I bet you have heard about Pierogi before, right?
This wonderful dish is the true king on dining tables in Poland and Eastern Europe. From children to seniors, everybody loves it! It is served during festive seasons, family gatherings, celebrations and beyond. Frankly, you don’t need a special occasion to dig into a bowl full of beautiful and delicious Pierogi!
So what are Pierogi?
Pierogi are a kind of dumplings of unleavened dough with a filling sealed inside. Pierogi could remind an Italian ravioli or tortellini to some, but there is a difference in the ingredients, texture and thickness of the dough.
The Pierogi dough normally consists of flour, water (or milk) and butter (and sometimes an egg). (I like to add 2 heaped tbsp. of mashed potatoes for the extra nice texture and flavour.) After combining the ingredients by kneading, it becomes an elastic dough. It is very easy to work with (nothing like a bread dough!), especially when slightly warm. The dough is rolled out into about 3mm thick, cut into circles with a top of a water glass, folded over and sealed with the filling inside.
My tips for working with Pierogi dough
- Use warm water or milk in your dough – this helps to make the dough more elastic. Kneading and rolling of the Pierogi dough is also easier and allows to roll the dough really thinly.
- Divide the dough into 3-4 smaller pieces – Pierogi dough is easier to manage when in smaller portions.
- Protect the Pierogi dough from drying – the Pierogi dough pieces, which are waiting for their turn, should be kept under a kitchen cloth to limit the air access.
- Be ready to work with your dough as soon as you finished rolling it out – Make sure that your filling is cool and ready before you even start preparing the dough.
The filling really depends on your imagination. There are as many Pierogi fillings as cooks. Ruskie Pierogi, with farmer’s cheese, mash potatoes, and onions (Farmer’s cheese is not so easy to get, so I use feta cheese and also add roasted garlic for the extra punch of flavour) are probably the most popular ones in general, especially in Poland and North America. I also really enjoy Pierogi with ground meat, with cabbage and mushrooms, and with fruits.
By the way: People often assume that Pierogi Ruskie come from Russia, which is incorrect. They are in fact unheard of in Russia! Russians have a similar dish called “pelmeni”, but the name of Pierogi Ruskie comes from the prewar Polish region Red Ruthenia. If you are interested in the history and interesting facts about other Polish dishes, here is a great website called Tasting Poland, which I came across during my research for this post.
My tips for Pierogi fillings
- Dry fillings are easier to work with.
- Tap your fruits dry after rinsing and pick the smaller pieces to avoid having to cut them open in order to fit into a piece of the dough. Fruits cut open let more juices out and make your sealing job messier.
- When frying your onions, meat, etc. place them in a colander to drain all the excess juices before combining into the final filling. This will help with the sealing of Pierogi and keep the process cleaner.
Engage your kids with making Pierogi
Although making Pierogi can be a bit time consuming, I really enjoy the process. After prepping the dough and the filling, make a room for your kids to join in sealing Pierogi – it is lots of fun and will engage them in the kitchen with you. You could give them a task of marking the Pierogi seal with the flat, bottom, mouth-part of the fork, so they know which ones they helped with (and should eat!;))
- 450 g boiled potatoes
- 350 g finely chopped onions
- 200 g feta cheese
- 7 tbsp olive oil
- 2 head of roasted garlic
- 450 g all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
- 1 tbsp salt
- 350 ml warm milk or water
- 50 g unsalted butter
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 200 C (400 F). Peel most of the outer garlic head wrappers and trim ¼ inch off the top of the garlic head. Place the garlic heads on a piece of aluminium foil, big enough to wrap it around the heads. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil over the exposed tops of the cloves and allow the olive oil to run down to the inner parts of the garlic head. Wrap the garlic heads in the aluminium foil and place it on the baking tray, in the oven (trimmed top up). Bake for 35 minutes.
- While your garlic is roasting boil the potatoes in a pot of salted water until cooked through and soft (for medium-sized potatoes this will take 20-25 minutes but check to make sure they are fork-tender). Drain very well then mash the potatoes. Remove 2 heaping tablespoons of the mashed potatoes (about 50g) and reserve both portions separately, for use later.
- Heat half of the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Then fry the very finely chopped onions until golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Using a potato masher combine the roasted garlic cloves (squeezed out of the roasted garlic heads), crumbled feta cheese, onions and bigger portion (400 g) of mashed potatoes into a smooth filling for the pierogi dough. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and make the pierogi dough following the steps listed below.
- Pick a space where you’ll be working your dough and remove everything out of the way that would not appreciate being covered in flour. Make sure you have an empty water glass, 2 kitchen cloths and a dough roller ready to rock.
- In a small pan slightly heat (you don’t want to boil it or even let it steam) milk and then add butter. Let the butter melt completely.
- In a large bowl combine the flour, buttery milk, smaller section (2 tablespoons) of mashed potatoes and salt until it becomes a ball of rough dough.
- Dust the work surface with flour then knead the dough until nice, smooth and elastic. Divide the dough into 3-4 pieces. Leave one piece on the counter and put the remaining ones under the kitchen cloth to keep them from drying.
- Roll the piece of the pierogi dough out to 3mm thick. Using the water glass cut the circles in it.
- On each circle spoon out 1 teaspoon of the filling. Now working one by one: fold the circular piece of the dough (with the filling in it) over the filling in half (so it creates a half-moon shape) and using your fingertips seal the edges by pressing them both together.
- When the first batch is done place the assembled pierogi on the flour dusted surface, avoiding stacking them on top of one another, and cover with the second kitchen cloth to protect them from drying. Continue with the remaining dough until the filling is exhausted.
- Fill a large pan with water until half full, add a drizzle of oil and bring to boil. Boil your pierogi in batches to avoid crowding the pan until they rise up to the surface of the water. Let them float for 1 minute, then remove them into a colander to drain any excess water. Repeat the process until all of the pierogi are boiled.
- Serve warm with melted butter, fried onions, fried mushrooms, fried bacon, spring onions or sprouts.