Thursday, June 5, 2014

The sweet taste of freedom!

You're probably all wondering where I've been for the past few weeks!  Well finals took their toll and blogging fell off the agenda, but I'm now free and will be back to posting regularly about my escapades in the kitchen and around Cambridge.  I've only got a few weeks left at uni and I plan to make the most of them.

I may not have posted recently but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy, in between revision I made it to the wonderful Eat Cambridge main event where I picked up some excellent rhubarb and vanilla jam from Urban Larder, along with a Cambridge Loaf from Cobs Bakery and a wedge of Wigmore cheese from Gog Magog Hills.  Plus I was finally able to try some of Jack's Gelato which I've been dying to taste for ages.  It definitely lived up to expectations, I thoroughly enjoyed my elderflower sorbet (and a reliable source assures me that the pink grapefruit and tarragon was excellent too)!  Lunch that day consisted on one of the best Scotch eggs I have ever tried, from Pint Shop (see my review of their restaurant here) and nibbles from numerous other stalls which were all crammed into the main hall of the Corn Exchange, including some Gourmet Brownie and a 'pastel de nata' (a Portuguese custard tart) from Norfolk Street Bakery.

The haul
As well as the Main Event I also made it to Afternoon Tease for the Eat Cambridge full English breakfast which tasted amazing and comprised of locally sourced ingredients! (The icing on the cake was the new fireplace teapot!)

So today, after a rather long break from cooking (since I just didn't have the time or the energy during exams), I made it back into the kitchen!  Pierogi have been on my list of things to cook for a while and today seemed like as good a day as any to try making them.  They were a lot simpler than I anticipated and only took 45 minutes to make!

Pierogi - Polish dumplings
Since my filling was potato I started by peeling and quartering my potatoes (I made way to much filling but around 300g should be ample for 2 people - I will update this when I try it again).  I then popped them into a pan of cold water before placing the pan on the heat and bringing to the boil.  Once boiling turn the heat down and let the potatoes simmer for 5 to 10 minutes (until you can easily cut through them with a knife).

In the meantime make the pastry you will need:

200g plain flour
25g unsalted butter, softened
100ml (ish) warm water

Soften the butter slightly in a microwave (but don't actually melt it), then measure the flour out into a large mixing bowl.  Add the butter and rub the butter into the flour with your fingers.  Mix in the warm water gradually using your hands to bring the mixture together to form a soft, elastic dough.  Be careful not to add too much water otherwise your dough will be too sticky, equally if your dough is too dry and flaky then add a little more water until it comes together.  Roll out your pastry on a clean work surface or chopping board.  The dough should be about 3mm thick (basically not so thick that the dumplings become heavy but not so thin that they split when you cook them).  If you don't have a rolling pin don't worry, I used an empty wine bottle wrapped in cling film.  As I was also limited on space I had to roll my dough out in stages too.

At the point when the potatoes are cooked take them off the heat, strain them and mash them, add a teaspoon of butter and 30g cream cheese before mashing again.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Once your have rolled out your dough use a cutter which is about 6cm in diameter to cut out discs from your dough - as I didn't have a cutter I used a mug - basically any round glass which is roughly the right size will work.  The main thing is not to use one that's too small as it will be really hard to form the pierogi, instead err for something that's a little bigger if you're not sure.  Once you've cut out a disc place somewhere between a teaspoon and a tablespoon of the potato mixture into the centre and fold the pastry in half to close them.  Then crimp the edges of the pastry together with your fingers to seal them.  I managed to make 14 pierogi from this recipe.

Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the pierogi for a minute or two (until they float), remove with a slotted spoon and let them drain before eating.  You can eat these as they are or you can fry them for a couple of minutes in butter so that they go brown and crispy or you can serve them with a brown butter sauce (melt some butter in a pan over a medium heat and swirl occasionally until the butter is a dark golden brown).

The finished dumplings
It's great to be free from the stresses of work and exams and to be able to cook and blog again without constantly feeling like you should really be doing something else.

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