It is hard to believe, but I made my first conscious vareniki (Ukrainian dumpling) just a couple of months ago. I pretty much grew up wondering around them being cooked at the family kitchen helping to make them here and there, but never really did the thing myself from start to the end. The tradition comes from my Ukrainian grand grandma. She cooked beautifully and she taught me a few things. The one I'm most proud of is this vareniki seal, which makes them look so pretty.
My mother also learned to cook from granny, so vareniki with mashed potatoes (вареники с картошкой) together with borscht forever stayed around in our kitchen. Whenever made at our home, they were great. Large, filled with thick and flavorful potato puree seasoned with caramelized onions, served warm in melting butter or with cool sour cream. Sooner or later I would have to learn to make them anyway to preserve the family tradition. That's how it get's passed on.
Ukrainian vareniki with mashed potatoes (recipe from my Ukrainian grand grandmother)
serves 6 (makes 40 items)
1 kg potatoes
freshly ground black pepper
400 g flour
1 tea spoon of salt
around 1 cup (240 ml) of hot water
For the filling peel and finely chop the onions. Heat 2-3 tbs of vegetable oil in a medium pan. Add the onions and cook on medium heat, stirring till they get golden.
Peel the potatoes and place them in a large pan. Cover them with water, bring to the boil and cook (lid on) for around 20 minutes till soft. Drain the potatoes (keep the cooking water). While the potatoes are still hot, mashed them with a hand masher. Mix in some some cooking water to reach a thick puree texture. Add salt to taste, 2-3 table spoons of vegetable oil and season with pepper. Mix in the onions, cover and set aside.
For the pastry place 120 g of four and a tea spoon of salt in a large bowl. Pour in the water (it must be very hot, almost boiling) and rapidly stir together using a spatula till the mixture gets even. As the water is very hot the mixture will look lumpy at first. That's OK, if you stir it energetically it will come together nice and smooth.
Keep adding flour till the dough is still soft but doesn't stick to your hands any more (you will need to start working it with your hands on a flat surface after some critical mass of flour). Make a ball, wrap it into a slightly wet kitchen towel and let rest for 10 min.
Using your hands form the dough into a long cilinder around 3 cm in diameter (it is easyer to separate the dough into 2 parts and do it twice). Cut the cilinder into 3 cm chunks. Roll each chunk into a round, some 1-2 mm thick (you'll need to flour the table and roller, otherwise the pastry will stick).
Put around 1 tablespoon of mashed potatoes on each round. Slightly brush the sides of the pastry with water.
Pull the sides together and seal them with your fingers to form a semicircle. You can well stop here and put the vareniki onto a floured surface to prevent them from sticking.
Or you can try and make a special "lock". My grannie always did it, so do I. It will make them pretty and safe (in a sence that they won't open up while cooking in boiling water for sure). It is really easy. Start from one angle. Place your thumb under the the edge, wrap it up and press from the top. Then move up the enge and repeat till you reach the second angle.
Fill a large pan with water and bring it to the boil. Add some salt (same amount as you add for cooking pasta). Add the vareniki 5-6 at at time. Cook on medium heat. Gently move them around to prevent from sticking to the bottom of the pan. After they come to the surface, cook for some 6 minutes and take out.
I made a pure vegetarian version of the recipe this time. If you feel like enriching it, add milk instead of cooking water to the mashed potatos. Then, when the mashed potatos cool down, mix in one raw egg.
Serve the ready vareniki immediately, with vegetable oil or butter and sour cream.
You can freeze vareniki before boiling. They will keep well in the freezer for weeks. You don't have to unfreeze them before boiling. Just give them additional 2 minutes of cooking.
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