(In case you’re wondering…That’s my bubbly in the picture, not his 🙂 )
Still a long way to go until Spring… Having as much fun as we can in the meantime. No snow this year, but we pretend with Pelmeni, Siberian “ravioli” (from the Far East like all pasta, until Marco Polo brought it to Europe in the 14th century). Never realized what an institution this is for Russians until our Saint Petersburg friends initiated us. During our in-person tutorial, they told us how their clans gather around kitchen tables and make hundreds of dumplings to store outside on frozen apartment balconies all through the winter, bringing some in once or twice a week for dinners. Everyone competes to see who can make the most and the best, singing, telling jokes and stories. Each family has their own recipe and unique style so when a couple moves in together or marries, their traditions better be compatible or the relationship won’t be happy. Of course there are Pelmeni restaurants in the old country, but nothing compares to home-made ones. So, as soon as Parisian temperatures approach zero, we set out our ingredients, roll out our dough (gyoza and wonton wrappers are for sissies!), chop our meat and onions, cut out our circles, dole out filling, boil our broth, and enjoy with black bread, red caviar, sour cream, vinegar, chives (considered sacrilege by some) and only top-of-the-line beverages.
Veronika’s ST-P style, for 4: 1 pound of meat (mixture of beef and pork), 1 large onion, 1 pound of flour, salt, water, bay leaf, black pepper corns (+ fresh herbs, vinegar depending on the family…)
Olga’s Siberian style (more people, more elbow grease) filling: 2 pounds ground meat (half beef, half pork and veal, must not be too lean!), 1 tbsp water, 2 large onions, salt, pepper. Dough: 2 lbs flour, salt, water, 1 egg per cup of flour.
Pour flour on the table or counter, add a pinch of salt, make a little well in the middle, start adding water and mixing until it begins to form a ball. (Siberians add eggs)
Keep kneading, adding flour and water until it becomes smooth and elastic. Work as a team, taking turns, it’s strenuous! Never try this in the spring or summer!
Now we’re getting somewhere. Roll it into a ball, let rest.
Meanwhile, prepare meat and onions for filling (we put pork shoulder in food processor and mix with ground beef). Roll out dough on floury surface until thin and cut circles with the rim of a glass. These look huge, but are about 3″ diameter. Bring a big kettle of water to a boil. Pop in a bay leaf, black pepper corns, and salt.
Put a spoon of filling in each center, fold over, moisten edges and pinch shut, fold corners to center, moisten and pinch again. (Variation: pinch off little pieces of dough and roll out individually, then fill, fold, close, fold again)
We cheated. Ours are bigger because we were hungry and in a hurry.
Gently drop dumplings in the boiling water, about 5 per person to start (don’t let them glob together) and boil until they rise to the surface. It’s OK if one or two come apart, that makes the broth even tastier. Meanwhile, munch on whole grain black bread and red caviar.
Dip dumplings out with a strainer, place in shallow soup plates with a ladle of broth, garnish with organic smetana, crème fraîche, or sour cream (and fresh chives, dill or parsley). Some people like a few drops of vinegar. Repeat as necessary.
Broth can be refrigerated or frozen, reused once, for more pelmeni, soups or sauces, but do not refreeze 🙂