Sunday, July 01, 2007

Waiter, there is something in my ... dumplings! Curd cheese vareniki with home-made apricot jam

Oh, how time flies. It's already the sixth installment of Waiter, there is something in my ... foodblogging event, this time hosted by Johanna who, very appropriately for an Austrian, has chosen dumplings as a theme. Not any dumplings, but dumplings with filling that have been steamed, boiled or baked (but NOT fried). So dim sum, ravioli and tortellini were ok, but doughnuts, gnocchi or spätzle weren't. My instincts said that my favourite dumplings, pontšikud, wouldn't be ok, as a) they're boiled in oil, which Johanna might interpret as frying, and b) they've got no filling. To be on the safe side, I made a batch of vareniki - a popular boiled dumpling from Ukraine (read more here), stuffed with curd cheese cream and served with home-made apricot jam and pistachios. The name, vareniki, comes from the Russian verb 'to boil', so they're boiled dumplings. To me, they're big Ukrainian cousins of pelmeni, the small meat-filled Russian dumplings that I love. Although vareniki can be savoury, these particular ones are sweet - a lovely combination of vanilla-infused curd cheese filling and just a bit sharp apricot jam and ever-so-slightly crunchy pistachio nuts.

Now, the recipe below will be vague and incomplete - apologies for that. K. made the apricot jam from the Provencal apricots available at the market these days, and he wouldn't share his secret recipe (though I suspect it's something like a scant 250 grams of sugar to 1 kg of pitted apricots, boiled gently for 20 minutes until thickened). I wasn't too happy with the dough recipe, so I'll be working on improving that (it was a bit too tough to my liking, so I'll replace milk with water next time to start with). But you'll get the recipe for the filling, which was great.

Vareniki dumplings with curd cheese filling, served with home-made apricot jam & pistachios
Serves 4

Dough (work in progress):
400 ml plain flour
1 tsp sugar
0.5 tsp salt
1 egg
100 ml milk

250 grams quark or curd cheese (press through a sieve, if not smooth)
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg

To serve:
home made apricot jam and pistachio nuts
any fruit puree of your choice (strawberry puree would work well)
icing sugar

For the dough, I mixed milk with egg, seasoned with salt & sugar and added the flour, mixing until combined. Then I placed it in the fridge, covered, for about an hour.
For the filling, I simply combined all the ingredients (you could also add raisins or candied ginger or grated lemon zest, if you're so inclined).
To make the vareniki, roll the relaxed dough onto a thin disk (about 3 mm thick), then cut into 8-10 cm circles. Place a tablespoonful of filling into the centre, moisten the edges with water and fold in half, so you'll have half-moon shaped dumplings. Pinch the edge together with a fork.
Place into a freezer for 20-30 minutes (vareniki can be cooked from frozen, so you can leave them in the freezer for longer, if you wish).
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to the boil, add a generous pinch of salt.
Slip the dumplings into the boiling water, 3-5 at the time, depending on the size of your pot.
Boil for about 5 minutes or until the dumplings float (they'll definitely sink in the beginning).
Take out of the water with a slotted spoon, drain on a clean kitchen towel for a moment.
To serve, place on a small plate, spoon the apricot jam on the plate, sprinkle with pistachio nuts and dust with icing sugar.

Here are links to my previous Waiter there is something in my ... entries:
May 2007 (STUFFED VEGETABLES): Stuffed tomatoes with two types of salad - cod liver salad & cucumber and wild garlic salad
April 2007 (BREAD): a traditional Estonian quick mushroom bread, Seenekarask
March 2007 (EASTER BASKET): a selection of various Easter delights.
February 2007 (PIE): a great Russian puff pastry and fish pie, Salmon Kulebyaka.
January 2007 (STEW): my version (in collaboration with Anthony Bourdain:) of the French classic Boeuf Bourguignon.

UPDATE 05.07.2007:
you can read Johanna's round-up of all the different takes - sweet & savoury, familiar & exotic - on dumplings here.

A year ago I wrote about the English classic, Bakewell Pudding for Andrew's Blog Save Our Tart event.


bea at la tartine gourmande said...

oh I love dumplings, and these sweet ones are no exception !

thepassionatecook said...

dumplings, apricot - what more could you want? this definitely fits the bill and looks very delicious! i made an apricot and pistachio jam last year which was the rave of the season (at least at home ;-)) a delightful combination! thanks for participating...

Shaun said...

Pille - I am not the biggest fan of apricots but since your K made it, I'm sure it could change my mind. I have never had sweet vareniky before, only a savoury version with liver, which was amazing. Actually, Silvena Rowe has a recipe for vareniky in her book "Feasts", but I have been too scared to make it. Please let me know how you progress with your version of the dough...

Rose said...

I love your use of abricot jam with the dumplings. It looks so delicate.

Kiriel du Papillon said...

I do love a dumpling, although being summer the weather isn't at its best for dumplings. Yours sound lovely... a recipe to treasure for winter perhaps!

Enk said...

It seems we like a lot of the same foods :D I'm waiting to find a good price on cherries so I can make homemade cherry vareniki, but if blueberries show up in the forest first, I'll make some out of those. Pelmeni would be good, too!

Pille said...

Bea - thank you!

Johanna - we didn't think of adding any pistachios to the apricot jam - silly us!? Thanks for hosting it, I found quite a few tempting dumpling recipes..

Shaun - thanks for the tip, I'll check out Silvena Rowe's vareniki dough!

Rose - thank you!

Kiriel du papillon - they were fine for summer, but during winter we could also drizzle some melted butter on top to keep us warm:)

Enk - indeed. Similar culinary/cultural background, perhaps?

Cucee Sprouts said...

These look so good. I have to try your recipe. I grew up on vareniki and just recently made my first batch! My kids were all over them. I did healthify the original recipe. If you want to check it out, here is a link. Looking forward reading more of your recipes :)