Friday, August 22, 2008

So very cherry

This is a Russian classic that my mom has been making for as long as I can remember. A rare treat though - probably once a summer - because let's be honest - like most of Russian food - it's an incredible pain to make.

I’ve probably already mentioned my theory, that Russian cuisine as such, must have been invented by men as a method of keeping the women in check, from getting any ideas of you know – having a life of their own. If you make Russian food for all three courses a day, you’ll surely be slaving in the kitchen for the entire time you’re awake. Chopping, picking, kneading, cutting, rolling, hand-crafting every morsel. But how good it is, how nuanced and well-balanced. Ah!

Vareniki - or sweet dumplings were made in the summer and pelmeni or salty dumplings in the winter. They come in completely different size and shape (vareniki are hand made, bigger and come in the shape of a crescent or a half-circle; pelmeni are smaller and need to be either handmade or made with a special dumpling-iron that makes them more round, with 6 corners), this is important and not to be confused :).

Sour-cherry dumplings or Vareniki. (serves ~5)

Dough:
1 egg
1 glass of water
flour (enough to make it a kneadable, but not very rough, as you have to roll it very thin, probably about 1,5 glasses)
1 tsp salt

Filling:
~1,5 kg of sour-cherries
sugar

butter for serving

To make the dough:
Mix and knead. Sprinkle some flour on the table and roll the dough out thin.
We have a special tool for making vareniki - a cutting-roll with a handle that cuts the dough into perfectly sized circles. But a glass or a cup or a cookie cutter will work just as well.
Cut out dough-circles that are about 7 cm in diameter.

To make the filling:
Take the pits out and leave the cherries on a strainer to get rid of the juice. Keep the juice. Mix the cherries with sugar and drain the extra juice again. You need the cherries relatively dry, otherwise the dumplings will fall apart.

Another typical varenik-filling is cottage cheese. If you use that, you need to make sure you drain it of the extra juice as well. Then mix with sugar and drain again.

And then it's time for some handicrafts. Take the dough-circle, put some (4-5 cherries) of cherry filling in the centre, fold the dough and knead the edges together so that it will end up looking like a fat, filled half-circle.

Sprinkle some flour on a tray before laying the ready dumplings on it - that way you'll be able to separate the two when it's time for cooking them. When you're done with making the dumplings you need to boil them. You can tell that they're ready when they come to the surface (keep them on the heat for 2-3 minutes after that). Serve them with some butter and a spray of the cherry-juice you've kept.

If you're not eating all of them at once you can either freeze some (before boiling) or butter the boiled ones (again, to be able to separate them the next day), put them in the fridge and quickly fry them the next day.

They're heavenly whichever way.

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