Pierogis (Polish Dumplings)

Potato and cheese pierogi

I visited Krakow recently, and loved everything about the place. What I really fell in love with were pierogis, served in pretty much every restaurant.

Our food guide told us the it’s really common in Polish homes for members of the family to get together and make huge batches of pierogis, especially at certain times of year, like Christmas.

This weekend I got together with my Krakow travel companions to drink maybe more than we should and make pierogis.

A few cocktails while cooking with friends. If you’re entertaining family over the holidays I would recommend this as a great way to get everyone involved and keep them entertained.

Pierogis are fairly easy to make and we worked in a kind of production line which made it even easier. I would definitely recommend getting your friends together and giving communal cooking a go. By the time you chat, laugh and have a few drinks you can make loads of them. I didn’t have a recipe for these so we used the BBC Good Food recipe and the dumplings tasted exactly like what he had in Poland.

Pierogis freeze well, double up on the recipe and you can pull them out of the freezer for a quick week night dinner. You can also make a sweet version by simply replacing the filling with raw blueberries and serve topped with sour cream.

Blueberry pierogis with sour cream

Ingredients

For the dough

250 Grams Self Raising Flour (sifted)

1 Tsp Salt

3 Tbsp. Vegetable oil

250-300ml Warm Water

For the filling

250 Grams Mashed potatoes (this is a great way to use up left overs, make sure the mashed potatoes are cold before using)

50 Grams Butter

1 Onion (finely chopped)

250 Grams Cottage Cheese

Method

  1. Add the flour and salt to a bowl, add the oil and then gradually add water and mix until you have a soft dough. Gather into a ball, knead for 5 minutes, wrap in cling film. Chill for 30 minutes
  2. While the dough is resting, melt the butter in a frying pan and cook the onions over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes until they are golden brown
  3. Mix the potatoes and cottage cheese together and stir in two thirds of the fried onions. Mix until thoroughly combined
  4. Roll the dough out as thinly as possible (nobody wants a thick doughy dumpling). Use a cookie cutter or class to cut 4-5 cm circles
  5. Put a teaspoon of the filling in the centre of the circle and lightly wet the edges of of circle. Fold over to create a half moon and press the edges closed tightly
  6. Heat a large pot of water to just before boiling, add the pierogi, about 6-7 at a time (depending on the size of your pot, just be careful not to overcrowd the pot)
  7. When the pierogi start to float, lift out with a slotted spoon and drain in a colander. Keep cooking the pierogi until all the dumplings are cooked.
  8. Serve on a large plate, and sprinkle the remaining fried onions over the top

Spicy Yellow Split Pea Soup

Autumn is definitely here, and it’s time to break out the one pot comfort food recipes. I love recipes that I can make from what I usually have in a cupboard or the fridge and this one of them. Dried yellow split peas are really cheap, and packed full of protein and fibre. They also work brilliantly in Indian dishes like dhal.

This is a really rich satisfying, cheap and easy to make meal. Perfect for chilly days when you want something nutritious and satisfying. It’s also packed with lovely warming flavours like ginger, chilli and garlic.

This soup freezes well or can live in your fridge for 3-4 days.

Ingredients

1 Leek (finely sliced)

2 Carrots (grated)

250 Grams Yellow split peas

1 Litre Vegetarian stock (I used 2 stock cubes to make this)

Thumb sized piece of ginger (grated), or 1 Tsp of ground ginger if you don’t have the fresh stuff)

1 Tsp Tumeric

3-4 Cloves of garlic (minced)

1 Tsp Chilli powder

1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

Method

  • Heat the oil in large pot over a medium heat, and add the leek and carrot. Cook for 5-10 minutes until soft
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Turn up the heat bring the soup up to just before the boil
  • Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally
  • Serve topped with toasted hazel nuts or pumpkin seeds for a little extra crunch

Spinach Falafel

Sometimes if you’ve been overindulging your body tells you to eat something healthier. When that happens, this what you should be eating. Packed full of flavour and protein these little falafel are great as the protein element of a main meal or in wraps for a tasty and filling packed lunch. These falafel are baked rather than fried, which helps make them even healthier.

I made these with cannelini beans, (I thought I had chickpeas in the cupboard, but you could probably use any type of tinned beans). These are also gluten free and suitable for vegans.

