Yes, just like Pepe, I too have magic potatoes.
What can you make with two of the most economical of the staples we keep in our kitchens - a bag of flour and a sack of potatoes?
You can make one of my absolute favourite dishes from my childhood - pierogi.
These are little semi-circular dumplings which can be filled with an infinite variety of delicious edibles. We ate them both sweet - with fruit from the hedgerow that had been stewed into compote or plums from my Babcia Lila's plum tree - or savoury. My favourite filling has always been sauerkraut, but then, it's a well-known fact that I would eat cabbage in some form or other every single day if it was down to me. BIG love - ♥!
But you can also make a cheap, delicious and filling dinner using just potato. Think of it as pasta filled with really, really good mash. And the potential for add-ins is great - pesto for some zing, vegan sour cream, cheese, leftover beans or chilli, stewed curried pumpkin - you can really use just about whatever you have knocking around the fridge to stuff these.
My lovely friend, Krys, over at Two Vegan Boys, has asked for my pierogi recipe loads of times and being the slack puppy that I am, I never got round to emailing it to her. So, upon her request this morning I decided - spur of the moment - to devise a pierogi masterclass and put it up here as a point of reference for Krys and anyone else who might be interested.
You're going to get all my hints, tips and advice here.
And, as a bonus, I'm giving you a video of - whisper it! - The Pinch.
This is the trademark finger manouvre that creates a really good seal on your dumplings and stops them from coming unstuck in the boiling water while you're cooking them!
Normally, I would use 100% plain flour for the pasta, but as I discovered I only had 3/4 cup plain flour I subbed the rest with wholemeal plain flour. Actually, the slightly coarser, chewier texture that this high-wholemeal mix provided was kind of nice, and it was pleasantly filling - I would maybe go for 50-50 plain and wholemeal next time for a slightly lighter texture.
(makes 53 using a 4-inch cookie cutter)
Pierogi Dough4 cups plain flour
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp potato flour/instant potato flakes/1 small cooked potato, grated
4 tbsp vegetable oil
11/2-2 cups cold water
Filling8-10 medium potatoes, boiled until soft.
1 cup vegan cream cheese/dairyfree yogurt/or 1/2 cup soya cream
4 spring onions, finely sliced then chopped again
2 heaped tbsp vegan margarine
Coarsely ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
To Make The Dough:
Put the plain flour in a large bowl. Add the salt and potato flour or grated cooked potato and stir together. Add the oil and gradually add the water while mixing the ingredients together until you have achieved a dough which has cleaned the sides of the bowl and is pliable and well combined without being wet.
Now - cover the bowl and set aside for at least 30 minutes to make the dough softer and easier to handle.
In the meantime you can make your filling.
To Make the Filling:
Cook your potatoes until soft and then strain, return to the pan and steam over the hob to drive off as much water as possible. You want your filling to be dry as when you boil the pierogi later, it will heat-up and become more liquid anyway.
Then mash. Mash until it's as smooth as possible.
Sautee the chopped spring onions in the two tablespoons of marg over a gentle heat for about five minutes until soft but not too coloured. Add into the potato mix, along with the pepper, salt and your 'liquid' - cream cheeze, yogurt or cream - and mix well. Season with salt to taste and remember, it's better to go everso slightly over with the salt than to underseason with pierogi as once the filling is in the pasta it's saltiness isn't so potent.
At this point you can also add grated cheeze if you like - I did this today because there was a nubbin of cheeze winking at me from the back of the fridge, about 1/2 cups worth. This is where you can really improvise with your add-ins!
Before you start making the dumplings, get two baking trays ready for putting your finished pierogi on - flour them lightly and get a couple of clean teatowels to cover the dumplings with so they don't dry out.
Then lightly flour your worksurface and your rolling pin.
Divide your dough into two to four sections - this really depends on the size of your workspace, mine is TINY! - and roll it out as thinly as you can.
|4" pierogi cutouts|
Use your 4" inch cookie cutter to cut out as many circles of dough as you can. Remove the excess dough, then place a heaped teaspoon of filling into the centre of each circle.
Now, The Pinch!
You take your pasta circle and fold the two sides over to meet. You then go round your little semi-circle with your thumb and forefinger - I don't pinch between fingertips, I use my thumb tip and press the dough against the knuckle-area of my forefinger to get a good seal. The best way to get a good seal? Use 'The Pinch' and don't get any filling between the two bits of dough you are pressing together. In the video you can see I press the filling back into the dumpling as I go round to make sure of this, otherwise, when cooking, you will end-up with a soggy, floppy semi-circle of pasta and a scum of filling in the cooking water! (u_u)
Put your assembled dumplings on the prepared baking trays making sure they don't touch each other and stick. When you fill the tray, cover over with a folded tea towel and stack your next bunch of dumplings on top. You can then use the other half of the towel to cover your second layer of pierogi. So on and so forth. Once you've made them all up, you can set your pierogi to one side as forget about them until it's time to cook them.
This is your cooking equipment:
|l-r: covered pierogi, colander in serving dish, cooking pan filled with salted water, slotted spoon and wooden spoon.|
Bring the water back-up to a rolling boil, then give the dumplings another 3-5 minutes to cook through. The best way to check for doneness - is to try one! (n_n)
Pull out the dumplings one-by-one with your slotted spoon and place into the colander in your waiting serving dish.
Pour over the melted margarine, shake to coat the dumplings and then tip out of the colander into the serving dish.
|All ready to be scoffed!|
So there you have it! Easy-peasy! But time-consuming. The results are well-worth it, though.
If you're like me, you'll have a bit of the filling leftover. The temptation might be to stick it in the bin *internal screaming!!!!* but luckily for you I have:
The Skint Vegan Top Tip of the Day:
Any leftover mash makes absolutely fantastic and incredibly quick soup. This is usually a Sunday-night trick for me after our big Sunday dinner, but it came in unexpectedly handy tonight. The 1/2 cup of potato filling I had left was combined with 250ml vegetable stock, 1/2 cup frozen chopped leeks and a good squeeze of soya cream. Heat till piping hot - about four minutes - out comes the stick blender and before you know it, I have hot, delicious soup for 3 people for lunch tomorrow. Now that's a result! (-_o)