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:
– 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

– 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.

Feast for a (vegetarian) king

Shayona Vegetarian Restaurant, Mayfair, JohannesburgShayona Vegetarian Restaurant, Mayfair, JohannesburgShayona Vegetarian Restaurant, Mayfair, JohannesburgShayona Vegetarian Restaurant, Mayfair, JohannesburgShayona Vegetarian Restaurant, Mayfair, JohannesburgShayona Vegetarian Restaurant, Mayfair, JohannesburgShayona Vegetarian Restaurant, Mayfair, Johannesburg
On Saturday we were at the Neighbourhoods market, all set and ready to get lunch, when our friend Jack suggested we go to a vegetarian restaurant in Mayfair called Shayona. The food is prepared according to the mantra that you get out what you put in, and is apparently made without any stimulants like garlic. I didn’t think food without garlic could be this delicious! Mandy and I shared a kind-of mixed platter (deluxe lunch)that comes with three curries, rice, roti and pudding.Jack also suggested we try these little coconut, coriander and chili balls which were out of this world. The best thing – other than the taste – is the price; lunch for 6 of us came to less than R400. If you’re looking for a great vegetarian restaurant in Johannesburg visit Shayona in Church Street Mayfair. (This may go without saying but there is no alcohol served so don’t get a surprise)

What’s your cup of tea?

Blooming Tea - Her MajesteasTea - Her MajesteasTea and cake - Her MajesteasHer Majesteas tea timeHer Majesteas tea time - blooming tea
This has been a weekend of tea….

On Sunday morning, with my two best friends by my side (well one by my side, one in the backseat), Lana del Ray blaring from the speakers, we set off to the little hole town of Heidelberg, about 40 minutes from Joburg. The reason for this mission was a breakfast at Her Majestea’s – a tea house and cafe which boasts over 100 teas on the menu. Mandy ordered pomegranate white tea, I had pineapple rooibos and Sazi had strawberry – the white tea was definitely my favorite. We also ordered some blooming tea – which doesn’t really have much taste but it’s great for the photos. There’s a lot of attention to detail at Her Majestea’s although there are some elements that I think they could do with out (like rude jokes on the back of the toilet doors).

If you’re looking for some amazing tea a little closer to home, visit the Good Luck Club in Corlett Drive – Sazi and I had the pineapple and ginger rooibos tea there on Friday and it was out of this world. I also had after-meal tea at a Turkish restaurant in Mayfair on Sunday afternoon. I love drinking tea out of these little glasses, although it definitely wasn’t as strong as the tea they serve you in Turkey.
Turkish tea - Johannesburg
All photos edited on Pixlromatic on my ipad

I will have one of everything please

French toast at the Birdcage - to die for.

This week has been incredibly busy and I have done nothing other than work, commute, study and sleep so I don’t have anything life-changingly exciting to blog about. But I am feeling very peckish this morning so I thought I’d blog about breakfast.

An omlette from Salvation Cafe.
Everything on the Salvation menu sounds so good you could sit there all day having breakfast.

I have a couple of favourite spots for breakfast in Joburg:
– The Service Station at the Bamboo Centre in Meliville
Salvation Café at 44 Stanley
The Birdcage in Jan Smuts Avenue

Eggs benedict from Birdcage.
Rose cordial yummy stuff from Birdcage.

In fact I really wish I was sitting at any of these right now, sipping on a latter, reading a magazine….

But what I think Johannesburg really lacks is great outdoors places to have breakfast – somewhere where you’re not surrounded by concrete or worse, staring in to a parking lot. Somewhere with a view AND really amazing food – because there are plenty of places with a view just outside Joburg, where I have had some very average food.

I have very high standards for food quality when it comes to eating out, but even more so for breakfast. You can always tell whether the eggs are fresh and organic or if they came in a carton with 300 others and have been sitting in a bowl for hours on end. Buffets are always a let down – the food is always on the cold and tired side and you end up paying for about double of what you will end up eating.

The alternative is to have breakfast at home. I love cooking elaborate breakfasts, but my balcony is usually in direct sunlight and it isn’t quite the space that inspires. Also, if I have stood in the kitchen for 30 minutes preparing, I am usually famished, so I wolf down my food and start tidying up (nothing worse than dried scrambled egg on a pan).

What are your favourite spots to have breakfast in Jozi (and beyond)?

Croissants with scrambled eggs, bacon and chives made by yours truly this weekend.

There’s a hole in my donut recipe

I am appealing for help from the interweb – why are my donuts not rising properly? In the past month I have tried three different recipes and I just can’t seem to get it right. Last night’s attempt was certainly the best so far (from a Jamie Oliver recipe) but still, after I roll the dough out and cut the donut shapes they don’t rise as much as they are supposed to. Last night I even made sure that I put them on plastic and wooden chopping boards so that they wouldn’t catch a chill from the granite kitchen counter.

The only thing I am happy with is the photos from last night – the donuts look a lot better in the photos than what they taste like. Oh and don’t use lemon rind in your donuts, even if Jamie or Nigella call for it – doesn’t go that well with the yeasty taste of donuts.

If anyone has a tried-and-tested centuries-old family recipe for donuts (from any country in the world) and any tips for me I will welcome them with open arms.

A meat-free Monday idea

One of my best friends is a vegetarian, so having her over for dinner is always an opportunity to try out some vegetarian recipes. I love eating meat but I also love veggies and don’t eat a lot of meat during the week so this has never caused any issues.

On Friday I wanted to try out vegetarian burgers, having eaten some amazing ones at Odd Cafe in Greenside a few weeks ago. I found a recipe on Pinterest, but as usual I didn’t really follow it. the burgers came out really well – the patties were moist and held together well (I was really concerned they would fall apart).

This is my recipe which is good enough for about 3 or 4 people:

-1 can of red kidney beans (drained)
– a quarter of a cup of fresh breadcrumbs (Spar has them)
– 1 egg
– finely chopped chives
– a quarter finely chopped red onion
– spices like paprika, black pepper, salt and anything else

To make the patties, mash the beans with a fork, then throw in everything else and keep mixing. The kidney beans make the mix quite sticky. I would suggest not adding all the breadcrumbs, chives and onion at the beginning – add half and then see how the mix looks. When the mix is nice and sticky, makes balls and then flatten into patties.

As you would, fry the patties on the pan and the top them with whatever you like in your burger – we had halloumi cheese, avocado, yellow peppers and cucumber. For dessert we had some amazing cookies and cream ice cream from Paul’s Homemade Ice Cream (find him on twitter @Paul_Ballen).

Making my own pączki – Polish donuts


For some reason (which still isn’t all that clear to me) I had the very bright idea of making my own donuts this weekend – traditional Polsih donuts, called pączki. I could have slept in, read a book, or watched a movie, but instead I chose to engage in a battle with flour and yeast.

I used a recipe from a Polish website, which I would be happy to translate for anyone who is interested. Since it was my first time making them I am not altogether upset with the result but I am also not overjoyed – perhaps part of that is due to the stress of wondering if the things would rise again at different stages of the process.

I also panicked because I thought some of them weren’t cooking in the middle, but actually I hadn’t let them cool enough. Also I tried to make some with Nutella in the middle, which came out quite well in the ones that didn’t open, coloring my cooking fat brown. The good thing with donuts is that they are really cheap to make so if you mess up, you’ve only wasted time and not hundreds of rands of expensive ingredients. But the lessons have been learnt and hopefully next time they will come out better. I am also not fully convinced how amazingly fresh the yeast was from Pick ‘n Pay, which is a crucial factor is whether they will come out or not. Next time I might harass a bakery to sell me some…