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Make Zuza Zak’s honey drop dumplings, barley and lamb knysze, and fragrant herb pierogi

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Our cookbook of the week is Pierogi by Polish-born, England-based food writer Zuza Zak. Read an interview with the author.

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Article content

Jump to the recipes: honey drop dumplings, barley and lamb knysze, and fragrant herb pierogi.

Zuza Zak divided the more than 50 recipes in Pierogi into traditional and modern sections. The first two recipes she shared with us — honey drop dumplings and barley and lamb knysze — are traditional, hailing from the north and the south of Poland, respectively.

While fish-filled pierogi reign in the north, reflecting the influence of the Baltic Sea, honey drop dumplings offer a touch of sweetness. They can be enjoyed any time of day, says Zak, but are typically eaten for brunch or as a podwieczorek (afternoon snack).

The dumplings showcase a much-loved ingredient — one that was the main sweetener during Medieval times. “Honey is such a huge part of Polish cuisine. It’s the thing that my mom will always bring back from Poland. We will always have Polish honey in the house and it’s really seen as quite medicinal.”

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Article content

Zak notes that while the recipe is straightforward, the dough can vary depending on the nature of the flour you use. She made them twice recently, the dough slightly different each time.

“If the dough isn’t very firm, you need to beat it with your hand quite a lot and then leave it to rise. Then, use a spoon to drop (portions of dough into the pan of bubbling water). They’re literally drop dumplings. And if it’s a bit firmer, you can make little shapes out of it. Both ways are fine.”

Pierogi by Zuza Zak
Pierogi is Polish-born, London-based writer Zuza Zak’s third cookbook. Photo by Quadrille

The second recipe, barley and lamb knysze, is one of Zak’s favourites. Fearing they might be on the verge of dying out, it’s among the recipes she set out to preserve for future generations in the book. “I’ve been to a lot of wakes in Poland. Not a huge amount, but enough to see that there’s no knysze being served anywhere. And they used to be a part of the tradition where they’re served at funerals. So, they are the perfect sort of comfort food.”

Article content

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Article content

They may have fallen out of favour at funerals, but knysze live on in southeast Poland’s Bieszczady Mountains, where people have adopted them into their culinary traditions. Depending on where you are in the country, Zak notes, knysze can mean different things. “For example, I talked to someone in Wrocław who said, ‘Oh, in Wrocław, knysze are these fluffy pita breads stuffed with lamb.’ So, there’s sort of similar ingredients but different.”

The most popular knysze filling is the same mixture of twaróg (farmer’s cheese), caramelized onions and potatoes used to stuff pierogi ruskie. Zak prefers the following mixture of barley and lamb, which she enjoys year-round with a crunchy salad.

Advertisement 5

Article content

Finally, Zak’s fragrant herb pierogi are one of her modern creations. When coming up with new recipes for pierogi, she asks herself: “How can we be creative in the process of dumpling making, while staying true to the nature of such a culturally significant dish?”

Here, she plays with a classic cheese filling while celebrating the freshness of spring herbs. Parsley leaves are encased in the dough itself, with more added to the filling along with chopped tarragon.

“You don’t have to use these herbs exactly; you can swap and change. As long as the herbs go well together and they’re your favourite herbs, just pack them in. And then you end up with these lovely, fragrant herby pierogi. It adds a lovely freshness to the dish because pierogi aren’t seen as fresh, particularly, but it does add a freshness to them.”

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Article content

HONEY DROP DUMPLINGS

Honey Drop Dumplings recipe
“I find that the comforting sweetness of these fluffy dumplings makes them an ideal brunch food,” Zuza Zak says of her honey drop dumplings. Photo by Ola O. Smit

For the dough:
250 g (1 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp) all-purpose flour
1 tsp superfine sugar
100 mL (scant 1/2 cup) warm milk
1/2 tsp dried yeast
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp salted butter, melted, or unsalted butter and 2 pinches of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp good-quality honey
Handful of raisins, soaked in 2-3 tbsp milk

For the topping:
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp dried breadcrumbs

To serve:
Soft brown sugar
Crème fraîche

Step 1

Sieve the flour into a large bowl, add the sugar, warm milk, yeast, egg, melted butter, vanilla extract and honey.

Step 2

Mix everything well with your hand to form a dough — it will be quite sticky at first. This mixing is to make sure that the dough becomes smooth and comes cleanly away from your hand, about 5-7 minutes. Incorporate the raisins and their soaking liquid into the dough. Cover with a clean dish towel and leave for 50 minutes in a warm place to rise.

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Article content

Step 3

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. If the dough is soft, take teaspoonfuls of it and plop them straight into the pan of bubbling water. If the dough is harder and can be rolled, then use your hands to make little cylinders 2-3 cm (3/4-1 1/4 in) in length. When they float to the top (which will happen almost immediately), give them 1 more minute and remove with a slotted spoon, shaking off any excess water, and keep warm. Cook the dumplings in batches (about 10 at a time, depending on pan size) and set aside once cooked.

