Pierogi ruskie (stuffed with potato and cheese)

This recipe is courtesy of Caroline who can be found as Captain Bionic on Twitter.

Makes about 50 (a serving is about ten

300g plain flour
about 200ml tepid water (cooled down from boiled)
pinch of salt

About 500g potatoes for mashing
150-200g curd cheese – you can get it in Polish shops/supermarket sections where it’s called biały ser or twaróg. Full-fat is tastier. There is also good Turkish white cheese (called lor I think). I’ve never tried quark, but that could also work – drain it in a sieve first if it’s too moist
1 medium onion, finely chopped
butter for frying the onion
salt, lots of pepper

Start by making the filling. Boil the potatoes as you normally do for mashing, drain well, mash until smooth but without adding any milk or butter.

While the potatoes are boiling, soften your onion in the butter. You want to be generous with the butter because it will go in your mash and also because butter is delicious. You should probably take care to not brown your onion too much, but as long as it’s nice and soft, it’s good. Put the cheese in a large bowl and mash it with your hands or fork to get rid of lumps, but don’t worry too much.

Mix your mashed potato, buttery onions, cheese and lots of black pepper. I don’t think you need to cool anything, just put everything in a large bowl and try to get it smooth. If the mix is too dry, add a bit more melted butter or a splash of milk, but you definitely want it on a dry rather than sloppy side. (Worth noting here, this is a fairly standard recipe, but feel free to adjust the quantities to your liking – some people like a lot of onion and pepper [me!], some like the filling milder, maybe sharper with more cheese – whatever tastes good!)

The stuffing mix keeps very well in the fridge, so if you want to spread out the work, make it a few hours or a day ahead. You want the mix to be cold when you’re stuffing your dough anyway.

For the dough, either pile your flour on a clean surface or in a large bowl – if you make dough, you’ll have a preferred method, so go with that. Gradually add the water and work it into the flour, first with a fork/spoon, then with your hands. You may need all the water – again, you’ll know as you make the dough. Knead until you have a springy dough but don’t overwork it. Adjust flour and water as required. (I am very much not a pastry/dough maker, but basically use whatever method and tips for dough making to make a very simple flour and water dough! Some recipes add egg and/or fat; I’ve never tried them and this one has worked well for me, but by all means do what works for you!)

This is where things get a bit fiddly. You’ll need to roll out your dough nice and thin, so you’ll be doing it in stages (depending how large your rolling surface is I guess). Keep the rest of your dough covered so it doesn’t dry out. Use a little bit of flour to stop your pin from sticking, roll until fine and thin. Cut out circles about 10cm across, using a cookie cutter or a thin-lipped glass. Now get stuffing. Place a dollop of the filling (a heaped teaspoonful or so, but you’ll see how much you want as you go along) in the middle of each circle first (making sure you leave a healthy border), then pick them up in turn and seal the edges. There are various methods, but basically you need to press or crimp the edges together. Make sure you don’t tear the dough as you seal it or pull it around the filling, and that there is no air in the pockets. Either of those will make your filling seep as you poach them, and you really want to avoid that.

Roll out your dough in sections until you’ve used it up. Offcuts can of course be rolled back out again! Leftover filling can be frozen or used in pancakes or whatever.

When you’ve made a batch of pierogi, make sure they’re not overlapping, sprinkle with a little flour and cover with a teatowel until you’re ready to poach them. As long as they’re kept cool and covered, they’ll be fine for a little while (overnight, just about) – or you could freeze them at this point. If you do, put them in the freezer as they are, on a tray and not overlapping, to prevent sticking – once they’re frozen, bung them in bags or tubs.

Get a large pan of salted water on a rolling boil. Drop in your pierogi gently in batches (don’t overcrowd the pan) and poach for 3-5 minutes; they’ll usually sink first then rise back up to the surface, and they take about a minute once they’ve risen. Don’t agitate them in case you break the dough, although if you think they should be rising and they’re not, give the pan a gentle prod in case one’s got stuck to the bottom.

It’s important to drain them well because you don’t want a puddle of the poaching water on your plate as you eat them. Use a straining spoon to lift them out rather than draining in a colander or similar to prevent the dough from splitting; you could put them on a teatowel on a board or platter before serving, depending on how good your straining device is.

Classic toppings are melted butter, softened or crispy onions, lardons, soured cream. If you’re not serving them straight away, you could allow them to cool, then fry in a hot pan in a good amount of butter. I think they can be frozen at this point (once cooled), too, again making sure they’re not sticking together.