Pierogi with Pilchards and Onions in Browned Butter
This recipe was developed for Lucky Star
The first time I ate a huge plate of pierogi (Polish filled dumplings) worth a shout was last year in Warsaw, with my friend Gata. A self-confessed non cook who prefers to order her pierogi from the experts, Gata sent me off with a heavy gold-rimmed tome called Encyclopedia of Polish Cuisine by Hanna Szymanderska. The book, thoughtfully (on her part) is miraculously (as little on cooking is freely available in many languages in Poland) in English. I carried it with me through travels in Europe and finally it came home with me to Cape Town.
But, the book remained untouched. I formed the impression that for Polish cooking one needed lots of time and patience, things I always seem to run out of when I am home between trips and handling large volumes of work. Leafing through the pages on pierogi – boiled, baked and fried, I realised that the recipe was quite simple and very adaptable in terms of fillings used and methods to make the dumplings.
Fish stuffings are popular too (though I didn’t eat any on that trip), and so I decided to make a filling of Lucky Star pilchards, browned onions and parsley. The fish fillets are drained well (the filling needs to be dry but not too firm), and then cooked with browned, finely diced onions. Two boiled eggs are grated (or sieved through a strainer if you have the patience) and added to the mixture. I boiled the filled pierogi, patted them dry and then pan fried in them butter and olive oil and topped them with butter-fried onions.
You can substitute the filling with fried garlicky mushrooms with onions, leftover beef or lamb roast, shredded and cooked in a little butter with onions, duck made in the same way, etc.
2 medium brown onion, finely diced
2 T butter
2 T olive oil
1 x can (410g) Lucky Star pilchards in tomato sauce, drained
2 T finely sliced parsley
salt, to taste
2 eggs, boiled until well done – 7 minutes
1. Fry onions in butter and oil in a frying pan on medium heat, until cooked and starting to brown. Remove 3/4 of the fried onions and set aside.
2. Add drained sardines and salt to the 1/4 fried onions. Cook until heated through, then break up with a fork. Add the parsley and remove from heat. Mash well with a fork. Drain in a colander just to remove any juices or oil and ensure filling isn’t wet.
3. Peel boiled eggs and grate or sieve into fish mixture. Mix well. Adjust seasoning.
Basic Pierogi Dough
Adapted from: Encyclopedia of Polish Cuisine by Hanna Szymanderska
serves 6- 8 as a snack
400 g cake flour (wheat flour), sifted
2 large free-range eggs
2 T melted butter
1/2 t fine salt
190 ml boiled water, left until luke warm
1. Add flour onto a pastry board or large, shallow bowl and make a well in the centre. Break in the eggs and add the melted butter and salt.
2. Using a pastry scraper or a spatula, mix together. Add the water, a little at a time and knead.
3. You may need to add a little more or less water. Knead for about 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface (or the pastry board) until smooth and flexible to the touch. Form into a ball.
4. Cover dough with a clean dish towel and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
5. Lightly flour a surface, pinch the dough into tiny balls and roll out very thinly, as you would for ravioli. Keep unused dough covered while you are rolling. Cut rolled dough into disks using a cutter- about 10 cm in circumference.
To assemble and prepare
*Butter and olive oil for frying.
1. Place a teaspoon of filling into each disk in the centre. Fold the dough over and seal edges well by pinching. Do this at least twice, as the dough does open a little and the last thing you want is filling to spill into the boiling water.
2. In a large, shallow saucepan, filled with water to just above halfway mark, bring cold water to the boil. Lower heat to a simmer.
3. Add the filled pierogi 5-6 at a time. Once they hit the surface (will take a few seconds), cook them on a simmer for 6 minutes or so.
4. Remove from water, pat dry with paper towels.
5. When you’re ready, fry in a pan on medium-high heat, 4-5 at a time only, in one tablespoon butter and one tablespoon olive oil for 30 seconds a side or until golden brown.
6. Add two tablespoons of butter to a frying pan on medium heat. When it starts to brown, add cooked diced onions and heat through.
Serve pierogi with the warmed fried onions and a little sprinkle of cinnamon if you like.