This past weekend, Orthodox Christians around the world celebrated Christmas. My Mother’s family immigrated to Canada in the early 20th Century. So, that makes me a 3rd generation Ukrainian Canadian.
I’ve never been to Ukraine (unfortunately!..or yet!), but my family would always speak of the ‘old country’ and we’ve always been very connected to our heritage in certain ways. My Baba (grandmother) had a Ukrainian porcelain shop when I was young and I used to spend endless time staring at the shelves of different designs. In this shop, she also had a desk setup to make pysanky, or Ukrainian Eggs. This tradition has been passed down to all of us and luckily, I can still find some time to make them throughout the year. I’ll probably write more about that later at some point.
The best part about any culture, is obviously, the food. This is something my family still cherishes to this day. Some things may be different and altered after so many years in Canada but on most family occasions, I look forward to overeating perohy, holubtsi, kutia, paska (at Easter), and of course, multiple dollops of sour cream.
When I discovered a few Ukrainian chefs on social media, such as Olia Hercules, I was very pleased. I quickly picked up Mamushka (Olia’s first cookbook) for myself, and one for my mama too! I love that not only does it highlight Ukrainian food but also, food from the region!
Since we didn’t get a chance to celebrate Orthodox Christmas together this year (we usually have a family meal), I decided to make varenyky from Olia’s recipes and Chicken Kiev. I’ve made varenyky before with my mother’s recipe but I thought I’d try something different this time. I made two different kinds; feta cheese curd and kapustoyu (sauerkraut). Kapustoyu ones remind me of my late Didi (grandfather), because we both loved them.
I began by making the filling and then the dough. The dough is super easy and most people probably have all the ingredients at home already.
I did find the dough recipe didn’t make as many as I wanted, so I’ll probably double it next time, but I still got about 35 or so in total. Not bad, since I’m not eating them all at once!
After rolling out the dough on a floured surface, I filled small square pockets that Mamushka suggested. My Mother usually does a round shape but I found this worked as well. After making sure the sides were pinched forcefully (I’ve had some perohy casualties in the past), I placed them on a parchment paper-lined cookie tray and set them in the freezer (we actually had our Ukrainian meal the next day!).
And that was it. The preparation takes a little time but it made me think of all the women (because I doubt many men made them) in my family’s past that had made these for their loved ones. It was a nice feeling to have that connection with them. I also love making things from scratch. It’s easy to buy store-bought perohy here in Canada but I think I’ll try it this way more often. Thanks to Mamushka for helping me celebrate traditions and bringing back some great memories for me.
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 2/3 cup water
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
- sea salt, to taste Feta Cheese Curd
- 2/3 cup feta cheese
- 1 egg, beaten
- sea salt
- First Make Dough. Mix egg and water together, then gradually add flour and mix it well.
- Knead the dough on a floured surface, until it stops sticking to your hands.
- Wrap dough and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 mins. Olia says this helps the gluten relax.
- For cheese filling, mix ingredients together. For Kapustoyu filling, fry in a lightly oiled pan with salt, to taste. Let it cool completely.
- Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it is about 1/16 inch thick. I just eyed it until it didn’t feel too thick. Cut dough into squares.
- Fill the squares with 1 teaspoon of your filling of choice and pinch the sides together.
- When ready to cook, drop varenyky into boiling water and let cook until they float. Drain well and then serve. and obviously, have sour cream ready.
- Enjoy! (Recipe Adapted from Olia Hercules’ Mamushka Cookbook)
All photos by Simply Living.