A scan might have found the cancer now killing Daniel van Roo. Instead his doctor gave him 50 STI tests, which van Roo believes was because he is gay.If I hadn’t taken action and if I hadn’t seen a doctor then, you know, then where I am is just where I am. But because I did do those things, I am probably going to be upset about it when I am laying in the hospital bed at the end.
What would you do if you found out that your neighbour was making vodka from another neighbour’s potatoes? Well, if you are anything like me, you would have a sudden and burning desire to make pierogi, the wonderful Polish take on a double-cooked dumpling.
I imagine the word “moonshine” may have entered your head, but no. The current trend of excellent small-batch distillers of vodka and gin has finally made its way into the backblocks of Lyonville and my neighbour has all the necessary certifications to manufacture spirits. With a long and proud tradition of growing potatoes in our region, it is only fitting that we will have our own vodka from our own organic potatoes.
The pierogi here are made with potatoes, but are also delicious if stuffed with meat or beetroot filling. The dough is similar to a pasta dough, but enriched with sour cream.
Make a batch to enjoy on these wintry days. Maybe you might even decide to crack open a bottle of vodka to add some extra cheer.
For the dough
– 280g plain or 00 flour, plus more for dusting
– good pinch salt
– 2 large eggs
– 20g sour cream
For the filling
– 700g nicola or Dutch cream potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
– 2 tbsp unsalted butter
– 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
– 1 small onion, finely chopped
– 1 clove garlic, minced
– 100g finely shredded Savoy cabbage
– salt and pepper
– 1 tsp chopped chives
– 1 tsp chopped dill
– 100g strong tasty cheese, grated
– 2 tbsp ghee (for frying)
For the sauce
– 200ml sour cream
– juice 1 lemon
– 1 tbsp chopped chives
– 1 tbsp chopped dill
– 1 tsp grated horseradish
– salt and pepper
In a large bowl or mixer combine the flour, salt, eggs and sour cream with between 120 millilitres and 160 millilitres of water (the amount you need may depend on the type of flour you use). If doing by hand, make a well in the centre of the flour and add the wet ingredients, incorporating them slowly. If using a mixer, use the paddle attachment. Beat the eggs as you mix and gradually add the water until the mixture is combined into a soft dough.
Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface, then knead it by picking it up and slapping it down on the counter repeatedly. Do this only until the ingredients are blended and the dough is smooth and slightly sticky (about three to five minutes). Do not overwork the dough. Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 20 to 30 minutes while you prepare the filling. I find it gives a better result if done the day before.
Put the potatoes in a medium-sized pot and add just enough cold salted water to cover them. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are soft (about 20 minutes).
While the potatoes are cooking, melt the butter and oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Add the onion and garlic, cooking until the onion is soft and translucent (about five minutes). Lower the heat and continue cooking until the onions caramelise slightly (about 20 minutes). Add the shredded cabbage, put a lid over the pan and cook for a further 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside to cool.
When the potatoes are soft, drain them in a colander, making sure they are quite dry. Put them in a bowl and add the onion mixture, chives, dill and cheese. Mash until just blended (you want to have some texture left in the potatoes). Season again to taste. Set aside to cool while you roll out the pierogi dough.
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil over high heat. With lightly floured hands, divide the dough in two and roll into long sausages. Divide each sausage into 15 pieces and roll all 30 pieces into little balls with cupped hands. On a well-floured surface, gently roll each ball with a rolling pin until about eight centimetres in diameter. Cover the finished rounds with a damp towel so they don’t dry out while you’re working.
Once your rounds are rolled out, hold each one in the palm of your hand and fill the centre of it with a tablespoon of the potato mixture. Gently fold the round in half, pulling the edges away and pinching them firmly shut to enclose the filling. Be sure the edges are sealed by working from one end to the other. Once formed, pop your filled pierogi aside on a floured tray until all are done.
Working in batches, drop no more than 10 pierogi at a time into the boiling water. Once they float allow them to cook for another four minutes. Remove the pierogi and drain.
Heat a large non-stick frying pan, add the ghee and fry the pierogi in batches. Keep warm in a low oven.
For the sauce, combine all the ingredients, season to taste and spoon over the pierogi or serve on the side.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 20, 2020 as "Pocketful of sunshine".
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