If I had to choose only one meal for the rest of my life – it would be Pelmeni.
Pelmeni are Russian dumplings, made of simple dough, filled with minced meat and onion, boiled, and served with butter and sour cream.
I’ve been eating them probably since the moment when I first learned how to chew – that’s how deeply engraved these dumplings are into the Russian culture.
I remember when I was a little child, my parents would bring me over to my grandparents for the weekend, and I would catch my grandpa making the ‘extra little’ pelmeni (that would take twice as long as the regular ones) just for me – because he knew how much I loved the little pelmeni – ‘little like me’ I used to say.
Today I am happy to share my family recipe of these magical dumplings with you 💛
Makes: 4 portions
Time: about 2 hours
For the Dough:
3 cups flour
1 glass warm water
3 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp Salt
For the filling:
400g mixed minced meat – either pork & beef or chicken & beef
1 medium onion
1 garlic clove
Salt & pepper
1 – 2 bay leaves
Chopped chives or dill (optional)
First, make the dough: Pour out 3 cups of flour on a flat surface in one big heap. Make a well in the middle, break in 1 egg & pour in 3 tbsp sunflower oil. Then, using a fork, start mixing the egg with the oil & the flour in the centre of the well, making sure that it doesn’t run out from the sides. Pour a little bit of warm water into the centre, add the 1 tsp salt and keep mixing while making sure that no nothing runs out on the sides (if it does – not a big deal, just creates a mess :D). Pour a bit more water and mix. Keep doing that until you’ve added an entire 1 cup of water and the dough starts coming together in floury lumps.
At this stage you can switch to kneading with your hands – using the heel of your hands, press & push the dough away from you, then fold it in half toward you, and push again. Repeat until the dough is smooth, a bit shiny and not sticky. If the dough is sticky, add a little more flour and knead until the desired texture achieved.
Cover with a medium upside-down bowl and let it rest for at least half an hour.
Make the filling: Place 400g mixed minced meat in a large bowl. Finely chop 1 medium onion, crush 1 garlic clove and add to the meat. Season with plenty of salt & pepper and mix until everything is evenly mixed. Don’t over mix – or the meat will become tough. Set aside.
Roll the dough: There are two methods to this, and you can choose which one seems more convenient to you:
Method A: This is my mom’s and my grandparents’ method. Cut a piece of the dough the size of a small mandarine, shape into a 2cm thick sausage, and cut into 1cm x 2cm cm flat chunks. Dust each piece slightly with flour from both sides (just place some flour on a flat surface and ‘dip’ each piece in it) and, using a rolling pin (or an empty wine bottle like I used to do in my student times), roll each flat piece into about 6cm – 7cm diameter circles.
Method B: This method is especially great if you have a pasta machine – then it will be much faster. If using a pasta machine, cut a piece of the dough the size of a mandarine, flatten it a bit and put it through the pasta machine on the 3rd setting to make it flat. If using a rolling pin, cut a larger dough piece, place if on flour-dusted surface and roll, stretching to each side, until you have a big flat circle about 1.5mm thick. Now, using a regular drinking glass held upside-down, cut out smaller circles in the the flattened dough by pressing and twisting from side to side with the glass.
Whichever method you used, now you should have a few flat 6cm – 7cm wide circles. Try not to do more than 10 – 12 at the time, because they might dry too fast.
Place the meat: Take a little bit of the meat, roll it your palms to a little 2cm pieces, and place in one of the flat circles that you created. Repeat with the rest.
Shape the dumplings: Now, take one dumpling, and fold it in half with the meat being inside. Tightly press the sides together between your thumb and the index finger, and make sure that they are sealed.
Tip: if the dough is not sticking together easily, just dip your finger into water and slightly wet the edges on the inside.
You should now have a ‘half-moon’ shaped dumpling – looking like the Japanese Gioza or the Polish Pirogi. But we are not done yet.
Carefully pull the the two edges toward each other, until they slightly overlap, then press them tightly together. The final dumpling should be round, and resemble a
’flying saucer’. Congrats, you have now made your first pelmen!
Place the first dumpling on a large, flour-dusted chopping board.
Now keep doing with the rest of the dough and the meat, until you’ve created your little pelmeni army. At the end you should have about 56 – 60 pieces, enough to feed four people.
You can now either cook & eat them straight away, or carefully place & store them in the freezer. Pelmeni will keep in the freezer for up until 3 months. In the fridge, for 1 – 2 days.
Cooking Pelmeni: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Carefully place the dumplings in the water, together with 1 – 2 bay leaves, and season the water with black pepper. Fresh pelmeni cook for about 7 min. Frozen ones for 12 – 15 min. The general rule is to cook them for about 5 min after they come up to the surface. The dough should be soft and cooked through, but not mushy (if not sure – you can always take one out, and try by biting a little bit on the side).
Once ready, using a slotted spoon, take the Pelmeni out of the water and place directly into your serving plates.
Serve: Top teach plate of pelmeni with some butter, and serve with some sour cream on the side. As an option also with some chopped chives or dill. Enjoy 💛
Tip : You can also have them with sweet & sour chilli sauce on top of the cream – that’s my favourite way to have them