Pierogi / Pyrohy / Piroshki or hand pies to that effect

Back at the Warwick Folk Festival again – fantastic music (Man the Lifeboats, Trials of Cato, Banter, Glory Strokes) and amazingly good food. As per my blog post from last year, some of the stand-out food of the weekend came from The Old Granary Pierogi. Just the most wonderful yeasted-pastry pies/pasty things you can imagine. Wonderful fillings, tasty to the end. So this year, getting home, I figured I’d try to make them myself.

Don’t put them too close together!

Turns out that most every country in the Russia/Ukraine/Poland type region has a variation on this dish. Not only that, but it bears a striking resemblance to Chinese steamed dumplings. So pretty much every culture in the world has developed a Cornish pasty-type thing of some kind. Fillings vary, obviously.

Essentially, though, they boil down to 2 things. The dough and the filling. My culinary adviser and Google-fu expert found me half a dozen different dough recipes, I found a few more, and we distilled them down to this, which makes roughly 20 pierogi:

The Dough

  • 2 tsp dried yeast
  • 60ml warm water
  • 2tsp sugar

Put into the bowl of your Kenwood mixer (other stand mixers are available, we’ve got a K to do the heavy kneading work here). Give it a quick stir and leave it for 5 minutes. Then, in another bowl, mix together…

  • 360ml warm milk
  • 50g melted butter
  • 1tsp salt

Add that to the yeast mixture you first thought of, along with

  • 450g / 1lb strong white flour.

First time through I thought I only had plain flour, so used that, and needed another 150g or thereabouts to get the dough to the right consistency.

Stick the bread hook on the Kenwood, turn it on medium, go away and have a cup of tea. Give it at least 10 minutes. It should be pulling away from the sides of the mixer and forming a nice ball. Add more flour if too sticky, more warm water if too dry. It’s a very soft dough you end up with but it’s lovely to work.

Cover the bowl with a cloth, leave it to double in size – about an hour. Plenty of time to make your filling. Always make more filling that you think you’ll need. Easy to store and use later, harder to stop everything and make up another batch!

The Filling

I went for a classic pork/chorizo/pepper pie filling we’ve made before, knowing that the kids will eat it whether this works or not, and that I can always knock up a batch of rough puff pastry and make a real pie should everything go pear-shaped. You’ll need:

  • 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, 1 green pepper, finely chopped
  • Some cloves of garlic (more than 2, less than 10, you know how much garlic you like), finely chopped.
  • 1 chorizo sausage (~250g), finely cubed (there’s a pattern here)
  • Pork loin, 3-4 steaks, finely cubed
  • Oil, salt, pepper, chilli flakes
  • Fresh parsley

Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil over a medium/low heat and fry the onions slowly for about 10 minutes. Low and slow is the key here. Sprinkle of salt, grate of pepper. While you’re frying the onions, prep the peppers and garlic.

Add the peppers and garlic, mix it all up, give it another 15 minutes. And while this is all frying, prep the pork and chorizo

Add the pork, the chorizo, the chilli flakes (as much or as little as you want heat-wise) and give it about 5 minutes, enough to colour the pork. Take your filling off the heat.

Ah, this stuff smells fantastic. Simple and gorgeous.

Pierogi, Assemble!

And this is where the story really starts…

Roll the dough out into a long sausage, about 5cm diameter. Divide it up into 20 equal pieces. Grab the first one and a rolling pin, roll it out into a disc about 5mm thick, maybe a bit thinner. Whack a tablespoon of the filling into the middle and close it, pinching and twisting like a Cornish pasty. Put in onto a baking try, grab the next one. Roll, fill, place, repeat. Don’t place them too close together, they’re going to rise…

Basic pinch and twist to seal them. And, FYI, these are set way too close together

Let them stand for about half an hour, heat your oven to 180C, bake them for about half an hour.

The challenge then is to let them cool before eating them.

And a final word of advice. Whatever I’ve written for quantities up there? Double them. You’ll thank me.

Baked Chocolate Cheesecake, New York Style

Every once in a while you come across a recipe that’s perfect. Just bloody perfect. Well, it is when you hit the Mk IV, anyway. And my New York cheesecake was just that. Or so I thought. Sure, I’ve added a few ingredients, dropped some crystallized ginger into the biscuit base, added half a jar of marmalade in the main cheesecake mix. And yet, I figured it was pretty much spot on.

