I loved the time I spent in Finland in my late teens and the travelling I did in Karelia and Russia (then the Soviet Union – yep I’m that old) and in particular I loved the various types of “dumplings” that varied between regions and countries but which all had in common the ability to fill you up and warm you up in the very cold Northern winters. It’s not so cold here in Nottinghamshire, in fact, this December must be heading for some sort of record as it was 12 degrees celsius at 7am this morning and the day-time temps rose to 17 degrees celsius yesterday which is, bizarrely, like June.
Still, can’t let that get in the way of winter cooking, so here is a version of a Georgian dumpling, known as Khinkali, they are similar to (but as the locals will tell you) nonetheless different from Polish Pierogi or Russian Pelmeni. I can’t vouch for the authenticity of this as it was taught to me so long ago I may have amended it over the years! Please let me know if you think you have a more “authentic” version.
Ingredients (approx 30 dumplings)
1.5 kilos flour, 2 Eggs (lightly beaten), 450ml warm water – for the dough.
700g minced beef and pork mix (some recipes use lamb), 1 large onion (finely chopped or minced), Salt and black pepper, Half teaspoon cayenne pepper, and same of chilli flakes (optional), Quarter teaspoon caraway (use cautiously and leave out if you prefer). Handful of chopped, fresh coriander.
Sift 1.1kg of flour into a large mixing bowls and add the eggs, add the warm water, a little at a time and mix the ingredients together until it forms a firmish ball. Divide the ball into two and place on a floured surface.
Knead and fold the dough until is very firm, then roll out until very thin – 3/4 millimetres. Cut out circles (I used a large drinking glass) about 8 inches wide. Repeat for the second ball of dough. Keep the thin slices covered with a damp clean tea-towel while you prepare the filling so that they don’t dry out.
For the filling, add the meat, herbs and spices, onions and salt and pepper to a bowl. Mix the ingredients by hand and then add 25ml water and squash the mixture together, repeat approx 10 times – this is designed to ensure that the meat has a lot of “juice” inside the dumpling. You need the meat wet, but still able to hold together.
Take one round of dough, add a heaped tablespoon of the meat mixture into the centre of the round, use your thumbs and index fingers to make a fold around the outside (as in the photo). 19 folds is apparently what you are aiming for, but this takes some practice! (and as you can see from mine, I am more than a little out of practice…). Roll the top “tail” of dough between your fingers and pinch it off. Place the dumplings on a floured surface. You can either boil the dumplings or deep fry them. I do a bit of both.
Place the dumplings carefully in a large pot of boiling salted water and boil for 12/14 minutes, if you have made them properly they won’t fall apart! I boiled mine for about 10 minutes and then fried them in medium-hot oil for a further two minutes.
Traditionally they are served immediately, with a liberal sprinkling of black pepper. The doughy twist at the top is held but not eaten, rather like the crust on a Cornish Pasty, these little “kudi” (hats) are left on the plate so the number eaten can be counted at the end!