Sunday, 1 April 2012

Recipe of the Week LI - Polish Pierogi

Polish food: Europe's best-kept secret. There is a north-south split in attitudes to national pride - the south of Europe blows its own trumpet and everyone puts their hands in the air, giving it accolades and being hypnotised by its pulling power. It's photogenic. The north is different: we don't need to advertise the sun or the climate, because we are generally happy with who we are. Despite many similarities with the south, we don't need to advertise ourselves so much, and this recipe is proof: pierogi are, due to the shape and contents, known as the Polish ravioli. But, unlike its Italian Doppelgänger, it requires no sauce to flatter it; a simple dripping and some glazed onions are enough. I had mine with a little sour cream.

Many other countries have something similar to this: German Maultaschen, Cornish Pasties, Spanish Empanadillas, and all have a different take on the same format.
This recipe is inspired by a Czech friend, who recently went to Poland, and was inspired to attempt to make them at home. I hope he tries it once more!

Ingredients for the dough (proportions = this makes about 100 to 120):
1kg Flour (1:1)
125g Butter (1:8)
500ml Warm water (1:2)

Use a large flat surface - I used a drip tray, but your work surface would be enough. Make sure the butter is soft (room temperature). Put all the flour onto your surface and work in the butter. Take the warm water and slowly knead it into the mixture (you may wish to ask another person to pour it on slowly, as your hands will be covered in dough). In the end, you should have a fairly stringy, soft dough. Put it into a bowl and put a towel over it whilst you make the filling.

Ingredients for the filling:
1 kg beef ribs, not minced beef if it can be avoided
2 finely chopped onions3 carrots, peeled and roughly choppedA bunch of parsley, chopped
7 peppercorns, ground
400-500ml water
1 or 2 stale bread rolls
Some olive oil and butter for frying purposes

Preheat the oven to about 160-170°C. In an oven-proof casserole dish, pre-fry the carrots, one of the onions and the parsley very gently on a medium flame. Add some salt and the pepper.

Then put in your beef, ribs included. Pour the water on it until the meat is covered, and put it in the oven for an hour to an hour and a half.

Now remove the beef from the bone and cut the meat into pieces, suitable for an efficient blender. Put in your bread roll (in pieces) to soak up some of the fluids and little by little reduce the whole thing to a pulp in your blender. I did my meat separately and added it again to the mix afterwards (see photo below). You should be left with the filling for up to 120 pierogi, depending on the size you make them.

Bring back your dough. With some flour, break off chunks of the pastry and roll it to about 2.5mm thick. With a pastry cutter of about 7 to 8cm in diameter, cut out circles in the pastry and with a teaspoon, put half a spoonful of meat and vegetable mixture into the centre of your circle.

Fold it upwards and press it together tightly to stop it from opening. Congratulations - you have made your first pierog, only 99 to go!

To cook them, you need to boil some salted water. Put the amount you wish to eat into the saucepan. 8 to 12 per person on average. Once they begin to rise, they are ready. Remember, this may only take a minute or two.

Yesterday, I had mine almost on their own, just with a light sprinkling of herbs and some sour cream.

Today I boiled them then fried them in oil with some thinly-sliced onions.

All the time it took was well worth it.

Fruit Pierogi (pierogi wiśniowe)
Pierogi can also be eaten sweet. Cherries, apricots, raspberries, whatever.

Take 500g of fruit
100g of sugar
[some cherry brandy if you like]
the rest of the dough
some milk and a little flour for rolling out.
Put the cherries in a bowl, add the sugar and the cherry brandy. Mash it up a little. Roll out the pastry in lumps and use a cup or glass (+/- 9cm) for cutting.

As in the picture below, the three stages, from right to left - put a couple of light fork marks in them to distinguish them from the savoury ones, brush it with some milk, then put a spoonful of fruit on it. Pinch the ends together very well. Put them in boiling water and serve with some whipped cream and powdered sugar.

TIP: If you have a lot left over, get a freezer bag and put 12 to 20 in each bag. Put them in the freezer. When you're feeling lazy, just boil some water, remove them from the freezer and get yourself an instant meal/dessert.

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