When I go back to Belarus, my mom knows that she’d better stock up enough Siberian pelmeni (dumplings) for me to have at least twice a day. This is my favorite indulgent breakfast, but also a great satisfying lunch and (or) dinner. It is a hearty and versatile dish that can be served as an entree or appetizer, prepared in a number of ways – boiled, fried or broiled – and served with a variety of condiments on the side. Once you bother to make pelmeni from scratch (warning – it is a labor of love, but also the funnest thing to do as a team effort with your family members and friends) you’d better make much more than you can eat and freeze the rest. You will be grateful when that day comes, whether it is coming home late from work, being lazy on a Sunday afternoon or dealing with the consequences of a late Friday night the following morning.
The word ‘pelmeni’ originated in the Finno-Ugric Komi and Udmurt languages and literally means ‘ear bread”. It is believed that the dish was brought to Russian cuisine from indigenous Siberians, which is why it is commonly referred to as ‘Siberian’ pelmeni.
The recipe I’m sharing here is a classic one, when pork is mixed with beef in equal proportions. Pelmeni, however, can be prepared just with pork, beef, lamb or chicken, so if you prefer any specific meat over another, go for it and experiment.
Active time: 1 hour | Total time: 1.5 hours | Serves: 4
2 cups wheat flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
Bunch parsley, chopped
3 tbsp broth or water
Salt and pepper
For vodka sauce:
1 tbsp butter
1 shallot, chopped
1/2 cup vodka
1 cup fresh or canned tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper
Make dough. Mix together flour, eggs, water and pinch of salt, cover with a wet dish towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare filling. Mix together ground meat, onion, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. Optionally, add a pinch of smoked paprika.
Roll out the dough until it is approximately 2 mm thick. By pressing a water glass against dough, make circles. Scoop 1-2 teaspoons of filling and put in the center of each circle, fold the opposite ends of circles and seal them by pinching the edges with your fingers. (Each should take the shape of a half moon.) Make sure you diligently work through the entire edges of each pelmen (singular) to seal the filling well. Finally, take the ends of each half moon and pinch them together with your fingers to make a round shape (see photo below).
Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add pelmeni and boil for 5-8 minutes until they rise to the surface; remove them with a slotted spoon or mesh strainer, and serve with vodka sauce or sour cream.
Heat butter in a saucepan, add a shallot and saute until it starts sweating. Add vodka to the saucepan and cook until it is reduced by half. Mix in seedless and chopped tomatoes and parsley and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. After tomatoes cool off, add sour cream and mix together well. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and serve chilled.
If you are planning to prepare multiple batches, use the same cooking water for each one. The richer the cooking water becomes with each batch, the tastier the pelmeni; so the last person to have them hits the jackpot. (Hat tip to chef Ryan, corporate chef of Via Carota and Buvette.)