Ingredients

400 Gram Can of cannelini beans or chickpeas

2 Tablespoons Porridge oats

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 Tablespoon Tahini

2 Cloves of garlic (roughly chopped)

100 Grams Spinach

1 Teaspoon Salt

Handful of Coriander or parsley (toughly chopped)

Tablespoon Sesame Seeds (optional)

Oil for spraying

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius)
  2. Add all ingredients (except the sesame seeds) to a food processor and blend until you have a smooth mix
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment, the falafel mix should be quite soft, so I used a tablespoon to scoop the mix on the baking sheet.
  4. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if you are using them and bake for 15 minutes before turning them and bake for another 15 minutes

Wonton Soup

I’m seriously missing being able to travel. With this in mind I decided to recreate one of my favourite dishes. I first ate this in Hong Kong. I first ate this in a hole in the wall cafe. It was a revelation and probably the best thing I ate the whole time was there.

Food in Hong Kong is amazing but this just hit the spot. If chicken soup is the ultimate Jewish comfort food, this is probably Hong Kong’s version.

You can find wonton wrappers in the freezer section of most Asian supermarkets, or larger supermarkets. This may seem like a lot of wontons, but I also freeze half so I can pull them out of the freezer without any fuss.

These are also great to make with kids, (a little bit of child labour never does any harm). But I also like to stick the music on and switch off, making these can be quite therapeutic. For the soup I usually use shop bought good quality chicken stock. So if you have some wontons in the freezer and some ready made chicken stock this can be a really quick meal.

Ingredients

For the dumplings

500 Grams Pork Mince

4-5cm Piece of ginger (finely grated)

2 Cloves of garlic (minced)

2 Scallions/spring onions (finely chopped)

1tsp Cornflour

1tsp Sesame oil

1tsp Soy sauce

1 Red chilli (finely chopped)

1 Pack of wonton wrappers

For the broth

1 Tbsp Sesame oil

1 Litre Chicken stock

1 Tbsp Rice wine vinegar (I didn’t have this and used cider vinegar and it was fine)

2 Scallions/spring onions (ends removed and cut in half)

3-4 cm Piece of ginger (cut into 3-4 pieces)

1 Red chilli (cut on half, and seeds removed)

2 Cloves of garlic (cut in half)

Garnish with finely chopped scallions and coriander

Stock infused with garlic, chilli, ginger and scallions

Method

  1. Put all the ingredients for the filling of the wonton filling in a bowl, and get your hands in and mix well until all ingredients are combined. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes
  2. Open your pack of wonton wrappers and like filo pastry, you’ll need to cover it with a damp cloth to prevent it drying out. Keep a small bowl of water beside you, as you’ll need to wet the edges of the wonton so they stick
  3. Take a square and put a small teaspoon of the filling in the centre. Wet the edges of two sides of the wonton and fold over to make a triangle. Make sure to press the edges together well (or else water will get in when you cook them). Dab the two long edges of triangle with water and fold the edge together and press (it should look like a tortellini). Place on a tray and continue doing this until you have either run out of filling or wrappers
  4. Add 7-8 wontons at a time to a pot simmering water, and cook for 5 minutes or until the wontons float to the top. Drain and set aside, I usually freeze half the batch. If you’re going to freeze these, let them cool first and spread them out on a tray lined with cling film that you have rubbed lightly with oil to prevent them sticking. When they are frozen, split into batches and transfer into freezer bags
  5. For the broth, add all the ingredients to a pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the ginger, garlic, and scallions from the both and discard
  6. Add the wontons to the broth and sprinkle with finely sliced scallion and coriander

Cheese, Corn and Jalapeno Fritters

I’m not always super organised when it comes to planning meals (how many of us actually are).

There are dishes I love that need mashed potatoes, and I don’t always remember to make some the day before, or don’t want the fuss of making it.

The lovely people at Mash Direct were kind enough to send me some of their products to try. I was reminded that I hadn’t made these little flavour bombs in ages. Having ready made mashed potatoes was really handy.

I served these fritters with a fresh tomato salad and they were delicious. I can also highly recommend them for breakfast along with eggs.

