When twitter friend Sabrina saw my plea for authentic recipes for Russian pelmeni she kindly offered to loan me her copy of a charming Russian cookery book called Please To The Table. Written by Anya Von Bremzen and John Welchman, the book includes 400 recipes from the former Soviet Union, “from the Baltics to Uzbekistan”.
Why the urge to make dumplings?
Because Pete and I had happily decided upon a vodka and dumplings evening with friends. They decided to take charge of the vodka procurement and I “volunteered” Pete to make the dumplings.
Both the cheese-filled vareniki and the meat pelmeni came out really well and the four of us enjoyed them with copious amounts of sour cream and hearty Russian salads. And vodka!
Vareniki are dumplings made of a simple pasta dough, which in Please to the Table, is called a noodle dough. They can be filled with almost anything including cheese, fruit and vegetables.
We didn’t count how many dumplings Pete made but the dough and filling recipes state that these amounts should make 50 to 55 vareniki.
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
For the dough
2 cups plain flour, plus extra for rolling
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
7-8 tablespoons water
For the filling
2 cups farmer’s cheese (see note, below)
1 large egg yolk
salt to taste (see note, below)
Note: A quick Google revealed that farmer’s cheese is a very simple, young and unripened curd cheese – it is like a firmer version of cottage cheese, with more of the liquids pressed out of it. We found a Devonshire-made soft curd cheese from Langage Farm that was perfect.
Note: for a sweet cheese filling, omit the salt and add 3 tablespoons sugar.
- To make the filling, simply combine the filling ingredients and mix thoroughly.
- To make the dough: in a food processor blend the flour and salt, and with the motor running, add the egg yolks and oil through the feed tube, and then the water, in a slow steady stream until the dough forms a ball around the blade.
- Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead until smooth, about 2 minutes. Then cover with a linen or cotton cloth and let stand for 30 minutes.
- Divide the dough in half and shape into two balls. Keep one ball covered with the towel whilst working the other.
- On a floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to a very thin sheet, about 1/16 inch thick, making sure it doesn’t tear. With a round cookie cutter, cut out circles about 3 inches in diameter. Gather the scraps into a ball and set aside, covered.
- Have a bowl with the egg white by you. Place a heaped teaspoon of the filling in the middle of each circle. Brush the edges with the egg white. Fold the dough over the filling to form a semi-circle and press the edges firmly together with the tines of a fork to seal. Place the vareniki as they are made onto a lightly floured baking sheet, about an inch apart and keep covered with a damp cloth.
- When you have finished the first batch, roll out the second ball and make a second batch. Add the leftover scraps of dough to the scraps from the first batch, knead into a ball and roll out for a final batch of vareniki.
- We made the dumplings at home and then transported them to our friends’ house where we cooked and served them.
- In a large pot, bring lightly salted water to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium, so that the water simmers, and carefully lower a batch of vareniki into the water. (We cooked in batches of 8 as this is how many fitted comfortably inside our largest pan).
- Boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking. When they rise to the surface, they are cooked through, in 6-7 minutes.
- With a slotted spoon, carefully remove the vareniki to a colander, drain them thoroughly and serve, hot.
Note: The recipe suggests tossing the cooked vareniki in 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter before serving, which we omitted.
Please to the Table is no longer in print, but second hand copies can be found in the Amazon marketplace.