This dish, for me, is one of the culinary perfections of this world. On one hand because anything that includes pasta dough and a filling is –despite the simplicity of the ingredients- just wonderful when combined. On the other hand because it evokes memories of my childhood. The sweet variation of Vareniki, filled with sour cherries and topped with sour cream and sugar, was and still is one of my most favourite foods. I associate it with the ritual of cooking with my family (I was allowed to help in the kitchen from early on, for which I’m thankful to this day!). In addition, I associate it with being in bed with a cold or fever (which in my family meant that everyone else would look after you and you would get to eat whatever you wished for) and a plate of fresh Vareniki making it all better.
This little dumplings full of warmth are widespread in almost the entire territory of the former Soviet Union and have close and distant relatives all over the world: Ravioli and Tortellini in Italy, Jiaozi and Wan Tan in China, Maultaschen in Germany, Pierogi in Poland, Kreplach in the Jewish cuisine and Pelmeni, which also feel at home on the territory of the former USSR.
At home, we would fill our Vareniki with different ingredients, depending on the mood. With quark, sour cherries or with mashed potatoes and caramelized onion, which I’m going to present to you today. There are surely other variations, but these were the ones we enjoyed the most. : )
This recipe might seem a bit too complicated to some, but don’t let that scare you off! It really isn’t that hard, maybe it takes a little longer the first time but believe me, you’ll see that it’s totally worth it in the end! The great thing is: if you’re at it once, you can make a bigger amount of Vareniki and store the ones you don’t want to cook right away on a slightly floured surface and covered with aluminum foil for several months in your freezer! So whenever you’re in the mood for some more, you can just cook the frozen ones in boiling water until they float on the surface. : )
The following amounts of the ingredients are intended as guideline amounts! Dare to listen to your common sense and use your hands to knead the dough, so you’ll feel if you need more of some ingredient : )
Flour (about 600gr)
1 tsp of salz
Potatoes (about 600gr)
Some dill (optional)
2 bay leaves
First we start with the stuffing (basically a kind of mashed potatoes) so it can cool down a bit while we prepare the dough later on. Peel the potatoes, rinse them, cut them in half and put them to boil with the sufficient amount of water and some salt.
Meanwhile peel the onions, dice them and fry them in a pan with some sunflower oil until they’re golden.
As soon as the potatoes are done, pour off the water and mash them inside the pot. To get a nice and smooth consistency add a bit of butter (about a fingerthick piece). Now you can add the fried onions, a bit of salt according to taste and if you like, some dill. Mix everything together and let it cool.
For the dough, mix the flour with the salt in a medium sized bowl and add lukewarm water, little by little. Knead the dough thoroughly with your hands and add -depending on the consistency- more water or, if too sticky, more flour. As soon as your mixture is smooth and doesn’t stick to the bowl or to your hands anymore, you will start with a small workout: Knead the dough for some 10-15 minutes on a floured surface until it is smooth and soft.
Roll out your dough on a floured surface; feel free to do this in small portions. Remember that the dough is to be filled, so don’t roll it out too thin (but not more than 0,5cm of thickness). Now you’ll have to cut out circles from your rolled out dough. You can do this with a cookie cutter or with a drinking glass. I used a glass with about 7cm in diameter. Knead the scraps of your dough together and roll out to cut out more circles.
Place your filling on the circles with a teaspoon.
Fold the dough over the filling into a semi-circle and press the edges together between your thumb and index finger. If your dough doesn’t stick together you can brush the edges with some egg-white but normally it should work just fine without it. The circle has to be closed well, so that the filling doesn’t escape during the cooking 😀 So this is the basic Vareniki shape, but if you want, you can try some “fancier” shapes. Instead of just pressing the dough together to form a flat edge, you can try and “pinch” it with your thumb and index finger or roll up the edges. I have made those three options for you to see them:
Place the folded Vareniki on a floured surface (worktop, baking tray, plate, etc). As soon as you have used up all your dough, bring a pot of salted water and 2 bay leaves to the boil. Carefully lower your Vareniki into the water (about 15-20 of them, according to the size of your pot) and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon to prevent them from sticking together. Cook them until they rise to the surface, then remove them carefully with a slotted spoon, let them drain some seconds and place them on a plate. Top them with a spoon of sour cream and some salt and (preferably freshly ground) black pepper.
Now drop everything else and enjoy them, while they’re hot! : )