Swedish Pirogies

p1I can honestly say that I have never been on a picnic using a red-white checkered cloth. Yet, for some reason, every time I see the pattern, that’s exactly where my mind goes. Picnics are fun and I admit we don’t go on them as often as we should. Living in Prince Edward County I feel somewhat spoiled. Since the county is surrounded by water, there’s no shortage of beautiful spots to unfold that checkered cloth whether on a crisp spring day or a balmy summer evening.

As much as my mind refers to the word picnic when I see this particular pattern, I also associate these Swedish Pirogies with the same word. They are quite different from the original polish ones. These are much larger in size and baked rather than boiled. They are also made with a yeast dough. The filling can be switched out for something else but ground beef is the traditional (and in my opinion the best) one. Growing up, these patties were often found in the freezer at home. It’s a perfect afternoon snack but also the ideal picnic food. Easy to eat, no mess. No plates or cutlery required. They are as good cold as they are hot.

I think we all should make an effort to go picnic-ing a bit more this season. Make a day of it, or even an afternoon. Let’s enjoy the beautiful world around us. Sitting in your back yard is not the same thing as sitting under a tree by the water. Unless of course you happen to live right by the water with a big tree throwing the perfect amount of filtered shade. Then all you need is the red-white checkered cloth, these pirogies and a glass of The Old Third pinot.

p4

Dough:

5 tsp dry yeast

1/4 cup water

3/4 cup milk

1/4 cup cream

100g butter

2 tsp salt

3 eggs

3 3/4 cup flour

 

Filling:

1000 g ground beef

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large or 2 medium leeks

3 cloves garlic

1” piece fresh ginger

1 large carrot

1 tbsp oregano

1 tbsp basil

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp ground cloves

3 tbsp tomato paste

2 tbsp soya sauce 

1.5 tsp sambal oelek

2.5 tsp salt

Dough:

Activate the dry yeast according to the packaging. In a pot, melt the butter. 

In a blender, medium speed, add yeast, milk, cream, butter, salt and eggs. Sift the flour into a bowl and transfer, a little at a time, into the yeast mixture while on medium-low speed. When a ball is formed, remove from the bowl and kneed on a lightly floured surface until nice and even. Shape into a ball, and place in a clean bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave to rest for about an hour.

Filling:

Finely chop the white and green part of the leek, garlic and ginger. Grate the carrot. In a cast iron pot, on medium heat, fry the ground beef until cooked through in olive oil and butter. Add the vegetables and the rest of the ingredients. Stir and let cook for 10-15 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

Preheat the oven to 450F.

Cut the dough into 20 even pieces and roll each piece out to a circle, roughly 6” diameter. Alternatively, if you have a 6” round cookie cutter, roll out the dough in one piece, 1/8”-1/4” thick, then stamp out the circles. Add ~ 1/4 cup meat filling into the centre of the circle, then fold over in half. With a fork, push down along the curved side to seal. Brush with whisked egg. Bake in the middle of the oven for 15-20 min or until nice and golden. 

Eat hot with a side salad, or cold when out on a picnic or as a quick snack. They freeze well. 

p2p3p6

Mise en Place

mise6Countless were the times when I was wrapping up a dish and I’d take one last look at the recipe. Staring back at me was that one ingredient I failed to prepare. Julienned carrots, finely diced fennel or blanched pearl onions. Suddenly I was balancing between dropping that one item or, delaying the completion of the dish in order to correct my oversight. Countless were also the times I was in the middle of cooking when realizing that a vital ingredient to the dish I was making was nowhere to be found. I was certain I had had it at home. These scenarios might not always be crucial or end up a culinary disaster, however, they’re no fun.

mise4I have watched cooking shows on TV for as long as I can remember. One thing that used to annoy me was how everything was always prepared ahead of time. All the ingredients were there, within arms reach. The vegetables were chopped and diced and placed on plates. Dry ingredients pre-measured and added into cute little bowls. How tidy. How ‘mise en place’. I remember thinking it was so ridiculous. I mean, who cooks like that? Slowly but surely I became accustomed to the idea. It’s clearly done to save time and to make sure not to miss any ingredients. One day I thought, let’s try this method and see how well it works. And so I did. I brought all the ingredients out on the counter. I prepared all the vegetables and herbs according to the recipe. I chopped, sliced, diced and minced. I put everything in bowls and on plates. I measured and I weighed. Then I started cooking. 

mise1If you haven’t yet, you really should try it. Not only does it eliminate the chance of missing an ingredient, but it also slims the chance of forgetting to prepare that one ingredient, should it require julienning, dicing, or blanching. At the same time it encourages you to read through the recipe before starting, something you should always be doing no matter what you are planning on making.

Today, years later, the ‘mise’ is my best friend. There will be a few extra bowls and plates to wash up when finished, but it certainly makes cooking so much easier and much more enjoyable. 

mise3mise5mise7

Vichyssoise

v3

v7It doesn’t look like much at first, this soup. The palest green possible, almost white in colour. Poured into a white bowl you’ll hardly realize it’s there. So why am I making such a fuss over this soup you might wonder. Because it’s worth it. I want you to taste it. The velvety smooth texture and the subtle flavours of leeks, potato, cream and white pepper. You can’t help but think “This one of the best soups I’ve ever had”. It is one of the highlights from the french cuisine. Some people serve it warm, but cooled is the traditional French way. I decorate this simple, sumptuous classic with onion sprouts and a light grating of nutmeg.

v1

 

6-8 medium sized potatoes, peeled and quartered.

3 leeks

4 tbsp butter

4 cups chicken broth

2 tsp salt

3 tsp ground white pepper

1.5 cups heavy cream

Ground nutmeg

Green onion sprouts

Boil the diced potatoes in salted water until just tender. Drain and put aside.

Cut off the dark green part of the leeks. You can discard them, or save them if you are planning on making a broth. For this soup, you only need the white and light green parts. Slice the leeks in half, lengthwise. Rinse to remove any dirt. Cut the leeks in 1” pieces. Sauté them lightly in the butter in a sauce pan for a few minutes. Add the chicken broth.

Once the broth comes to a boil, lower the heat, and let it simmer until the leeks are soft, 10-15 minutes. Add the potatoes, salt and the freshly ground white pepper (it might seem like a lot, but it’s important to taste the white pepper). Let simmer for another 5 minutes before transferring the soup into a blender. Blend until smooth. You might need to do it in two parts. Pour the soup through a sieve, pushing it through with a soup spoon. It will give the soup the extra smooth, velvety texture. Taste it and add more salt or pepper if needed. Let it cool and keep it in the fridge. 30 min before serving, move it to the counter to warm up slightly and stir in the cream. Makes 6 appetizer size servings.

v6

v5v4v2