It is perhaps the most famous of Poland's myriad of national dishes. More coveted by both the tourist and the native Pole than any other, these white dough packets filled with a variety of interesting mixtures - from the sour cream cheese and herb mixture, to the sweet and sugary berry fillings - are sold in every Polish town and city without fail. They are also a traditional staple, and while we may stuff a turkey or skin a pheasant, at Christmas time most Polish families will be hunched over their kitchen surfaces folding dough balls, ready for the pierogi lunch. In fact, pierogi is such a common food choice for special occasions (Christmas, Easter, Weddings, Name days and Birthdays to name just a few) that the Poles have even developed a tradition of different shapes and flavours to suit each.
Pierogi comes in a really wide range of flavours. Predominantly meat filled, the only real vegetarian option is the Pierogi Ruskie ('Russian Style', filled with cream cheese, herbs and potato), but it is also possible to get sauerkraut and mushroom filled dumplings, though these are less. Meat eaters can enjoy a variety of fillings, from mixed meat - pork and various veg - to chicken, and beef.
But, just as important as the filling is the decoration. Generally speaking Polskie Pierogi is drizzled with oil and fried onions, but many recipes call for pork scratching or bacon toppings, which can give a stronger, saltier taste.
Here we'll stick to the Ruskie recipe, for making the common, vegetarian Pierogi with cheese, mashed potato and herbs.
The Recipie: Pierogi Ruskie
2.5 cups of flour (mąka)
1 egg (jedno jajko)
2 tbs. of sour cream
1 tsp. salt (sól)
2 tsp. vegetable oil (olej uniwersalny)
1 cup of lukewarm water
Oil for frying
Cream Cheese for filling
Mashed Potatoes for filling
Making the Dough
Start by mixing the flour, salt and the egg (beaten). Add in the vegetable oil and sour cream and hand-work the dough until it becomes less sticky. This can take up to 10 minutes and it's considered the 'artistic' part of cooking. This is where many Poles add their 'secret ingredient' to give the pierogi its famous home-made taste, many say to add a little of the mashed potato filling, but this can make the process notoriously tricky, so it may be better to start with just the dough.
Once the dough is ready wrap it up and leave it overnight. One batch can make anything from 8-12 pieces, depending on the size you make your final dumplings.
Making the Filling
The filling is relatively easy, just mix together your mashed potatoes and herbs in a bowl and use a small spoon to make lumps suitable to be placed in the dough packets.
Final Preparation and Cooking
This final step can be a little tricky, but it's also great fun. Roll out your pierogi dough using a pin, get a large bottomed glass turned upside down and cut as many full circles as you can. Now, spoon your filing into the middle of each circle and close each pierogi packet with a pinch, using a fork to seal each one at the edges.
Now, drop the pierogi into a deep pan of boiling water. This takes around 7-9 minutes and the dumplings should be soft when ready. Fry some onions in a generous pan of oil, and drizzle these over the top with some salt and pepper seasoning.
Now the Easy Part: Enjoy!
Pierogi is great for freezing and will keep for a really long time. Remember, you can fill them with loads of different mixtures so you can experiment with different ideas both savoury and sweet.