Step 4

Meanwhile, for the topping, heat the butter in a pan and fry the breadcrumbs until they are medium brown.

Step 5

Put the cooked dumplings straight into the pan with the breadcrumbs. Toss to coat in the breadcrumbs, sprinkle with soft brown sugar and serve with crème fraîche.

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Article content

Serves: 4 as part of a brunch spread

BARLEY AND LAMB KNYSZE

Lamb Barley Knysze recipe
“Knysze are part of a Polish culinary history that I fear might be endangered,” writes Zuza Zak. Stuffed with a ground lamb and barley filling, these are her favourite type. Photo by Ola O. Smit

For the filling:
120 mL (1/2 cup) chicken stock
80 g pearl barley
Canola oil, for frying
100 g ground lamb
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Salt and white pepper

For the dough:
150 g (1 cup plus 2 tbsp) all-purpose flour, plus extra to dust
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
100 mL (scant 1/2 cup) kefir or buttermilk
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vodka
1 tbsp butter, melted

Step 1

For the filling, heat the chicken stock in a saucepan, add the barley and cook over a low-medium heat, covered. Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of canola oil in a frying pan and fry the ground lamb, breaking it up with a fork until it’s browned, about 15 minutes. Add the cinnamon and season well with salt and white pepper.

Step 2

Add the browned lamb, with the cooking juices, to the pan with the barley. Cook together, uncovered, until the barley is tender (about 10 minutes), stirring regularly. Once all the liquid has been absorbed (the mixture should still be quite wet), turn off the heat, cover and allow the filling to cool to room temperature before using.

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Article content

Step 3

For the dough, put the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) in a bowl and mix together. Add the kefir or buttermilk and mix with a wooden spoon until all is combined. Add the egg yolk, vodka and melted butter to the bowl and mix well with your hand.

Step 4

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, allowing it to absorb any extra flour it needs (but try not to overdo it as the dumplings will become less fluffy if you use too much).

Step 5

Roll the dough into a cylinder shape and cut into 12 equal parts. Flatten each part out into a circle, place a spoonful of the filling in the middle and seal into your preferred pieróg shape.

Step 6

While making the knysze, heat a drizzle of canola oil in a large frying pan. Fry the knysze in batches until golden and crisp on all sides, including the top and bottom, then drain on paper towels and serve.

Advertisement 10

Article content

Makes: 8-10

FRAGRANT HERB PIEROGI

Fragrant Herb Pierogi recipe
The parsley leaves encased in the dough give Zuza Zak’s fragrant herb pierogi a springtime feeling. Photo by Ola O. Smit

For the dough:
300 g (2 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour, plus extra to dust
Large pinch of salt
100-120 mL (1/2 cup) warm water mixed with 1 tbsp canola oil
About 20 flat-leaf parsley leaves

For the filling:
250 g bryndza (see note) or feta cheese
2 tbsp sour cream
2 tbsp finely chopped tarragon
2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley pinch of salt

To serve:
20 g butter, melted
A few tarragon leaves
Sour cream

Step 1

Firstly, prepare the dough by placing the flour and the salt in a large bowl, then slowly adding the water and oil mixture with one hand while mixing with the other. Once the mixture comes together, stop adding the water (you may not need it all, so add it slowly), form it into a ball and knead for 6-7 minutes on a lightly floured surface. Cover with a clean, damp dish towel and leave to rest for 20-30 minutes.

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Article content

Step 2

Make the filling by mashing the bryndza or feta with a fork in a bowl, then add the sour cream and mash until thoroughly combined. Finally, mix in the herbs and salt.

Step 3

Roll the dough out evenly on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of about 0.5 mm. Cut the dough in half. Place the flat-leaf parsley leaves at even intervals on one half of the dough, then lay the other piece of dough on top. Now, roll the dough out very thinly again to 0.5 mm and use your favourite method to shape, fill and seal the pierogi, placing them on a floured surface as you go.

Step 4

Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cook the pierogi in batches until they float to the top, then give them an extra minute. Remove with a slotted spoon, shake off any excess water and transfer to a warmed bowl with the melted butter in it. Keep warm.

Step 5

Sprinkle with the tarragon leaves and serve with dollops of sour cream, if you like.

Serves: 4

Note: Bryndza is a sheep’s milk cheese popular in Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Romania. Substitute it for feta in any recipe.

Recipes and images excerpted with permission from Pierogi by Zuza Zak, published by Quadrille, September 2022.

