A new year a new recipe: beetroot & fetta varenyky

A new year has begun. For many this means starting afresh be it saying goodbye to old habits or exploring new adventures.

It's #LetsLunch time (the virtual lunch club among food bloggers around the world) and the first of 2013.

This post's theme was 'new beginnings'.... be it tackling something you've always been scared or intrigued to try ....yet for me it was changing the old and bringing in the new.

Being Ukrainian, varenyky (or to my Polish friends pieroghi) has been a comforting dish throughout my life.

First introduced to me by my babucia it wasn't long before I was in the kitchen with her learning to make them, trying to fill, fold and pinch them into little crescents...I was never as good as her!

We make varenyky fillings of farm cheese, potato, potato and onion, potato and speck, sauerkraut and then topped with lashing or sour cream.  But as I'm now my palate is older and wiser and cook in my own right I’ve always wanted to change the status quo and modernize things.

Walking into my greengrocers I couldn't help but notice the beautiful beetroot that's in season. With their bountiful green leaves and that deep red pink colour. I love their earthy flavour and when roasted how it intensifies them and become sweeter.

Yes I know beetroot is a common staple of Ukrainian cuisine (Borscht ...beetroot soup...the quintessential soup in every Ukrainian's home) it’s not used as a filling for Varenyky....so here is my new 'filling' beginning......and what better combination then pairing it with beautiful goats milk fetta and some thick delicious Greek yoghurt.

Smachnoho! (aka Enjoy! Bon Appetit! Dig In!)

roasted beetroot & fetta varenyky
Serves 4

8 baby beetroot (630g)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh dill
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
200g fetta, finely crumbled
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

varenyky dough
2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup water

dill yoghurt
1/2 cup Greek natural yoghurt
2 teaspoons finely chopped dill
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 Preheat oven 180°C or 160°C fan forced. Trim and scrub clean the beetroot, keeping skin on.  Wrap each beetroot in foil. Place on a baking tray. Bake for 1 hour or until tender.  (you should be able to easily pierce the beetroot with a fork). Set aside for 15 minutes to cool.  Wearing gloves peel the beetroots and discard skin (trust me the gloves will be your lifesaver unless you love pink stained hands!).  Roughly chop 7 of the beetroot and place in a food processor, process until finely chopped.  Transfer to a bowl.  Finely chop remaining beetroot and set aside.

2  Heat oil in small frying pan over medium low heat. Add green onion and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes or until softened.  Add to beetroot and stir until combined. Add dill, cumin and fetta, stir until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

3 Place flour and salt in a bowl.  Make a well in the centre. Combine eggs and water in a jug. Pour into well, stir with a flat bladed knife until just combined. . As flour can vary from season to season if the dough is a little sticky you may need to add a little more flour, if the dough is a little too dry add a little more water. 

4 Transfer to a lightly floured surface, knead dough lightly until dough comes together. Don’t overknead or the dough will become tough. Place dough back into  bowl. Cover with a tea towel and set aside to rest for 15-20 minutes.

This is where my grandmother’s recipes is a little different. Many recipes suggest you roll the dough into a large round and then cut into smaller rounds with a glass or round cutter but my grandmother never did it this way. Babucia found that Australia the dough dried out too quickly so by the time you’ve cut all the rounds they dried out to much....so this was something I wasn’t going to change!

5 Cut dough into 2 portions. Roll one portion of dough onto a floured surface, keep remaining portion in the bowl covered with the tea towel. Roll into a log about 28cm long.  

Cut into 2cm wide slices.  

6 Roll one slice into an 9cm diameter circle, keep other slices covered with a tea towel. 

Try to get it as round as possible but don’t be too much of a perfectionist....if you are then suggest you do the method of rolling out the dough portion until about 2mm thick then use a 9cm round cutter to cut out circles from the dough.