Serves 4

Ingredients

400 Grams Mashed potatoes (I used a pack of Mashed Direct mash, it also works really well with their champ)

150 Grams Sweet Corn (frozen or canned is fine)

1 Onion (finely chopped)

1 Jalapeno pepper (finely chopped, with the seeds removed, if you like these super spicy you can add more)

100 Grams Mature cheddar cheese (grated)

1 Egg

1 Tbsp Plain flour

3 Tbsp Oil

Method

  1. Fry the onion with 1 tablespoon of oil to a frying pan over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes allowing the onion to brown and caramelise, add the jalapeno pepper and cook for 5 mins
  2. Add the potatoes, corn, onion, peppers, egg, flour and cheese into a large bowl and mix well
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil on a large frying. Add a tablespoon of the fritter mix to the pan at a time, and press flat with a spatula. Don’t try to cook more than 2 or 3 at a time
  4. Cook for 5 minutes or until brown before turning (you need to let a brown crust form first or else they’ll be difficult to turn). Drain on kitchen towels before serving

Michael’s Easy Cannelini Bean Soup

My brother made this soup for me and I loved it.  He only gave me the recipe on condition of a name check, so thanks Michael.

This is proper comfort food, and while the recipe is Vegan friendly it’s a really hearty stick to your ribs meal in a bowl.

I’m not vegetarian, so I topped the soup with some bacon I had left.  But in fairness it’s equally delicious with out it.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

400 Gram Tin of cannelini beans

2 Stalks of celery (fine chopped)

2 Carrots (grated)

1 Onion (finely chopped)

1 Vegetable stock cube (or tablespoon of buillion powder)

2 Cloves of garlic (crushed or very finely chopped)

1 Tbsp Oil

500 ml Boiling water

Method

  1. Add the oil to a deep sauce pan and heat over a medium heat
  2. Add the onion and fry gently for 5 minutes until the onion softens but doesn’t colour
  3. Then add the carrot and celery and cook gently for an other 10 minutes
  4. Stir in the garlic and beans (including half the water they came in), crumble in the stock cube, add the boiling water and stir well.  Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if you feel it needs it
  5. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the the vegetables are soft and then serve with crusty bread

Jollof Rice and Chicken

There are countless versions of Jollof Rice and Chicken across Africa and the Caribbean. The are many reasons why it’s so popular, it’s quick and easy to make, it’s a one pot dish that can feed a family cheaply, and most importantly it’s really delicious.

I mean, tender chicken and really well flavoured rice with vegetables, where could you go wrong. This is also a great dish for using up odd bits of vegetables you have in the fridge

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 Large chicken thighs or 8 small ones (I use the ones with the bone in, as I think it keeps the chicken tender)

1 Tbsp Oil

2 Red peppers (cut into 1-2cm pieces)

1 Onion (cut into 1-2cm pieces)

1Tbsp Tomato puree

400 Gram Tin of chopped tomatoes

1 Red chilli pepper (finely chopped) or 1 tsp chilli powder

1 Tsp Smoked paprika

3 x Cloves of garlic (finely chopped)

Thumb sized piece of ginger (grated, I always keep ginger in the freezer. It stops it going to waste and it’s easier to grate)

250 ml Vegetable/chicken stock (I used a stock cube to make it)

325 Gram Long grain rice, dry weight (I use basmati, but other types are fine)

2 Tbsp Chopped coriander (optional)

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large flat bottom pan. When hot, add the chicken thighs and seal on both sides
  2. Add the vegetables and tomato puree to the pan and cook for 5 minutes
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the pan and cover with a lid. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer for 15-20 minutes, adding more water if the rice dries out before it’s cooked
  4. Check the chicken is cooked through and the rice is soft
  5. Sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve

Miso Sesame Chicken

The cracking recipe comes from the national treasure that is Nigella Lawson.

I have tweaked it a little, leaving out the fish sauce (only because I didn’t have any). I’ve used chicken thighs, she used a spatchcocked chicken (whole chicken with the backbone removed and pressed flat), but again this was because this what I had.

The chicken is best if you can let it marinade overnight. So if you can be organised, you’ll have an amazingly tasty weeknight dinner. This is also delicious enough to impress friends if you’re cooking for them. If you’re feeding vegetarians/vegans this marinade is also fantastic spread on slices of aubergine before roasting them.