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Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Join the Conversation




Make Zuza Zak’s honey drop dumplings, barley and lamb knysze, and fragrant herb pierogi

Get the latest from Laura Brehaut straight to your inbox

Article content

Our cookbook of the week is Pierogi by Polish-born, England-based food writer Zuza Zak. Read an interview with the author.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Jump to the recipes: honey drop dumplings, barley and lamb knysze, and fragrant herb pierogi.

Zuza Zak divided the more than 50 recipes in Pierogi into traditional and modern sections. The first two recipes she shared with us — honey drop dumplings and barley and lamb knysze — are traditional, hailing from the north and the south of Poland, respectively.

While fish-filled pierogi reign in the north, reflecting the influence of the Baltic Sea, honey drop dumplings offer a touch of sweetness. They can be enjoyed any time of day, says Zak, but are typically eaten for brunch or as a podwieczorek (afternoon snack).

The dumplings showcase a much-loved ingredient — one that was the main sweetener during Medieval times. “Honey is such a huge part of Polish cuisine. It’s the thing that my mom will always bring back from Poland. We will always have Polish honey in the house and it’s really seen as quite medicinal.”

Advertisement 3

Article content

Zak notes that while the recipe is straightforward, the dough can vary depending on the nature of the flour you use. She made them twice recently, the dough slightly different each time.

“If the dough isn’t very firm, you need to beat it with your hand quite a lot and then leave it to rise. Then, use a spoon to drop (portions of dough into the pan of bubbling water). They’re literally drop dumplings. And if it’s a bit firmer, you can make little shapes out of it. Both ways are fine.”

Pierogi by Zuza Zak
Pierogi is Polish-born, London-based writer Zuza Zak’s third cookbook. Photo by Quadrille

The second recipe, barley and lamb knysze, is one of Zak’s favourites. Fearing they might be on the verge of dying out, it’s among the recipes she set out to preserve for future generations in the book. “I’ve been to a lot of wakes in Poland. Not a huge amount, but enough to see that there’s no knysze being served anywhere. And they used to be a part of the tradition where they’re served at funerals. So, they are the perfect sort of comfort food.”

Article content

Advertisement 4

Article content

They may have fallen out of favour at funerals, but knysze live on in southeast Poland’s Bieszczady Mountains, where people have adopted them into their culinary traditions. Depending on where you are in the country, Zak notes, knysze can mean different things. “For example, I talked to someone in Wrocław who said, ‘Oh, in Wrocław, knysze are these fluffy pita breads stuffed with lamb.’ So, there’s sort of similar ingredients but different.”

The most popular knysze filling is the same mixture of twaróg (farmer’s cheese), caramelized onions and potatoes used to stuff pierogi ruskie. Zak prefers the following mixture of barley and lamb, which she enjoys year-round with a crunchy salad.

Advertisement 5

Article content

Finally, Zak’s fragrant herb pierogi are one of her modern creations. When coming up with new recipes for pierogi, she asks herself: “How can we be creative in the process of dumpling making, while staying true to the nature of such a culturally significant dish?”

Here, she plays with a classic cheese filling while celebrating the freshness of spring herbs. Parsley leaves are encased in the dough itself, with more added to the filling along with chopped tarragon.

“You don’t have to use these herbs exactly; you can swap and change. As long as the herbs go well together and they’re your favourite herbs, just pack them in. And then you end up with these lovely, fragrant herby pierogi. It adds a lovely freshness to the dish because pierogi aren’t seen as fresh, particularly, but it does add a freshness to them.”

Advertisement 6

Article content

HONEY DROP DUMPLINGS

Honey Drop Dumplings recipe
“I find that the comforting sweetness of these fluffy dumplings makes them an ideal brunch food,” Zuza Zak says of her honey drop dumplings. Photo by Ola O. Smit

For the dough:
250 g (1 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp) all-purpose flour
1 tsp superfine sugar
100 mL (scant 1/2 cup) warm milk
1/2 tsp dried yeast
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp salted butter, melted, or unsalted butter and 2 pinches of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp good-quality honey
Handful of raisins, soaked in 2-3 tbsp milk

For the topping:
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp dried breadcrumbs

To serve:
Soft brown sugar
Crème fraîche

Step 1

Sieve the flour into a large bowl, add the sugar, warm milk, yeast, egg, melted butter, vanilla extract and honey.

Step 2

Mix everything well with your hand to form a dough — it will be quite sticky at first. This mixing is to make sure that the dough becomes smooth and comes cleanly away from your hand, about 5-7 minutes. Incorporate the raisins and their soaking liquid into the dough. Cover with a clean dish towel and leave for 50 minutes in a warm place to rise.

Advertisement 7

Article content

Step 3

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. If the dough is soft, take teaspoonfuls of it and plop them straight into the pan of bubbling water. If the dough is harder and can be rolled, then use your hands to make little cylinders 2-3 cm (3/4-1 1/4 in) in length. When they float to the top (which will happen almost immediately), give them 1 more minute and remove with a slotted spoon, shaking off any excess water, and keep warm. Cook the dumplings in batches (about 10 at a time, depending on pan size) and set aside once cooked.

