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Ruthenian Pierogi (dumplings)

ruthenian dumplings (pierogi)

I hardly ever make traditional Polish food. But I am a sucker for dumplings in any shape and form, from any country and tradition. I have made Japanese gyoza before, Chinese dim sum, Italian tortellini and ravioli. I have also made Polish dumplings.

Boyfriend’s favourite ones are ruthenian dumpings which are stuffed with potatoes and quark cheese.

Sometimes I make it for him because I’m such a great girlfriend.

ruthenian dumplings (pierogi

Ruthenian Pierogi

for dumpings:

3 cups spelt flour (plus extra for dusting)

2/3 cup hot water

1 egg (optional)

2 tbsp olive oil

for the filling:

2 medium potatoes

250 quark (ricotta if you can’t find quark)

salt and pepper

2 shallots

1 tbsp olive oil

  1. Start by making the dough. Sieve the dough and make a well in the middle. Add warm water, oil and egg and start mixing everything together using hands. You can dust the surface if the dough is too sticky. Start needing the dough until it becomes springy and smooth. Cover with clean cloth and let it rest.
  2. In the meantime prepare the filling. Peel and cook potatoes. While they are cooking, chop shallots and fry them in olive oil until slightly golden. When potatoes are cooked, mush them and mix with fried shallots, quark and salt and pepper.
  3. Boil water with a pinch of salt. Roll out your dough. It should be quite thin but not paper thin. Cut out circles in the dough using a cookie cutter or simply a wine glass. Put the filling in the middle, fold the ends and pinch them together tightly. It usually takes a while to make a whole batch, so cover the ones you’ve made with a cloth to prevent the dough from getting dry. Cook in salted water for 3-5 minutes.
  4. They taste nice with crispy shallots, so while you are cooking your dumplings in batches (you can’t crowd them), heat some olive oil in a pan, add chopped shallots and fry them until they are golden and crispy.
  5. Serve your dumplings with crisped shallots on top.

ruthenian dumplings (pierogi)

It seems like a perfect occasion to introduce you to a Polish film. There are the ones popular outside of Poland like the Oscar winner ‘Ida’ or ‘Saragossa Manuscript’….Actually if you can, watch ‘Saragossa Manuscript’ if you haven’t already and you are a movie buff… Let me explain why:

  1. It’s visually striking and mesmerizing. It’s almost hard to believe the whole film was shot in Poland.
  2. Reality and dreams are blurred, the film is surrealistic and poetic, leaving you with more questions than answers.
  3. Luis Bunuel, master of surrealism loved it so much, he watched it 3 times (and he never watched films twice). Martin Scorsese and Francis Coppola were so much in awe of the film that they financed the restoration of it. Apparently David Lynch loves it as well as Jerry Garcia, the singer of The Grateful Dead.
  4. Enough said. To be honest, if you fancy yourself as a movie buff and you haven’t watched it already, you are just a poser….

All in all I think ‘Mis’ (‘Teddy Bear’ in English) would be more suitable for the dumplings. It’s not that well known anywhere else, but it’s got a cult following in Poland. To be honest, I’m not surprised it’s not so popular outside of my country, because I don’t think anyone who didn’t live in Poland during communism could understand its absurdity and surrealism. The director, Stanislaw Bareja, not only painted a sarcastic and surrealistic picture of socialism, but also fooled the censorship and managed to say things about the reality of living  under communism, they didn’t manage to pick up on. They weren’t clever enough to not see it as a light comedy but a satire.

Whoever was brought up on Bareja’s films, can find a quote from a film suitable for any situation. This is the thing I miss the most about Poland, cultural references can’t be translated. With my friends or my sister we always used to talk using quotes from cult Polish films, and believe me, the source of quotes is unlimited. But in UK if I said ‘It is winter so it has to be cold, these are the eternal laws of nature’ or ‘I’m calling you because currently I can’t talk to you’, everyone would just look at me funny.

It actually took me few years to find ‘Mis’ with English subtitles, so I could make Boyfriend watch it. But it’s not the same if you don’t speak the language, some of the nuances disappear, even with the context explained…..And you had to go through the hardship of communism to actually be able to see the sarcasm and laugh at it. So enjoy, and you are welcome!




About potatofaces

People who cook always go on about precious memories of childhood food one of their family members cooked, how daddy or nanny taught them the importance of cooking and eating together, and they still remember the comfort food they produced, amazing dishes whipped up by brilliant but humble cooks in their family. Well, let me tell you, it was totally different in my family. My mother’s family – totally useless as cooks, who could survive on bread and butter, cooked once a week a terrible, terrible meal, usually some kind of meat piece with lots of brown sauce. Also, they were never bothered about eating together. That’s maybe why most of them were depressed and suicidal. My mother followed that path and couldn’t really cook, and because I never wanted to eat meat, was warning me that ‘one day I will regret it’. Probably because my mother wasn’t into cooking my sister at the age of 12 took over and started producing amazing dinners and cakes. Well, luckily for me and her we weren’t that genetically doomed because apparently my father’s family were gifted in that compartment. I can only presume it was genes, as my father divorced my mother when my sis and me were little and he strongly believed that he also divorced us. So, we were growing up never having any contact with him and as a result, couldn’t learn how to cook from him. That’s why I believe the love of cooking ( and the ability) was just passed to us genetically. My father, short time before he died, unexpectedly felt an urge to contact us. First he gave my sister a mandolin (that’s another thing I know about him- he played a few instruments). My sister refused to talk to him, he then decided to contact me and wanted to spend some time with me. I didn’t want to, as he was a stranger to me (I was 11 or 12 at the time) but as I was promised I could leave whenever I wanted to, I went to the village he lived in. There I tried his mother’s cooking everyone was raving about. It was simple and amazing, I wish they were as family dedicated as they were at baking, cooking, making pastries, wine, tinctures, you name it. But I ate, drunk, and got bored of strangers who were my family and demanded to be let to go home. One of the last things my father said to me was that I should start learning English because I might need it one day, which I ignored for another 16 years… Because my sister was such a domestic goddess I wasn’t really bothered about cooking. I got hooked properly after my son was born and I wanted him to eat healthy and get everything he needed, especially that it wasn’t his choice to be a vegetarian (yet). And that is how the story begins…

3 responses »

  1. So nice to find a new vegetarian blog. I like Polish dumplings, having only ever made them once in my life. These look pretty awesome, its been a while since I had Quark though, PS I will look out for Saragossa Manuscript, intrigued!


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