Serves 4

4 Large chicken thighs or 8 small ones

1 Tbsp Vegetable oil

1 Tbsp Soy sauce

2 Tsp Sesame oil (use one day in the marinade and reserve one for later)

4 Tsp White Miso paste

1 Tbsp Grated ginger

1 Clove of minced garlic

1 Tbsp Sesame seeds (reserve for during roasting)

  1. Add the marinade ingredients to a bowl and stir until well combined
  2. Put the chicken thighs in a large freezer bag, pour in the marinade and seal the bag. Rub the marinade onto the chicken to make sure it’s well coated and then refrigerate over night
  3. The next day if you have time, take the chicken out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you intend to cook it and allow the meat to come to room temperature
  4. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees, empty the chicken thighs into an oven proof dish (skin side up) and empty any remaining marinade from the freezer bag over the chicken
  5. Cover the dish with tin foil and bake for 25-30 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken thighs)
  6. Remove the tin foil and baste the chicken with any juices in the dish, drizzle over a teaspoon of sesame oil (a little goes a long way), and then sprinkle with sesame seeds before returning to the oven for another 10 minutes (check they are cooked by sticking in a fork and making sure the juices run clear)
  7. Remove and serve with your favourite side Asian slaw or spicy cucumber salad or just plain potato salad goes brilliantly with this

Herb Crusted Hake

Fish is something most of us don’t eat enough of, mainly because we think it’s complicated.

I was lucky enough to attend a fish masterclass at Belfast Cookery School a couple of years ago (I would definitely recommend it for anyone who is a little intimidated by fish) and this is one of my favourite dishes I learned how to make and I love it.

This is super easy and quick enough for a mid week family dinner, but is tasty enough to impress guests if you’re cooking for friends.

I used hake, but any firm white fish will do. One of my kitchen hacks I bore people with is to make and keep a big bag of breadcrumbs in the freezer, as breadcrumbs can be used in so many dishes.

If you want to switch up the flavours you can try different herbs, or try adding a little lemon zest or finely chopped chillies if you enjoy a little bit of heat. This is also a great dish to get kids cooking.

Serves 2

Ingredients

250 Grams Hake (I used steaks, but fillets work too)

50 Grams Breadcrumbs (thaw them first if you are using frozen ones)

25 Grams Parmesan cheese (finely grated)

2 Tbsp Herbs (I used parsley and coriander, but use the herbs you like)

2-3 Tbsp Oil (a neutral oil like rapeseed is good)

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius), take your fish out of the fridge (like meat, fish is best when it is not introduced to heat while its still “fridge cold”), try to let it come up to room temperature. Run your finger along the fish and remove any bones you find (if you’re using a fish monger, you can ask them to do this)
  2. In a bowl, add your breadcrumbs, herbs and parmesan, gradually add the oil and combine until the breadcrumbs are lightly coated but not greasy (different types of bread will absorb different amounts of oil). Taste a small amount and add salt and pepper if you feel it needs it.
  3. Place your fish on baking parchment in a baking try and pat the breadcrumbs on top. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the breadcrumbs are brown and toasted. If you’re cooking a particularly thick piece of fish you make need to give it a little longer but be careful not to over cook

Herby Potato Salad

Potato salad is lovely summer dish, but not everyone is a fan of mayonnaise.

This version is a little bit lighter and can be enjoyed by vegans too.

Waxy potatoes are probably best, but either is fine. This is such a great side dish, it goes with virtually everything.

Ingredients

750 Grams Potatoes (cut into 4-5cm chunks, I like to leave the skins on but peel them if you prefer)

1 Tsp Salt

1/4 Red onion (finely sliced)

2 Tbsp Olive oil

1 Tbsp White wine/cider vinegar

1 Tsp Mustard (I like to use grain mustard but Dijon mustard is fine too)

4 Tbsp Chopped herbs (I used coriander and parsley because it was what I had, but dill or mint or a mixture will also work)

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Add the potatoes and salt to a pot and add enough cold water to cover the potatoes. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are soft, and drain the cooking water (Hold back 2 Tbsp of the cooking water)
  2. In a large bowl add the onion and sprinkle with the vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes (this will help stop that harsh raw onion flavour). Add the oil, mustard, herbs, and cooking water you held back from the potatoes and stir
  3. Add the potatoes while they are still slightly warm to the bowl and mix well to ensure they are coated with the dressing, this will allow them to help soak up the flavour