And then…

“Can you make a chocolate cheesecake?” I was asked. One quick discussion with my technical advisor (my wife, baker par excellence, and source of most of my good ideas) and yes. Yes, I think I can…

You’ll need…

  • 7oz Bourbon biscuits (or as near as you can get, better over than under), blitzed to a fine crumb
  • 3oz butter, melted

Mix those 2 together, press into the base of your 9inch (23cm) spring-sided pan and bake at 180C for 10 minutes.

Then you’ll need 2 bowls. Into 1…

  • 750g full fat cream cheese (2 x 375g pots)
  • 250g ish Marscapone (1 1/2 of the Tesco 180g pots, I can’t usually find them in Sainsburys)
  • 9oz caster sugar (see how I’m mix and matching grams and ounces? It’s the consistency that matters and this works every time)
  • 4 eggs
  • 3oz cocoa powder, sieved to remove lumps.

Mix together the cream cheese, the Marscapone, and the caster sugar. Once you’ve got a nice smooth, even mix, add in the eggs one at a time. Mix thoroughly but don’t over-beat it (that’s one of my notes from the Mk II). Finally, mix through the cocoa powder.

In the 2nd bowl…

  • 300ml soured cream
  • 40g cornflour, sieved

Mix those two together to a smooth blend. Then fold that into the main cheesecake mix.

By about now, the 10 minutes should be up and the base baked. Leave the oven on, you’ll need it in a mo.

Pour the mix into the spring-sided tin, smooth over the top. You should have something that looks like this:

One on the shelf, ready to go.

Into the oven it goes, middle shelf, bake for 45 minutes and this is where it gets techincal…

Switch off the oven, crack the door open a fraction, and leave it to cool down for a couple or 3 hours. Take it out of the oven, run a blunt knife around the inside of the tin to separate it from the metal. Take the spring-side away. Now make the ganache…

Final ingredients:

  • 150ml double cream, heated to near-boiling
  • 140g dark chocolate. Bourneville is perfect, chopped into tiny little bits.

Pour the hot cream over the chocolate in a bowl, stir until it’s all melted together, then place the whole thing into a large tub of cold water to cool it down and thicken it up.

Once it’s cooler and thicker, pour it over the top of the chesecake, whack the whole thing in the fridge overnight to chill. This is what turns it from an excellent dish into something truly amazing. Something happens with that overnight chill that gives it a final creamy texture, really finishes the job properly. It’s amazing.

Then cut yourself a slice and enjoy the breakfast of champions.

Oh, yeah.

Movie Review – Mortal Engines

Late to the party as usual, finally caught Mortal Engines yesterday. I was not disappointed. Well, I was, but more on that later.

Be warned, there be spoilers ahead.

Peter Jackson has a track record of making the same visual constructions I have. That is to say, the look of something as brought to the big screen by him is just how I imagined it should look. I remember clearly the first time I saw the Ents in the trailer for The Two Towers. “Oh yeah,” thought I as the trailer started. “All very well and good but no-one has done an Ent properly yet.” And then there they were. Large as life and just as I had imagined they would be. Perfect. Jaw -> floor.

And that’s just how it was with London in the trailer for Mortal Engines. And it’s repeated time and again throughout the movie – Airhaven? Spot on. The Wall? Wow. Medusa? Oh, yeah! The cities, villages, the guilds of London, the policemen! The Lord Mayor! All just as if they’d stepped out of the book via my imagination.

But – and this is something I’d not fully appreciated from reading the book – a lot of it is just there to be a backdrop for destruction. In a way, Mortal Engines follows a very similar pattern to The Force Awakens – our heroes arrive at a location, shortly followed by the villains of the piece, and it gets destroyed. Sometimes the villains arrive at a location all by themselves and proceed to destroy it. And it all happens so quickly! Okay so it’s been a while since I read the books, but I’m sure it didn’t clip along at such a fast pace! And I’m sure London wasn’t finished off with such an assault-on-the-Death-Star attack.

The biggest problem for me, though, was Hugo Weaving. Our Mr Valentine, saviour of London and all round good guy. Ish. And Shrike, but I can understand why they did Shrike the way they did. Made him a very grey character, not black/white bad/good. Valentine, though, was more of a pantomime villain than King Phillip of Spain (of Spain) in Bill. Mr Weaving seems to be going through the motions, putting as little effort as possible in to the part. Not sure why, maybe his paycheck from DisMarvelney is grand enough he doesn’t have to bother. To my mind, he displayed a greater depth of emotion and acting calibre as Agent Smith in the first Matrix movie.

I’d give this a solid 7/10, could do better. My eldest son hated the design of the Jenny Hanniver airship but we all want the next book to be filmed. And the next… And the next… Oh, to see Anchorage! Brighton! Stalker Fang…