Friday, 19 April 2013


A little while back I read in one of the English weeklies published at Costa that these days Russians form the second largest expat- community around there. I don't like Russia. Or, more precisely, I don't like their perverted concept of democracy and human rights. But if one's hell-bent on finding something positive to say about them, there is their ability to make the kind of robust home cooked food that warms one's soul down to the murkies corners. So, today the test kitchen was overcome with decidedly Slavic sensations.

In its quirkiness and home-spun atmosphere that defies the trends one of my favourite finds in the last years among the restaurants in Helsinki has been Pelmenit in Kallio. I like dim sum, tortellinis, pelmenis and what ever dough-covered meat dumplings the cuisines of the world have come up with. So, armed with that delightful "how hard can it be" attitude I do so (un)well, I decided to give them a go myself. All that rolling and cutting and crimping takes quite a bit of time. But that's all, really. And the result... I dare say these were the best pelmenis I've ever had.

For these I used the remains of that much cherished reindeer mince, but you can use any animal you prefer(or can get hold of). Then I, in the name of all things Slavic, added some mushrooms into it. And in the name of robustness some side of pork. In an act of defiance I did add some thyme too. These were served with sour cream and lingonberries, but since a similar treat I've had in Poland, called pirogi, came with gloriously crunchy bacon bits, still swimming in their own fat... of course I just had to have them too. I grossly overestimated the need for the filling, so the portion below would be enough for 2 portions of the dough. But, since the first attempt went so well, I  made some more!

Pelmenis (makes 40)

1 egg
4 dl all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 dal water

Break the egg in a bowl. Add salt, flour and water and mix into a smooth dough. Wrap in cling film and let rest in the fridge for about an hour. In the meanwhile make the filling.


4 large champignons (appr. 100 g)
around 200 g reindeer mince
5 slices of side of pork (or bacon rashers)
1 tsp thyme
1/2 onion
1/2 dl stock
salt, pepper

Chop the mushrooms and fry in a dry, hot pan. As the moisture has evaporated, add chopped pork (or bacon) and continue frying (under moderate heat) in the fat seeping out of the pork. Then add finely chopped onions and stock and cook until the onion is soft and the mixture has a paste-like consistency. Add thyme and season. Add to the mince and work into a smooth texture. Let rest in the cold for half an hour.

Divide the pelmeni dough into 4. Cover the remaining portions with cling filn and/or damp tea towel to prevent it from drying and work your way through one portion at a time. Rolling, cutting and filling just one portion at a time pays off because the discs dry easily as they're waiting for their turn and then the edges won't really want to stay closed. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface thinly and cut into discs of appr. 5 cm in diametre. Keep them covered until you're done with the whole batch. Then, using a tea spoon make small meat balls and fill the discs. Fold the dough around the filling, press the edges together and pinch shut. If you want, you can take the ends and fold them behind and pinching them shut too so you're left with a hat-like shape. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and keep covered until you're ready to cook them.

At this point you can also freeze them. You might want to lightly dust them with flour to avoid the whole batch sticking together.

Let rest in cold for about half an hour before cooking. Bring some good stock to boil (of, how I'd want to say I make my own but... I don't) and cook the dumplings until they surface - about 5 minutes. Lift out of the stock with slotted spoon, place in the serving bowl and (if you want) spoon some stock on them. Serve with sour cream. And gherkins. And lingonberries. And crisp bacon bits. Slavic melancholy you're going to have to source yourself, as at least around our table these evoked some very un-Slavic smiles all round...

In hindsight... I just might be fresh out of excuses now and will have to attempt making my own pasta dough now. AND dim sum wrappers...

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