least a couple of hours, or until the meat is really tender and starts falling off the bone.
  2. Remove the vegetables from the pot and place in a large bowl.
  3. Take the meat out as well, and let it cool a bit until it’s safe to touch. Strip all the meat off the bones, including all the fat (but not the chicken skin), and add to the bowl with the vegetables.
  4. Melt the butter in a pan and add the onion. Fry on low heat until the onion is completely soft and glossy. Add the onion and the butter from the pan into the meat and vegetables.
  5. Mince the meat, vegetable and onion together in a meat mincer on the most coarse setting. Do not over-mince it as you’ll get pâté.
  6. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Vegeta. Again, always add Vegeta before salt, as it’s quite salty itself.
  7. Separate the egg white from the yolk. Add the yolk to the meat and mix through. Beat the white until you get hard peaks, and then gently fold in to the meat as well, until it’s evenly combined.
  8. The meat stuffing doesn’t have a very long shelf life, so you should use it up to make the pierogi the same day, ideally.
NB: The remaining stock from this part of the recipe can be easily used to make most soups, stews and sauces. It's also freezable.

Pierogi dough and assembly:

  • 1kg of Poznanska flour (best type is from Lubella)
  • 2 tbsp of sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 2 glasses of boiling water
  1. Sieve half of the flour into a large bowl. Add salt and oil.
  2. Pour the water into the flour, one tablespoon at a time, mixing it in with a spoon.
  3. Once all the water is in, start kneading the dough with your hands. If it’s too hot to touch, add a bit more flour first.
  4. Start adding the rest of the flour, bit by bit, as you’re kneading the dough. Once it’s no longer sticking to the bowl, take it out onto a flat surface dusted with flour and continue kneading.
  5. The ideal texture is when you stick a finger in the dough and when you take it out it slowly goes back to original shape – so a bit rubbery. You may not need to use up all the flour to achieve that. If you add too much flour, just add a bit more hot water.
  6. Put the ready dough back into the bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave for at least 10-20 minutes to rest.
  7. Take half of the dough at a time and roll it out so that it’s about 2mm thick.
  8. Using a glass or a cookie cutter, cut out circles about 7cm in diameter.
  9. Place a bit of filling in the centre of the circle, fold it in half, and squeeze the edges with your fingers to seal them and create a little parcel.

NB: For the amount of stuffing I made (both above recipes combined) I needed dough from about 2.5kg of flour.

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 1 tbsp of salt and 2 tbsp of sunflower or vegetable oil.
  2. Add no more than 15 pierogi at a time. Gently stir them from time to time so that they don’t stick together.
  3. For serving immediately, wait until the pierogi start floating, and then boil them for another 3-4 minutes. Remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon and place on a large serving plate with a tbsp of butter.
  4. For freezing, boil them until they start floating and remove them immediately with a slotted spoon. Take them out onto a large plate and allow to cool, making sure you don’t pile them up on top of each other and that they don’t touch too much, because they will stick together. Once they’re cool, lay them out on a chopping board so that they don’t touch and place it in the freezer. Once they’re completely frozen, you can transfer them into a freezer bag. To cook them again, place the frozen pierogi (only about 5 at a time) into boiling water with salt and oil, wait until they start floating and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon and place on a large serving plate with a tbsp of butter.

Serve with melted butter, fried chopped onions and fried cubetti di pancetta.

I like to serve Pierogi Rusie with a dollop of sour cream, and Meat Pierogi with a sour cabbage salad.

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