As the high holy days approach, I must first make my apologies to all my followers for being absent from my blog. The combination of a long period of craziness at work and summer vacation kept me away. But with Rosh Hashana around the corner, it’s time to get back to the keyboard and the kitchen and cook up some dishes that will make your chag a sweet and tasty one.
When I was growing up in South Africa, the first course in my house every Rosh Hashana was always perogen and soup. When I tell my friends that I am making perogen, most of them have no idea what I am on about. I suspect the South Africans out there will be nodding in recognition. In fact, when you Google the word “perogen”, you will come up with a definition like this: “A preparation of sodium perborate that, when mixed with the accompanying catalyzer, liberates 10% of the oxygen in the salt.” But don’t worry, I will not be giving you a recipe for a preparation of sodium perborate – I don’t even know what that is.
The fact is that our Ashkenazi perogen are a variation on the Polish word pierogi, dumplings stuffed with potato, sauerkraut, ground meat, cheese or fruit, which are traditionally boiled, and then baked or fried in butter. The kosher variation, or at least the perogen that I grew up eating, is simpler to make, but still involves a little effort, as any pie-like food does. There’s no boiling and frying involved. Instead these mini pies are baked in the oven till golden brown. Then they are served in chicken soup for a hearty start to a very long meal.
Both my dough and meat filling are very simple to make. Feel free to add any of your favorite meat seasonings to the meat mixture, such as dill or thyme. I keep it plain as there’s lots of flavor in my chicken soup that complements the perogen. This is also a great pre-fast dish as it’s not spicy or salty, and is really filling in a good way.
ROSH HASHANA PEROGEN
300g (just over ½ lb) ground beef
1 small onion very finely chopped
1 tablespoon oil or olive oil
1 tablespoon flour
Salt and pepper to taste
(Optional) ½ teaspoon of any preferred meat spice (dill, thyme, paprika, etc.)
½ cup oil
1 cup water
3-3½ cups flour (or as needed to make an elastic dough)
3½ teaspoons baking powder
How to do it
1. In a large skillet or wok, heat the oil and fry the onions until soft (not brown)
2. Add the ground beef, salt and pepper and stir the meat to brown it evenly.
3. Once the beef is brown, drain off some of the liquid, then add the flour and any additional seasoning, and stir over low heat until all combined and the flour is absorbed. Set aside to cool. Tip: You can make the filling ahead of time and refrigerate overnight.
4. In a large bowl, whisk the oil and egg together. Add the salt and water and beat well.
5. Stir the flour into the liquid one cup at a time, and mix slowly until you get a doughy consistency. Then use your hands to add all of the flour so you get a workable, elastic dough that you will be able to roll out. Do not overwork the dough – knead just until all combined and smooth.
6. On a clean, floured surface, take one handful of the dough, and roll it out into a 3mm thick circle, using a floured rolling pin. The dough will spring back, so you can roll it a little thinner than 3mm.
7. Using a round cookies cutter about 8½cm (3½ inches) in diameter, cut circles in the dough. Note: Put the leftover in-between bits of dough back in with the rest of the dough and re-use it. It’s a forgiving dough that won’t come apart because it’s already been rolled out.
8.Take about 1 teaspoon of the filling and place it in the middle of the circle. With your finger tip, dab some water along one half of the circle and close the dough over the meat, using your right thumb to push the filling to the back of the perogen so you have a clean surface to deal. Making sure not to leave any air inside, seal the pie with your finger tips and then use a fork to seal the edges further. Tip:Turn the perogen over and make sure that the bottom is properly sealed. If not, then give it another kvetch with the fork.
9. Place the prepared perogen on a greased baking tray lined with baking paper, about 2cm (1 inch) apart.
10. Bake at 190°C (375°F) for 15 minutes or until the perogen are golden brown.
11. Serve warm in chicken soup. Kids will also happily eat these plain with a dollop of ketchup.
Recipe makes about 30 perogen.