Pelmeni, manna for the Russian bachelor

They call them manty in Uzbekistan. To the Italians they're ravioli, the Chinese, wontons, the Georgians, khinkali. In Ukraine, they're filled with sweet things and called vareniki. Over here, however, they are good old pelmeni, a food embedded deep in the national identity of every Russian. No one knows how pelmeni - half-moon shaped dough containing chunks of ground meat - came about, but theories abound. One is that they were discovered in the Urals by Russian pioneers, who called them pelnyan, the local Komi word for "ear", which the food resembles. Others maintain pelmeni originated in Siberia, where the raw dough and meat could be preserved outside for months in the freezing winter. Yet another theory says they're Chinese, citing the use of non-native spices in the recipe, such as pepper.

Today, they are eaten the length and breadth of Russia. While you can find pelmeni in any well-stocked Moscow supermarket (easy to prepare and one of Russia's ultimate bachelor meals), true pelmeni are made by hand, at home.


Ingredients

2 cups of flour 1 cup milk o 250 grams beef o 250 grams pork o 1 tablespoon vegetable oil o 3 eggs o
1 onion 1/2 tablespoon salt o pepper, powdered garlic to taste

Filling

1. Run beef and pork twice through a meat grinder.

2. Add chopped onion, salt, pepper, garlic and a bit of milk (this makes the meat more tender and juicy).

Dough

1. Crack eggs into a pile of flour. Gradually add warm water, kneading as you go, then add salt, milk, and oil. Knead until you have achieved a soft, non-sticky dough, and let it sit for 30 minutes.

2. Dust a surface with flour. Divide the dough into
several pieces, and roll each one into a long "snake", approximately one inch in diameter.

3. Cut cylinder at one-inch intervals, then flatten pieces out with your fingers until you have a thin, circular disk about two inches across and 1/16 of an inch thick.

4. Place a teaspoon of the meat mixture into the centre of each disk. Make sure there are no holes in the dough
otherwise all the meat and juice will leak out when
cooking.

5. Fold the dough in half and seal the edges.

These may be frozen (well-refrigerated pelmeni can keep for several months) or immediately boiled.

To boil

Put a large pot of salted water on the stove, and add pelmeni when the water comes to a boil. Stir often, to prevent pelmeni from sticking together or to the bottom of the pot.

Make sure not to overcook - when the pelmeni begin rising to the top (after approximately seven minutes), take one out and test for readiness.

Serve with sour cream and dill or vinegar.

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