Monday, June 23, 2014

Varenyky (Ukrainian boiled dumplings)


Every culture has some recipes for comfort foods that not only warm your stomach, but also warm your heart. Even though there is a vast variety in these foods, there are also similarities between the comfort foods in different cultures. Soups and stews are some of the best examples. Another common theme in comfort food around the world would be dumplings. Whether it is the Italian ravioli, Japanese gyoza or the Nepali momo, a warm plate of these soft filled pillows of dough makes for a wonderful meal.

Several Eastern European countries make similar types of dumplings with each one having their own twist on it. Varenyky (pronounced: va-re-ni-ki) are boiled Ukrainian dumplings. They can be made sweet or savory, with the most traditional fillings being cherry, farmers’ cheese, mashed potato, mushrooms or cabbage. The recipe I have here is for a mushroom and potato filling, but the same dough and procedure can be used for making varenyky with any other filling. After playing with the dough recipe for a little while and not being too satisfied with it, I asked my friend Maria for her traditional recipe used at home. She was kind enough to share the recipe with me and to let me share it with you all on the blog.

Making varenyky can take up some time, but there is something very therapeutic about the whole process from making the dough to filling and sealing each dumpling. It also makes for a good weekend afternoon project and once you’ve made a big batch, they can be frozen to enjoy at a later time!

1.5-2 cups flour (Start with 1.5. Add more if the dough is too soft before rolling)
1.5 tbsp oil
¾ cup warm water
Pinch of salt
Flour for dusting the rolling surface

2 large potatoes
1 cup finely chopped mushrooms
Oil for frying mushrooms


~3/4 cup chopped onion
~2 tbsp oil
~2 tsp flour
Sour cream
Chopped parsley/spring onions

To make the dough, mix the flour and salt. In a separate bowl/cup, mix the water and oil. Stir a little and add to the flour. Mix well. Knead for a few minutes. Cover with a towel and let the dough rest for about an hour. I had to add about ¼ - ½ a cup of flour in addition to this because it was too soft to roll.

While the dough is resting, boil the potatoes until soft. Peel and mash the potatoes (potatoes should be soft, without any lumps). Fry chopped mushroom in oil until they have released moisture. Mix the mushrooms with the mashed potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

To make the varenyky, roll out a portion of the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness (use flour for dusting). Cut ~2 inch diameter circles using a cookie cutter or inverted glass. The dough will stretch as you fill and seal the varenyky so don’t make them too big. Repeat until all the dough is used up.

Spoon about two teaspoons of filling in the center of each circle (this quantity might have to be adjusted a little depending on your dough consistency and size). Fold into a semicircle and seal the edges well by pressing them together firmly. At this point, the varenyky can be frozen if you are not cooking them right away. Place them on a plate without touching each other and leave in the freezer until hard. Then they can be transferred to an airtight container or a Ziploc bag.

Before cooking the varenyky, prepare the onion for topping by frying them in oil with the flour until golden brown.

To cook the varenyky, heat water in a medium/large pot. Add salt to the water. Bring the water to a rolling boil. With the heat still on high, carefully add the varenyky to the water. Cover and cook until they are fully cooked and rise to the surface (~3-5 minutes). Take the pot off the heat and remove the varenyky. Add the onions along with the leftover oil in the pan. Cover and shake the container until the onions + oil coat all the varenyky.

Serve warm garnished with chopped parsley or spring onions and a dollop of sour cream for extra deliciousness!