Vareniki fillings may vary, but the most common version is the potato version. Depending on the filling, they can be served as a starter or as a dessert. It is customary to accompany varenieki with Russian sour cream called smetana.
What are vareniki?
Vareniki is a popular national dish in Ukraine and Russia. They come in the form of semicircular raviolis, the edges of which are sealed with cold water. These edges can be either smooth or raised.
In Ukraine, vareniki are traditionally eaten with sour cream (in Ukrainian сметана), butter and fried onions. Sometimes, recipes add fried pieces of bacon and pork fat (in Ukrainian: shkvarky).
Traditionally, vareniki are eaten during a daily meal or during certain traditional celebrations, such as Christmas Eve supper (in Ukrainian: Sviata Vecheriai).
Legends and popular culture around vareniki
Vareniki are very popular in Ukraine and are at the center of the Ukrainian culinary tradition. This is why an annual festival is held in their honor every year in the Ukrainian ski resort of Bukovel in the Carpathians.
In addition, the vareniki go beyond the national Ukrainian dish. Indeed, in the past, they played a symbolic and ritual role. By analogy, the Ukrainian sages equated varenyky to a young moon because of their semicircular shape.
Dumplings were then used as part of pagan and sacrificial rituals. According to some beliefs, vareniki brought abundance and brought about fruitful harvests. For this reason, Ukrainian peasants brought homemade vareniki to the fields.
What is the difference between pelmeni, pierogi, pyrohy and vareniki?
Pelmeni are dumplings filled with meat, usually pork or fish. It is a traditional dish from the Urals. The meat that is used for the filling is simply spiced with salt, pepper and garlic. Pelmeni are filled with raw meat. They are usually served with a spoonful of sour cream and a little dill, or in a light broth.
The terms vareniki and pierogi both mean the same thing. This is a vegetarian version of the pelmeni. While vareniki is the most commonly used term in Russia, pierogi is the word used in Poland and Slovakia. Stuffed dumplings are indeed common throughout Central and Eastern Europe, and in particular most of the former eastern bloc states.
Finally, the terms varenyky and pyrohy are used to designate the same dish in certain regions of contemporary Ukraine or bordering western Ukraine (in Ruthenia of the Carpathians and in Galicia).
What fillings are used?
The traditional vareniki recipe uses potato as a filling. However, in Ukraine, vareniki can be prepared with several kinds of fillings. The most common savory fillings include potato, cottage or farm cheese (tvarog), sauerkraut, plum (and other fruits), potato and cheese, cabbage, boiled beans, peas, meat, fish and buckwheat.
Vareniki can also be served as a dessert. In this case, the fillings are fruit or soft cheese. Vareniki can be stuffed with sour cherries, blueberries, sweet cottage cheese, blueberries or even red berries (strawberries or raspberries). Some vareniki recipes mention the presence of apples or plums. For added flavor, smetana (sour cream) can be added to the dough to make it lighter.
The preparation of vareniki requires a little time and a few tricks:
The vareniki dough should not be too thick. Indeed, if the dough is not sufficiently rolled thinly, the vareniki will be pasty. The dough can be passed through a pasta roller to have an even thinner roll.
To cut out the circles of dough, a wine glass can be ued. However, when preparing a lot of vareniki at once, a dumpling or pelmeni machine can be used to cut the dough. This makes the process practical and efficient.
Do not put too much mashed potatoes in the center of the vareniki. It will be difficult to close the vareniki and they may open during cooking. It is better to put less than too much.
Like gnocchi, vareniki are ready when they rise to the surface. It is then necessary to collect them delicately with a skimmer.
- 2 cups flour , sifted
- 2 eggs , lightly beaten
- ½ cup milk (at 97 F / 36°C)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 lb potatoes
- 2 onions , diced
- ½ cup milk (boiling)
- 4 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 scallions , chopped
- 1 onion , diced
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Potato masher
- Cookie cutter (3 inches / 7 cm)
- Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and fry the onions over medium heat, stirring regularly until they are golden brown, then drain them of their oil and place on plate lined with paper towel.
- Peel and boil the potatoes in a large amount of lightly salted water.
- Drain the potatoes using a large skimmer and keep the boiling water for cooking.
- Place the cooked potatoes in a large bowl and, using a potato masher, mash the potatoes, gradually adding the boiling milk. Add the butter and, optionally, a little boiling water from the potatoes and mix until a slightly firm consistency is obtained.
- Add the fried onions and mix. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a small skillet, melt the butter.
- Fry the onion over medium heat for 1 minute then add the sugar.
- Cook over low to medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and set aside in a warm place for serving.
- Combine sifted flour, salt, eggs, milk and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Knead a homogeneous dough. Cover and let stand 30 minutes, away from heat.
- Divide the dough into 2 or 3 pieces and roll out each piece of dough to a thickness of ⅛ inch (3 mm).
- Using a cookie cutter, cut circles about 3 inches (7 cm) in diameter.
- Place 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle of dough, fold them in half to form a semi-circle and pinch the edges with wet hands.
- Heat a large amount of boiling salted water in a casserole dish.
- Immerse the vareniki in simmering water and cook them for 3 minutes.
- Place the boiled vareniki in a bowl or deep dish.
- Sprinkle with fried onions, salt lightly, pepper, and mix gently.
- Finally sprinkle with chopped spring onion.