The past few days have been rainy and cold, which left me longing for warm, hearty homemade meals. I’m writing this bundled up in my blankets with a very happy belly, a cup of tea and gratitude for the heater which we finally figured out how to use. As you may have read in my last post, I’m currently living abroad. I share a tiny apartment with my wonderful roommate Noam in the heart of Tel Aviv. It has been hard to adapt to minimalistic living, and please forgive the poor lighting in my photos. I feel confident enough to say that I have mastered the art of toaster oven cooking! I’ve used our little toaster to make homemade pizza, roasted chicken, baked meatballs as well as mini pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. Our program is mainly composed of other Americans, but I have also made some friends from all around the world. Our Friendsgivukkah (Thanksgiving) table was filled with dishes from America and abroad. We had American sweet potato casserole (without marshmallows), latkes instead of traditional mashed potatoes, traditional roasted turkey and gravy, avocado salad, and Russian Pelmeni. We were all so enchanted by the Pelmeni, which was prepared by my friend Roman and his girlfriend, that the last few were lovingly fought over. For dessert we had mini pumpkin and pecan pies with freshly whipped cream and sliced strawberries – strawberries are a winter fruit here in Israel!
After dinner (or maybe in the middle of indulging in my 2nd helping of Pelmeni), I asked Roman if he would teach me how to make them. He said he would if I taught him how to make pies in exchange, which of course I agreed to!
Pelmeni are small round dumplings that resemble Italian tortellini. They are typically filled with meat, and their exact history is questionable. They are thought to have been brought to Siberia by the Chinese, and then evolved and spread throughout the region. Depending on where you are eating Pelmeni, the recipe and accompanied sauce can vary from sour cream or butter to soy sauce. Pelmeni is not a quick weeknight meal. It involves (easy) handmade dough, but the most time consuming step lies in gently folding each pelmeni by hand. It took us about a half an hour to 45 minutes to fold enough pelmeni to serve 5 of us, and it was well worth it. The resulting delicate and delicious dumplings were warm and so satisfying on a cold winter’s night. We served ours with a dollop or two of sour cream and a sprinkle of pepper, but we also discovered that it pairs well with a sweet soy BBQ sauce. This shouldn’t be surprising, given Pelmeni’s origins. We had a fun little dinner party with holiday music in the background, the pitter-patter of rain on the windows, and small glasses of Becherovka to accompany our Pelmeni feast. Here is the method and recipe that we used, which I’ll refine once I make it again on my own. This is because we didn’t make the dough with exact measurements.
1/2 kilo of ground beef
1/2 kilo of ground turkey, chicken or pork (Pork is traditionally used)
1 onion, chopped very small
3 tsp salt
3 tsp pepper
4+ cups flour
Water and extra flour (you will need at least 1 cup extra flour plus flour to roll out the dough)
2 sprigs rosemary
Sour cream, to serve
Combine meats in a large mixing bowl. Finely chop the onion and add it to the meat with the salt and pepper, stir to combine. Set the meat aside and start on the dough.
For the dough: We made the dough in 2 batches which was easier than making a giant batch, and the dough stayed very fresh and soft.
In a large mixing bowl combine 2 cups of flour and 2 eggs and whisk together with a fork until it forms a shaggy mess of dough. Then slowly add in enough water, mixing the whole time, to form a wet and sticky dough. From there sprinkle in flour 2-3 tbsp at a time, mixing all the while, until you have a soft ball of dough that is not sticky. Split the dough in to three sections (they don’t have to be even).
Flour your work surface and roll out one section of dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Using a standard shot glass, cut out rounds of dough (about 1.5 inches across). Flatten the dough a bit in your hand to make it thinner and larger, and then place about 1 tsp of meat in the center of the disc of dough. Fold the circle of dough in half to make a half-circle shaped dumpling. Then, take the two corners and press them together to form the traditional round pelmeni.
Set the prepared pelmenis on a plate. As you fill up the plates, place them in the freezer and grab a new plate. This recipe made about 4 dinner plates of pelmeni. When you run out of your first batch of dough, make the 2nd half and continue until all of the meat is gone.
A team effort
Once all of your pelmeni are prepared, fill a large pot with water as if you were going to boil pasta. Add the rosemary sprigs and about 1 tbsp of salt to the water and bring it to a boil. Add 1/2 of the pelmeni and cover. Bring to a soft boil until the dough is cooked through. Fish the cooked pelmeni out of the water with a slotted spoon and set aside in a large bowl. Using the same water, repeat with the other half of the prepared pelmeni.
Roman, our Pelmeni teacher
Serve with a dollop of sour cream and fresh pepper. Enjoy!
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