I realized the other day (and I know that this is a new blog so there is still time) that I haven’t really shown you much about what traditional Russian food really is. The first blog post was a good intro but the recipes I shared so far were just for sweets. Guess what? Russians eat savory food too. Haha, I know you kind of knew that already. So here is a recipe I must share asap. I posted it a few weeks ago on Healthy and Sane but it really should be the first savory recipe I share here on Russian Bites so I’m reposting it here. If you try one Russian dish in your life, pelmeni (or vareniki if you’re vegetarian) should be it. So here it goes…
In case you are unfamiliar with what that is – pelmeni (which by the way is plural – a single version is a pelmen’ (<– soft “n”) but you never eat just one ) are Russian meat-filled dumplings. The most traditional Siberian version is filled with a mixture of half pork, half beef. Other parts of the former Soviet Union have their own versions (some even have bear meat!! Ick! ).
I grew up in Moldova at a time when shelves at grocery stores were bare (and I mean, empty – nothing) and rumors of a shipment of meat, flour, or sugar (etc.) brought crowds to stores hours before they opened. Sometimes we were rewarded for the long hours in line with the ability to purchase said item; sometimes we went home empty handed. Yet, at every special occasion or even any time someone dropped by to say hello, a huge feast with every food imaginable was served (people got creative, shopped at farmers markets, even took trips to different towns to find foods that could be frozen or made into something else) and pelmeni were always part of the spread. Pelmeni were a big part of my childhood and are definitely comfort food to me.
A few weeks ago I decided to invite my mom over and finally learn how to make them… Ready to learn with me? [Btw, this is a really good step-by-step tutorial for making any kind of dumpling from scratch!]
For the dough:
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 egg
- 70 grams of butter
- 1 cup ice water
- pinch of salt
Let’s get going!
Combine flour and 1 egg:
Add butter (cutting it into little pieces will help with incorporating it into the mixture)
Add a pinch of salt – like so:
Now add the water, hold some of it.
With the hook attachment, let your Kitchen Aid do the mixing for you; add the rest of the water if needed (you’ll see if your dough is too dry and there is still flour that won’t incorporate).
Here is what the dough looks like – it’s pretty silky to the touch.
Now, cover and let it rest for 30 minutes. This will help the gluten to develop (i.e. your dough will be smoother with less air pockets if you cut into it).
While the dough is resting, prepare your meat filling.
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 lb ground beef
- (traditionally) 1 small onion, pureed in food processor (I didn’t use this – you all know why )
- salt and pepper to taste
Combine your 2 kinds of meat (and pureed onions, if using) with your hands (<– the easiest “tool”).
Add salt and pepper to taste – we added about 1T. Voila, your filling is done!
Time to make the dumplings!
Flour your surface:
Cut the dough into about 8 pieces…
… work with 1 ball at a time, covering the rest so they won’t dry out.
Roll the dough out – work from the middle out. This dough is pretty dry and flexible and quite easy to work with.
Roll each dough ball as thinly as possible.
Cut 4″ circles out of the dough – you can use a fancy cookie cutter or a glass with sharp edges like we did (how Alton Brown of us )
All right, so there are many different shapes you can form the dumplings into. My mom learned this very pretty version when she was little. I think the pictures should explain this process better than words…
Pinch a corner…
Pinch one side of the dumpling…
… and connect it to the other side:
Pinch the last corner together:
Make a few and then boil them for 7 minutes to taste (this is the only way to know for sure whether you added enough salt). Don’t forget to salt the water!!
While your dumplings are boiling, pour yourself a glass of wine. You deserve it!
[After tasting the first round, we added a bit more salt and also added more salt to the water - the dough will be bland if you don't add enough salt.] Now, let’s make more dumplings!!
My mom’s dumpling shape is very pretty, but I wanted to make something even easier! Here is how you make the traditional Siberian shape.
Pinch the 2 sides together all around:
Yes, just like that.
Now, connect the 2 bottom corners together…
Done! Such little cuties and seriously SO easy to make!!
We flew from there. I made the ones on the left, my mom made the ones on the right (btw, this recipe makes about 100 dumplings, this is just some of them).
After you’ve used up all your dough and filling – and are ready to eat – boil yourself a serving! (Again 7 minutes when they’re fresh – boil water, add dumplings – do not overcrowd the pot! – let it come to boil again and then start your 7-minute timer).
Enjoy a nice big bowl of pelmeni with your choice of sauce! [The Georgian satsebeli (spicy tomato) sauce is delicious (can be found in Russian stores); I also like it with just tomato paste. Sour cream is probably the most popular accompaniment and adds a nice creaminess to these meaty beauties ]
Mmm, a little taste of childhood in my (very grown-up) home.
If you’re not eating the whole batch, these freeze great! Just freeze them flat on a cookie sheet or a plate overnight and transfer to a freezer bag the next day. They cook in 8 minutes from frozen – perfect for a busy night (and you’ll know you’ll still be eating real food you made yourself!).
I was SO happy to finally learn this. Seriously, so easy and so delicious. You can use other fillings – pelmeni’s cousin is vereniki which use the same dough but have vegetarian fillings like mashed potato and mushrooms or cabbage (or really anything you choose to make it with). Thank you for taking this journey with me. I hope you learned something here and try making this some day!
Are you a dumplings fan? What’s your favorite kind?