Monday 11 November 2013

Babcia Halinka's pierogi - sauerkraut and mushroom Polish dumplings

It's a strange kind of sadness when your last grandparent dies. Of course, at 33, my childhood is long behind me, yet while any grandparent still lives, there is still a connection, someone who still sees you in that way. My Babcia Halinka was born in Vilnius, Lithuania and died in Warsaw, Poland, just before her 90th birthday. The culture in Poland is such that as a child, your grandmothers help to bring you up. So Babcia Halinka took me for long walks around Warsaw every weekend, she took me to the theatre and to Chopin concerts in Lazienki Park in the Summer. Her cupboards were filled to the brim with old clothes and materials, which I used to dress up in to perform. There were always plenty of cushions on her Bohemian furniture and I used these to make a nest for myself, something I will always associate with that time in my life, and I still find myself trying to recreate now. I'd run round and round her flat, in which every room was connected to the next. Or we'd cook in her tiny little dark kitchen (it was in the middle of the all these inter-connected rooms). This is how she would make "pierogi" and her favourite filling of sauerkraut and mushrooms, a recipe she passed on to her daughter-in-law (my mum) and my mum gave to me just yesterday, when I announced the sudden urge to make dumplings. I felt close to my gran making these today, in the same way she used to do, all those times, in that dark, little kitchen outside of time

400g plain flour
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4-5 tablespoons boiled, tepid water
Pinch of salt

4-5 mushrooms, chopped
large handful sauerkraut
small onion, chopped
olive oil and butter
salt and pepper

Sift the flour into a bowl and add the yolks, butter and salt. Blend with your fingertips, then stick together to make dough, adding the water, bit by bit. Kneed the dough for about 7-8min, before covering in a damp towel and leaving to rest for 20min. Make the filling by frying the onion in a large knob of butter until golden. Add the mushrooms and fry until the water has evaporated. Cook the sauerkraut by simmering in a pan of water for about 15min. Blend everything. Add some olive oil if you are finding it difficult to blend. Fry the mushy ingredients all together in some more butter, or olive oil if you don't want to overdo it on the butter front. Allow to cool. Now roll out the pierogi dough on a floured surface, as thin as you can. Use a large cup to cut circles in the dough of about 9-10cm in diameter. Any less than 9cm and it gets a little hard to get a decent amount of filling in. Use a teaspoon to put in a dollop of filling into the middle of each circle. Flatten the edges before you attempt to stick them together. Press hard, be bold. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and place about 6 pierogi in at a time. Cover. Once they float to the top (you'll have to check every minute or so), give them another 5min, then remove. You can eat them like this, but I like to fry them in a mixture of butter and olive oil first, it makes them even tastier in my opinion