 7 Place the dough circle in one hand and place a level tablespoon beetroot filling in the centre.

Fold dough over in half and pinch dough ends, with lightly floured fingers, to seal. Make sure you pinch them well so that the varenyk is sealed otherwise you’ll lose the filling when boiled!

Normally you do this holding in one hand & pinching with the other...but hey hard to do that & take a picture so have shown you on the bench!

Place onto prepared tray. Cover with tea towel to prevent drying out. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. 

8 Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Reduce to rolling simmer. Cook a few at a time for 3 minutes or until cooked through and risen to the top. 

Transfer with a slotted spoon to a casserole dish with a dollop of butter. Toss vareneky in the butter to coat....the butter will melt from the heat of the varenyky and not only does this make them even more delicious it also prevents them from sticking as you cook the remaining. Continue to cook remaining varenyky, transferring to the other butterned varenyky with each batch. 

9 To make the dill yoghurt combine yoghurt, dill and zest in a bowl. Serve with hot varenyky with dill cream and remaining beetroot and extra dill sprigs.

Now normally any sane Ukrainian never makes just 1 batch of varenyky....with the time and love it takes you may as well set aside the whole afternoon and make a few batches so you've got plenty for another time. The trick is to NOT cook & eat them all!  

You can freeze uncooked filled varenyky by placing them in the freezer on the tea towel lined tray and freeze for 2-3 hours or until frozen. Transfer into a freezer safe airtight container or snap-lock bag. Label, date and freeze for up to 3 months. Cook straight from frozen in a large saucepan of salted boiling water. They may take a little longer to cook but will be ready when they float to the top!

If you cook more than you need so you amazingly have left overs then the best way to re-heat varenyky (dietitians & health freak beware!) is to pan fry them in butter (or for some die hard Ukranians some bacon fat or ‘salo’) until golden, a little crisp and heated through.....make them even more heavenly!

This was my post for this month's #LetsLunch, is a monthly Twitter based food blogger's virtual lunch club.

 If you'd like to join the LetsLunch group, go to Twitter and post a message with the hashtag #LetsLunch.

Come back soon and you'll eventually find a link below to everyone else's #LetsLunch posts for this month.

Happy New Year!

Lisa's A new dish in my kitchen: Da Bombe Alaska
Nancie's DIY Lemongrass
Linda's Caribbean Style Black-Eyed Peas for Old Year's and New Beginning
Lucy's Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies
Grace's Homemade Matcha Green Tea Yoghurt
Annabelle's Brown Butter Creamed Greens


Nancie McDermott said... Best Blogger Tips

Sonja, what a lovely post. I learned so much beyond the basics of this recipe, which would have been abundantly enough. I love knowing about how your grandmother adapted her method to her new home, rolling out each wrapper instead of cutting them out. That making a log and cutting it into bits is what I have seen in many Asian recipes for making dumplings. It's so sensible, making the portioning simple and even. Cooks are so resourceful always and everywhere aren't they? Like you, revisiting the traditional recipe with your glorious beet filling. The color alone: Wow! I am eager to make these and I thank you for your clear, thoughtful encouraging instructions. I love LetsLunch because I get to connect with you and our fellow cooks/writers worldwide. Happy New Year. To the NEW!

Lucy Mercer said... Best Blogger Tips

Lovely varenyky - so happy to have learned a new word! The instructions make this post a keeper - I would love to make these!

Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips

I can't wait to try this recipe, as a fan of what I know as pierogi, beets, and feta-- you've covered all the bases here! Happy #LetsLunch and Happy New Year!

Pat Tanumihardja said... Best Blogger Tips

I love pierogies so thank you for sharing your version and introducing us to Ukrainian food!

Annabelle said... Best Blogger Tips

Intriguing combination! I like the idea of the beets with the dill yogurt. And that's a new word for me too.

safety consultancy service said... Best Blogger Tips

Great article with excellent idea! I appreciate your post. Thanks so much and let keep on sharing your stuffs keep it up.