Poland – Pierogi
What’s cooking in Poland?
Olga is from Gdansk in Poland. She moved to Warsaw for the last 3 years of University and then to Geneva because her back-then-partner-now-husband was offered a temporary transfer to Geneva. They have been here for 11 years now. Olga is the active mother behind Parentville in Geneva. A website in English about everything you need to know as a parent in Geneva! From outings in museums to useful information on doctors. What I like about Olga and Parentville is her Instagram feed, and her stories in which you will often see her good sense of humor! Olga misses her family, friends, and the sea (especially the beach out of season: empty, cold, and relaxing). She also misses her grandmother’s Pierogi, a very typical Polish dish, and that’s why she decided to share her grandma’s recipe with us!
What Olga says on Pierogi:
‘Pierogi are my childhood. They bring the best memories out of my taste buds. In summer with fruit, sugar, and creme fraiche. In winter with meat, or potatoes, an oily soft onion on top, and a salad of raw grated veggies on the side (carrot and/or celery) . And pickles!’
Pierogis are traditionally made with Polish soft cheese “twarog” (something between ricotta and cottage cheese but not quite). I have no idea why my grandma always does them without it but this is how I knew them most of my life. And this is how her mother did it. Maybe the cheese was hard to get during the war? Maybe my great grandmother didn’t like the cheese? Maybe in the region my mother grew up this version was more common? All is possible.
There are so many variations of stuffing for pierogi, it would be impossible to list them all in one article. Just to mention a few: beef, duck, spinach, cabbage, mushrooms. There are summer pierogi with fruit, all year meat pierogi, winter potato ones, and also special Christmas eve pierogi on all tables across the country.
When does Olga make Pierogi:
When I first left home, I missed food the most. I would call my grandma and she would guide me step by step through various recipes. It took us time to understand each other. Her telling me “take SOME flour and add SOME water” was infuriating at the beginning. Slowly, we adjusted to each other’s skills (cooking and teaching), and my first pierogis landed in the pan. The effect was not so great. Some where too fluffy, others were hard. It takes time to master the pierogi dough.
I make them when I want to feel closer to home. I make them when my daughter wants to cook. You see, in some parts of the world people bake biscuits with their kids, we do pierogi. The only mystery about them now for me is: how on earth can my grandma manage making over 100 of them for Christmas??
Ingredients (make the dough and choose your stuffing so that you know which ingredients to use):
For the dough:
- 3 cups plain white flour
- 1 cup hot water
- 2 tablespoons oil (sunflower or other tasteless)
Ingredients Stuffing 1:
This is my grandma’s spin off of traditional pierogi. It’s normally made with “twaróg”, a special polish cheese.
- 3/4kg or a bit more Potatoes
Ingredients Stuffing 2:
This is my favorite stuffing discovered as an adult. A mire modern one, not traditional.
- 200g of green or brown lentilles
- 1 big onion
- 1 garlic
- 2 allspice “grains” (chili from Jamaica)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 tsp marjoram
- 1/2 tsp dried parsley
- 1/2 tsp dry lovage
- 1/4 ground coriander
- 2 table spoons soy sauce
- Oil (sunflower preferably)
- Fried Onion (lots if it!)
- Eat with ketchup, or even bbq sauce.
My greatest summer joy when grandma would prepare a sweet lunch or dinner. Pierogi are great for desert too! For example with blueberries/strawberries and sugar 🙂
How to prepare the dough:
- Sift the flour onto a large wooden board or work surface. Make a well in the centre and gently add half of the water and 1tbsp of oil, and some salt. Begin to mix it together, adding more water 1tbsp at a time, and the rest of the oil. At first the dough will be quite soft and sticky. Use your hands to bring the dough together into a ball.
- Once the dough has come together, knead it on a floured surface for 4–5 minutes. The dough should become quite elastic. If it is too wet, add a little more flour.
- Make a ball again and cut it in half. Place one half of the dough in a bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and set aside. This is to prevent the dough to try out while you work on your first pierogis.
- Sprinkle your work surface with flour and roll out the dough until it is about 3mm/1⁄8in thick.
- Have a floured tray or board at hand. Using a pastry cutter or an inverted glass tumbler, cut out 8cm/3in circles of dough. Continue until all the dough is used. Cover the circles with a damp tea towel until you are ready to start filling.
- Place a circle of dough in the palm of your hand and add a teaspoon of filling in the centre of the circle. Fold the dough over to enclose the filling. Using your thumb and finger, pinch the dough along the edge so that the pierogi is well sealed. Lay the pierogi in rows on the floured tray and cover with a damp tea towel while you make the rest.
- To cook the pierogi, bring a large pan of water to the boil. Carefully drop the dumplings in one at a time (you can probably cook around eight in a standard pot). Cook for about 7 minutes, they will start to float.
How to prepare the stuffing:
Stuffing 1 method:
- Boil the potatoes with a pinch of salt. You can alternatively bake them until mashy soft. (Put potatoes into a pan with cold water, bring to boil, wait 15mins, drain). When potatoes are cooled down, mash them.
- Finely chop the onion and garlic, heat the oil on a big frying pan, add the onion and cook it over a low heat for at least 10 minutes or until completely soft and slightly caramelised. Leave to cool a bit.
- Mix potatoes and onions/garlic together. Add as much of salt and pepper as you wish. Leave the stuffing to cool.
Stuffing 2 method:
- Cook the lentils in a large pan with lots of water for 20-40 minutes – until it’s very soft. Add a pinch of salt to the water at the end of the cooking time.
- Finely chop the onion and garlic. Heat some oil on the frying pan (medium heat). Add onion, garlic, allspice, bayleaves, and sugar. Cover and leave to sweat until onion is very soft. Then take the bay leaves and the allspice away.
- Drain the lentils, add the onion and garlic, all the herbes, soy sauce. Mix well (with a spoon, not a mixer). Season with salt and pepper, leave to cool.
Stuffing 3, fruit:
At Let’s Explore we made Olga’s pierogis with both stuffing 1 and the dessert option, stuffed with fruit :-). It was all very delicious, so thank you Olga for sharing your grandmother’s recipe with us!