Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pierogi & cooking with Grandma

Whenever I'm in my hometown, Warsaw, I visit my Grandma.  We laugh and chat (usually about latest fashion trends, travels and family gossip) and sip Grandma's homemade chokeberries liqueur ("aroniówka") - deep and smooth in flavor.  We also cook together, just as we did in the old days when I was a little girl and my head barely reached above the kitchen counter.  Grandma is one of the best cooks I know.  Dinners at her place always follow the traditional Polish way of dining: first you get soup, then the main course (accompanied by kompot - a light fruit juice), and then cake for dessert (all homemade of course).   

Grandma is a real fairy when it comes to cooking.  She makes complex traditional dishes in the blink of an eye (as if she'd just waved her magic wand), and everything she prepares is truly delicious.  I think her secret is that she puts a lot of heart into her dishes - she loves cooking and it's the love you taste.  

Stages of pierogi-making

Pierogi are a kind of dumpling - bigger than ravioli, and bursting with delicious stuffing.  You can have sweet versions (e.g. with blueberries or fresh cheese, all served with sweet cream and sugar) or savory ones (e.g. with minced meat, mushrooms & sauerkraut or with potatoes & curd cheese (so called "pierogi ruskie") - featured here).  The secret of good pierogi lies in the dough - it shouldn't be rubbery or tough, but at the same time it should be firm enough to hold the stuffing when the pierogi are boiling.  Grandma's dough strikes a perfect balance - and now that you have the recipe, you can master this art too :)

My absolute favorites among the pierogi family, are the ones with potato and curd cheese, with onion and lean bacon added to the stuffing for that smoky, defined flavor.  Think "goat's cheese and parma ham" and you'll know what flavor combination I mean.  These pierogi are an absolute hit among both Polish and non-Polish people.  I hope you like them as much as I do :)


15-20 pierogi - Serves 2 


  • 1 medium potato, cooked
  • a piece (150 - 200 g) of curd cheese (you can use soft goat cheese too)
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 80 g lean smoked bacon, finely diced
  • dried marjoram
  • salt (freshly ground)
  • pepper (freshly ground)

  • 300 g flour
  • 2 heaped tbsp sour cream
  • 1 egg yolk
  • some warm, boiled water

  • Stuffing: fry the bacon with the onion until golden brown.  Mince the cheese, cooked potato, and fried onion and bacon.  Mix well with a spoon.  Season with freshly ground salt & pepper, and dried marjoram (about 1,5 tsp).  After boiling the pierogi, the stuffing will be less salty/more bland than at this stage, so make sure it's seasoned well (don't over-season though).
  • Make the dough by kneading the flour, sour cream and yolk, adding a bit of warm water to get a firm, but smooth dough.  Knead thoroughly, to allow as much air as possible into the dough.
  • Sprinkle some flour on your working surface and rolling pin.  Roll out the dough to approx. 1-2 mm thin.  Cut out circles using a glass.  (Repeat the process with the dough left over after cutting out the circles).   
  • Stuff each circle with a heaped teaspoon of stuffing, fold the dough over forming a half-moon.  Press together with your fingers, making small curled folds along the edge (you can also use a fork, pressing it to seal the pierogi).
  • Cook in boiling, lightly salted water until the pierogi resurface.  Serve with fried onion or lardons.  

Grandma's pierogi ruskie with fresh apple kompot

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