The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi (also called vareniki) from scratch.
I was excited about this challenge for two reasons. First, my Mum is from a Mennonite background, and this is a classic Mennonite dish. I was keen to try it out after reading about it in a couple of Mennonite novels. Secondly, just the day after reading the challenge I was walking in Mong Kok and saw this little stall with a woman demonstrating how to make dumplings using a plastic form.
She's wearing a headset microphone, and she's telling the whole street about the plastic doo-dad that can imprint a perfect dumpling. (I assume that's what she was saying, anyway, since I didn't understand any of it!) I rushed up and bought one immediately for HK$10 (less than 1 GBP). I watched as she placed a wrapper on the form, added a spoonful of filling, and then folded it in half to press the edges together.
Making the vareniki was easy, if a bit time consuming. Start with a dough that is rolled out as thinly as possible, then make the little dumplings, and then boil before eating. I made two types of filling: the traditional Mennonite cottage cheese filling, and one with herbed sausage meat. Served with homemade tomato sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, they were much loved by Ant and I and two friends.
makes about 36 dumplings, half with each filling
for the dough:
1/2 c (125 ml) milk
1/2 c (125 ml) whipping cream (30% to 35% milk fat)
3 large egg whites
1 t salt
2 c (240 g) whole wheat flour
1 c (125 g) plain flour
for the cottage cheese filling:
2 large egg yolks
300 g cottage cheese, drained in a sieve to remove some liquid
pinch of salt and pepper
for the sausage meat filling:
2 t oil
the meat from 2 sausages, crumbled
2 T chopped chives
2 T finely chopped onions
1/4 c (15 g) whole wheat breadcrumbs
First, make the dough. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead well until pliable.
Shape into a ball and cover while you make the fillings.
Make the cottage cheese filling by mixing all the ingredients in a small bowl.
Next make the sausage filling. Heat the oil in a frying pan and then add the sausage meat, chives, and onions. Scramble fry until the sausage is cooked and the onions are soft, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and drain off any fat. Stir in the breadcrumbs.
Roll out thinly, about 3 mm thick.
Cut dough circles using a cookie cutter or an upturned drinking glass.
Place a spoonful of filling in the centre of each and fold in half. Press the edges together, or use a vareniki form.
Make half the vareniki with each filling and set aside.
Boil a large pot of water. Boil the vareniki for 3 to 5 minutes, working in batches to avoid crowding the pan. Keep warm until ready to serve.
At the table, pass some tomato sauce and grated paremsan cheese with the vareniki.