The other day Dave and I found ourselves near the Russia Cafe & Deli in Campbell, CA, and decided to drop in - Dave was craving ‘pelmeni’ (Russian meat dumplings) and I wanted to use my chance to get some buckwheat. I haven’t shopped in a Russian store here in the Bay Area for a while and was unpleasantly surprised by the price rise especially on certain goods being way too much overpriced as compared to Moscow stores (yes, sounds unreal but there is something that can beat crazy Moscow prices).
Why am I buying pelmeni when I can make it myself? Actually, I am not a fan of pelmeni - I like them but not crazy about, and some store-bought pelmeni brand back in Moscow would do just fine for me despite it is now considered as a kind of fast food and often called a barchelors’ food. Here in the States where I don’t have all that variety of choice, home-made pelmeni would not be such a bad idea. Plus, Dave really likes it.
A trip to a regular American grocery to get some ground beef (I decided to start with a simple version) and here I am in the kitchen making pelmeni. Honestly, I’ve never done it before but as a kid I used to help my mom making ‘vareniki’ (curd or fruit dumplings) all the time. The principle is pretty much the same, I thought, so all doubts put aside I made myself thinking I was qualified enough for pelmeni-making.
It is really easy, requires just a few ingredients and can be made in advance - the last makes pelmeni a perfect idea for a weekday dinner, and if pelmeni are home-made I think it is not a big shame to treat your unexpected quests to this Russian classic.
Pelmeni (meat dumplings)
Ingredients (serves 2-3):
- 3 cup flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup water
- ½ tsp sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 lb (450 g) ground beef (I used beef but it can be 50/50 beef and pork or even chicken)
- black pepper (if you like spicy food you may want to add some crashed red pepper)
- ¼ onion bulb
1. Prepare stuffing: chop onion really fine, add to ground beef, add salt and pepper, mix well.
If the stuffing feels tough add a little bit of water.
2. Prepare dough: mix egg with flour and water. Add salt and sugar. Mix well and make dough.
You may want to adjust flour/water proportions to achieve the desired dough consistency - it should be flexible but also keep its shape.
3. Roll the dough out and cut circles diameter about 7 cm (2.8 in) or even less (pelmeni will double in size when being boiled). Make sure it is not thin - you don’t want your dough be transparent and your dumplings break during boiling.
Place stuffing in the center of a dough circle. I used a fork not a spoon - it does work better for a small amount of stuffing and prevents overstuffing.
4. Make dumplings.
Put together two opposite sides of a dough circle and make a ‘half-moon’, fix edges well.
|Find 10 differences: store-bough pelmen (left) and home-made pelmen (right)|
|Pelmeni ready to jump into boiling water|
5. Put water in a big saucepan to boil, salt, add pepper and a bay leaf. You may use meat broth instead.
6. Stir in pelmeni making sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the saucepan and boil till they come to the surface and then boil for some 5 minutes more.
7. Actually, pelmeni are ready. Take them out with a skimmer (don’t drain!) and serve with ‘smetana’ (sour cream) - that’s classic.
Or go further:
8. Preheat and butter a skillet.
9. Fry pelmeni in the skillet till they are golden yellow on both sides.
10. Serve hot with smetana and/or crushed fresh parsley or dill. You may replace smetana for your favorite souce or even plain ketchup - depends on your taste and type of meat you used.
To tell you the truth, I didn’t even try my pelmeni - it is Lent time - but by the aroma filling in my kitchen I could tell I was doing something right. Dave, my main food critics, loved it and it is all that matters for me. I am happy, plus, I made some extra to freeze - and it means a ready-made dinner meal in the future. Yes, I am a lazy cook:)))
To make the experience complete, we also had some vegetable salad and Dave’s all time favorite - borsch. Another Russian night in Silicon Valley:))