Step 4

Meanwhile, for the topping, heat the butter in a pan and fry the breadcrumbs until they are medium brown.

Step 5

Put the cooked dumplings straight into the pan with the breadcrumbs. Toss to coat in the breadcrumbs, sprinkle with soft brown sugar and serve with crème fraîche.

Advertisement 8

Article content

Serves: 4 as part of a brunch spread

BARLEY AND LAMB KNYSZE

Lamb Barley Knysze recipe
“Knysze are part of a Polish culinary history that I fear might be endangered,” writes Zuza Zak. Stuffed with a ground lamb and barley filling, these are her favourite type. Photo by Ola O. Smit

For the filling:
120 mL (1/2 cup) chicken stock
80 g pearl barley
Canola oil, for frying
100 g ground lamb
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Salt and white pepper

For the dough:
150 g (1 cup plus 2 tbsp) all-purpose flour, plus extra to dust
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
100 mL (scant 1/2 cup) kefir or buttermilk
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vodka
1 tbsp butter, melted

Step 1

For the filling, heat the chicken stock in a saucepan, add the barley and cook over a low-medium heat, covered. Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of canola oil in a frying pan and fry the ground lamb, breaking it up with a fork until it’s browned, about 15 minutes. Add the cinnamon and season well with salt and white pepper.

Step 2

Add the browned lamb, with the cooking juices, to the pan with the barley. Cook together, uncovered, until the barley is tender (about 10 minutes), stirring regularly. Once all the liquid has been absorbed (the mixture should still be quite wet), turn off the heat, cover and allow the filling to cool to room temperature before using.

Advertisement 9

Article content

Step 3

For the dough, put the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) in a bowl and mix together. Add the kefir or buttermilk and mix with a wooden spoon until all is combined. Add the egg yolk, vodka and melted butter to the bowl and mix well with your hand.

Step 4

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, allowing it to absorb any extra flour it needs (but try not to overdo it as the dumplings will become less fluffy if you use too much).

Step 5

Roll the dough into a cylinder shape and cut into 12 equal parts. Flatten each part out into a circle, place a spoonful of the filling in the middle and seal into your preferred pieróg shape.

Step 6

While making the knysze, heat a drizzle of canola oil in a large frying pan. Fry the knysze in batches until golden and crisp on all sides, including the top and bottom, then drain on paper towels and serve.

Advertisement 10

Article content

Makes: 8-10

FRAGRANT HERB PIEROGI

Fragrant Herb Pierogi recipe
The parsley leaves encased in the dough give Zuza Zak’s fragrant herb pierogi a springtime feeling. Photo by Ola O. Smit

For the dough:
300 g (2 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour, plus extra to dust
Large pinch of salt
100-120 mL (1/2 cup) warm water mixed with 1 tbsp canola oil
About 20 flat-leaf parsley leaves

For the filling:
250 g bryndza (see note) or feta cheese
2 tbsp sour cream
2 tbsp finely chopped tarragon
2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley pinch of salt

To serve:
20 g butter, melted
A few tarragon leaves
Sour cream

Step 1

Firstly, prepare the dough by placing the flour and the salt in a large bowl, then slowly adding the water and oil mixture with one hand while mixing with the other. Once the mixture comes together, stop adding the water (you may not need it all, so add it slowly), form it into a ball and knead for 6-7 minutes on a lightly floured surface. Cover with a clean, damp dish towel and leave to rest for 20-30 minutes.

Advertisement 11

Article content

Step 2

Make the filling by mashing the bryndza or feta with a fork in a bowl, then add the sour cream and mash until thoroughly combined. Finally, mix in the herbs and salt.

Step 3

Roll the dough out evenly on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of about 0.5 mm. Cut the dough in half. Place the flat-leaf parsley leaves at even intervals on one half of the dough, then lay the other piece of dough on top. Now, roll the dough out very thinly again to 0.5 mm and use your favourite method to shape, fill and seal the pierogi, placing them on a floured surface as you go.

Step 4

Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cook the pierogi in batches until they float to the top, then give them an extra minute. Remove with a slotted spoon, shake off any excess water and transfer to a warmed bowl with the melted butter in it. Keep warm.

Step 5

Sprinkle with the tarragon leaves and serve with dollops of sour cream, if you like.

Serves: 4

Note: Bryndza is a sheep’s milk cheese popular in Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Romania. Substitute it for feta in any recipe.

Recipes and images excerpted with permission from Pierogi by Zuza Zak, published by Quadrille, September 2022.

Get the latest from Laura Brehaut straight to your inbox

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Join the Conversation

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