Saturday, 2 October 2010

Polish dumplings (pierogi) with lamb

I hate to waste any food, especially meat. I have written about it few months ago. It is no good for the environment but also from an economical point of view it is something unforgivable. It is like taking a note out of my wallet and putting into a shredder.

Therefore I try to cook some of our meals using products that are not at their best, but can be used in soup or stews – like wrinkly vegetables, or cheese that seems to be bit dry on the edges. Also I am not panicking about products that have passed the best before date – they are still OK to eat!

When we have a roast lamb, shoulder or leg that weights about 2 kg it is always too much for two of us, and after two days of eating the roast, we always have some leftovers. So I put them in a plastic bags and place in the freezer. This is how I ended up with 500g of meat that I used to make a filling for Polish speciality – pierogi.

It is quite common to stuff them with meat, seasonal fruit or mix of mashed potatoes and curd cheese. This is my recipe and I would not call this filling a traditional Polish stuff, as lamb is not the most popular meat in Poland, although pierogi are typically Polish and were incorporated to Polish cuisine from the Far East through the Kievian Rus. This is something that is very popular in most of the Polish homes and places serving food and there are numbers of different fillings used. In Poland you can get them in most shops, usually frozen.

There are different ways to make the dough. One, very traditional mix flour with egg and some water and the other which I prefer to use mix flour with buttermilk. The dough made from buttermilk is easy to roll, very flexible and pleasant to work with. However I will post both recipes, so you can use whichever you prefer.

Makes about 40 dumplings

For the dough:

300g plain flour (you have to have some more flour handy to work the dough and roll it out as it can be quite sticky)
half tsp salt
1 egg
about 100ml warm water
1 tbsp oil (optional)

Like making pasta dough sieve the flour onto a worktop and make well in the centre. Place the egg, salt and oil in the well and mix all the ingredients. Next add little bit water at a time and mix the dough with your hands until you have got a ball. You can use a planetary mixer instead. The dough should not be too sticky, so when making it you may have to add some extra flour.

Alternatively mix the following:

500g plain flour
about 300ml buttermilk

Again, you have to have some more flour and buttermilk handy, so you can adjust the recipe if needed. Again, the dough should be flexible and not too sticky. I prefer this one, as it is easier to assemble and the dough is very good to work with.

Either way you prepare the dough, divide it into 2-3 pieces and cover with cloth before rolling out.

For the filling:

about 500g roast or boiled meat leftovers (I used parts of lamb leg and shoulder and also small piece of beef boiled to make a broth on previous day)
140g cubed pancetta
large white onion, peeled and diced
3-4 tbsp butter
handful dried porcini mushrooms
2 springs of rosemary
cup of vegetarian or beef stock (optional)
freshly ground black pepper

Soak the mushrooms in a cup of water for 10 minutes, drain and squeeze the excess of water, save the water for later.

In a dry pan fry the pancetta until brown, place in the bowl and set aside.

In the same pan melt the butter and fry the onions and rosemary springs. Remove the rosemary and discard when the onions are soft.

Mince the meat, pancetta, mushrooms and onions using a meat mincer. Add the water from soaking the mushrooms and mix well. The filling should be firm and quite sticky, so add more stock if needed. You should be able to form a firm ball without any problems. Season with salt and pepper.

Start to roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface. If you use first type of dough you can use a pasta maker to roll it out, unfortunately the buttermilk dough is not suitable for rolling out in the machine. Although it is really easy and pleasant to roll out with ordinary rolling pin.

When dough is rolled out, cut disks using a pastry cutter or glass or tea cup. Any scraps of leftover dough put together and knead to form a ball that you will roll out later. If you use the first type of dough it could become too dry to seal the edges, so you will have to brush them lightly with little water.

Place a generous spoon of the filling into a middle of each disk. The edges must stay clean as it will not seal properly with any filling between edges. Fold disk in half and pinch the edges together with you fingers, pressing lightly. Place it on floured surface and repeat with other disks.

At this stage you can freeze uncooked dumplings and boil them from the frozen next time. I prefer to cook them all and reheat next day – either fry in butter or steam them.

In the large pan (I use 5l) boil the water with some salt. Add few dumplings at a time, about 6-8 and bring them to the boil. They should rise to the surface and boil for about 3-4 minutes. Drain one with slotted spoon and check if the dough is cooked. If so, drain all of the dumplings with slotted spoon and serve.

We had it with some onions, which I have fried in butter and then cooked in some homemade beef stock and then sprinkled with fresh chopped parsley. You can also serve it with melted butter only, or fried pancetta cubes, or fried onions.



  1. wow Karolina I love this Pierogi recipe! I think it's really versatile as one can experiment with several kind of meat Does Pierogi mean literally 'dumpling'?...I will surely try it soon, also I totally agree with you about hating food waste. I was raised with my two sister by my mum only and she worked as a teacher so money was always a problem..but not food as she always managed to prepare yummy stuff even from leftovers! I will post my special 'polpette'(meat balls) recipe (that one of my mum specialities) as you inspired me to do so!

  2. Lucia, thanks for stopping by. :)

    It is quite difficult to explain what 'pierogi' means literally, because dumplings I know from UK are made from flour and without filling. Pierogi are more likely to be compared with Italian ravioli – how would you call ravioli in English if you had to, because the Italian name was not popular in the world? ;)

    I come from a similar background: as a teenagers my sister and I were brought up by my Mum only and there was no wasting any food or money – we simply couldn’t afford it.

    You can obviously experiment with different kind of meat, you can use different types of fillings: I often make spinach, garlic and ricotta (instead of Polish cheese), also buckwheat with onion and wild mushrooms is great!

    It is interesting what you saying about meat balls recipe – polpette. It sound very similar to Polish meat balls – pulpety. Aren’t foreign languages a fun?! :)

    I hope you like it and please let me know what you stuffing was – you may inspire me! :)

    Take care!

  3. These look quite like Chinese dumplings. I love them. I make Chinese dumplings sometimes and they are really good as a meal and also a great way to hide vegetables :D Hope you have a great day. MaryMoh at

  4. MaryMoh, I actually going to try to make Chinese ones - steamed. I have seen a recipe for dumplings pastry: flour + hot water. I hope it will work, as where I liive it is difficult to get won-ton or gyoza (is this Japanese?) skins.

    I am a lover of any filled pastry - pierogi, won tons, gyoza or ravioli - it doesn't matter! :)


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