Things I learned from my mom – making pierogi

Home-made pierogi

I love to cook, but I have never really ventured into traditional Polish cooking because: 1. It is incredibly time-consuming, 2. It is incredibly fattening, 3. My mom and my sister have always taken care of making the traditional meals.

But then my friend Namrata asked me if we could make pierogi (Polish dumplings) and since I don’t go home much these days I had a craving, so I told her sure…I had never made pierogi before, nor had I really bothered to observe when mom and Joanna do it (usually I’m in the kitchen stealing dough or cooked pierogi), so I was a little apprehensive on Sunday morning.

But, 5 hours, 2 bloody hands, teary onion eyes later we were feasting on the most delicious little dumplings ever and I was incredibly proud of myself for being able to make them.

If you have a lot of time on your hands and have a craving, here’s a recipe for around 60 small and 14 large pierogi:
Filling
– 2 big tubs of hard feta cheese (I think it is the 400g tubs)
– 5 med/large soft cooking potatoes
– One large onion, chopped and fried
– Black pepper, paprika, salt

Dough
– 6 cups of flour
– 2 cups of water

Cook the potatoes the night/day before you make the pierogi and let them dry out in the fridge overnight. When they are ready, mince or grate them (we used a normal cheese grater) and do the same with the feta. There should be roughly the same amount of grated feta and grated potatoes. Cook the onions and after letting them cool, add to the potato and feta mix and then season. Don’t add too much salt because the feta will be salty. Leave the mix on the side.
Making home-made pierogi - step-by-step
If you don’t have a food processor with a dough hook prepare to spend the next 30 minutes making your muscles ache while you roll the dough. Once the dough is ready, divide it up, roll it out thin and prepare to make the individual pierogi. TWO very important things here: 1. Make sure you own a little dumpling press (can be bought at Pick ‘n Pay) 2. Don’t use a wine glass to cut out the dough or your hands might end up looking like mine.
Making home-made pierogi - step-by-step
Try and make the dough as thin as possible for each pierog, but not so thin that it will break. Also don’t put too much filling inside each one because when you close the press it will get inside the edge bits and then it won’t stick properly.

Other than that, prepare to spend the next 3 hours sticking – unless you have a whole army of people to help you.

Once the pierogi are ready, boil a big pot of water, add lots of salt and then cook them. Mandy was our chief cooker and she determined about 3.5 minutes for 6 small pierogi. When you take them out try get the excess water off as much as possible. DON’T put them on top of one another or they will stick.

Once you have enough to feed people, heat up a pan, fry the cooked pierogi till they go golden brown and top them with some fried onion and bacon. Serve with dill and sour cream.

Then go for a three hour run. You’re welcome.

The perfect bachelor(ette) meal – the omlette

One of the biggest problems of living alone is the amount of food that you end up wasting. After my flatmate Alli moved overseas and Andrew moved too, I suddenly found myself doing grocery shops that were far beyond what I could manage to eat in a week. And even if I froze the things that could be frozen, they would inevitably end up going to waste because I would de-frost them and then make dinner plans or I wouldn’t feel like cooking.

I am much better now at the shopping but the cooking still presents an issue. I love to cook but during the week, by the time I get home I am too tired to go all out on meals like roast chicken. The other problem is that I eat very healthy food, and during the week I try to not eat starches in the evening. Finally I hate eating from the same pot of food more than 3 times in a row, so the whole approach of making a big pot of something at the start of the week doesn’t work for me.

Then a few months ago my mom came to the rescue – she taught me how to make omelettes. Now while it may seem simple enough, every time I had tried to make them before I ended up with an unappetizing version of scrambled eggs. The beauty of the omelette is that it is quick, healthy and can be filled with any of the little bits and pieces you may have left over in the fridge. Last night I made one with cherry tomatoes, pimento peppers and salami, but I have used chicken and lentils before too.

So how do you go from mushy scrambled eggs to (better than) restaurant quality omelettes?

  1. Prepare your filling and fry it in a small pot.
  2. Heat up your pan really well and then make sure the oil is heated really well too.
  3. Beat your eggs (no more than 2) and when the pan is ready, pour them in.
  4. Swivel the pan around to spread the egg evenly.
  5. I like to pop the bubbles and then spread/guide the uncooked egg over it.
  6. Your egg ‘pancake’ shouldn’t be sticking to the pan but it is good to loosen the edges with a spatula.
  7. When the egg mix is almost completely cooked I sprinkle mozzarella and then put the filling on one side.
  8. Then use the spatula to close it.
  9. Dinner (or breakfast) is served.

The important thing that my mom explained to me is to use no more than two eggs – most restaurants (at least in SA) use three eggs, and as a result the omelette is always quite hard because the egg mixture takes too long to cook.

 

 

New feature – all that I know, I know because of her

Mother (for when I’m irritated).

Mom (for when we’re in English company).

Mama (in our mother tongue).

 

A few months ago I was thinking of ideas for a photography project, something that could go beyond one or two weekends of planning and snapping. Something that meant something. In the end it wasn’t a difficult decision – I would use photography to document the countless things that I have learned from my mom in the 26 years since I arrived,  two weeks early on a cold winter’s day. Some serious,  others funny and lighthearted.

 

So as soon as I decided to start this blog I began to think about which of these I would capture first, until the realisation hit me that without her none of ‘this’ would exist. It is because of my mom that I decided to pursue photography as a hobby. It is she who always had an SLR around her neck and who documented our lives with countless photos; who showed me first-hand what joy photographs can bring. It is she who taught me about aperture, shutter speed, ISO and wide-angle and prime lenses, until finally I got it (well at least I think I have).

 

The first photo in this feature, then, is a portrait I took of her on my 26th birthday, three weeks ago. I love the dreamy, reflective look in her eyes. I’d like to think that at that moment she was thinking that she is proud of the woman I have grown up to be.

 

My mom is the most important person in the world to me. All that I am, and all that I know is because of her.