I enjoy sharing delicious traditional recipes that have been modified to meet the needs of those who are vegan or gluten-sensitive.
Gone are the days of the dinner party where whatever the hostess or host set out was certain to scarfed up without any "What is in this?" queries. "Is it organic and locally grown?" "Gluten-free?" Vegetarian or vegan?" "GMO-free?" "Kosher or halal?"
Even though I'm of the generation where, as a child, it was drilled in that "we don't make comments about the food" and "we eat what is on our plate," etc., I am now one of those "what is in this?" people.
My husband and I try to eat organic, low-fat, vegan, and food-grown as close to home as possible. And so I was thrilled when our neighbour Tom gave us some beets (lots of beets, actually), and I was able to make some delicious organic, low-fat vegan, gluten-free borscht.
But what is beet borscht without perogies?
Perogies are those little dumplings from Eastern Europe that contain a variety of fillings, often some combination of rice or mashed potatoes, onions, and mushrooms. Some contain meat, whereas others contain only veggies. I've even seen some with fruit centers.
But the perogies that I like the most in the world are filled with sauerkraut. They are hard to find in the store freezer and expensive when you do find them. And if you do find them, they are certainly not low-fat, vegan, or gluten-free. Or not that I have discovered.
So, I searched online until I came up with a suitable gluten-free perogy recipe, and then I adapted it to leave out the usual oils and eggs. I also didn't have a couple of the ingredients on hand, so I made some substitutions. This is what the recipe looks like:
- 3 flax eggs or chia seed eggs (1 egg = 1 tablespoon ground seeds in 3 tablespoons water, mix well)
- 1/3 cup / 40 grams tapioca flour
- 1/3 cup / 40 grams fine organic cornflour
- 2 tablespoons / 13 grams of potato flour
- 1 tablespoon xanthan gum
- 1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
- Measure out the dry ingredients into a large bowl or a food processor (I used a food processor with a dough hook).
- Add in the 3 flaxseed (or chia seed) eggs.
- If doing by hand, knead a little and form ball. If using a food processor, pulse until all ingredients come together into a nice doughy ball. Scrape down sides between pulses.
- Dust a surface (I used a silicone cookie sheet) with tapioca or cornflour and plop down the ball of dough. Press out a little and then roll with a rolling pin to the thickness you like.
- Cut out round shapes with a cookie cutter or a glass.
- Put a small amount of filling in each circle (I used sauerkraut; other vegan ideas are found below). Wet your fingers and run around the perimeter of the perogy to seal it.
- Freeze the perogies on a tray in the freezer.
- Boil the soup or water and put in the perogies. Don't overcook! Just shortly after they bob to the top of the boiling water, they should be fork-ready.
Delicious GF Vegan Perogy Fillings
The fun part of making perogies (from my point of view) is the creative possibilities for stuff that cooks inside the dumpling. Here are some ideas for you—I'm sure you also have your own!
- Traditional Mashed Potato: Mix mashed potatoes with anything: carrot shavings, mushrooms, parsley, chopped onion, roasted garlic, celery, chives, etc. Do a brief softening sauté (in boiling water in a frying pan) of the carrots, etc. Season liberally with salt and pepper
- Pickled Stuffing: This filling would include sauerkraut or any other pickle that grabs your fancy: beet pickle, banana pepper pickle, and hot Polsky Ogorki (Polish dill pickle).
- Chestnuts Roasting: Be sure to get the edible chestnuts for this, and not the Canadian West Coast prolific toxic chestnuts (such a waste, I think). Roast, shell, peel, and chop up with mushrooms and minced garlic. Salt, pepper, sage, rosemary, you choose what seasoning you prefer.
- Mediterranean: Combine cooked orzo or quinoa with cooked eggplant, tomato, red pepper and zucchini. Use Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.
- Asian Comfort: Rice, peas, button mushrooms, tiny pieces of tofu, broccoli, shredded carrot and greens. Season with Chinese 5 Spices, salt and pepper.
My History With the Perogy
The dumpling I ate as a child was not the gummy little yummy little pocket of tastiness called a perogy, but more like a small knuckle of biscuit dough floated on a greasy stew. I didn't meet the perogy (also written as perogi, pierogy, pierogi, pierógi, pyrohy, pirogi, pyrogie, or pyrogy) until I went over to a friend's place as a junior high student. Her mother had the kitchen table mounded in fresh-made perogies. They were interesting to me, but food was pretty much just something that fueled me then, not an obsession that it started to become in my adulthood.
At some point in my 30s, I began to buy and serve up my idea of a "Ukrainian meal": frozen perogies from the supermarket, take-out cabbage rolls from a local Ukrainian food restaurant, and maybe a sausage or some borscht. Our older son loved perogies, and years later, when he was a teacher of English as a Second Language (ESL), he invited his entire class to his small bachelor apartment for a "Canadian meal"—the high point of the repast being those supermarket frozen perogies smothered in sour cream.
In my early 40s, I belonged to a church community that was made up of many older women of Russian-Ukrainian heritage. Once a year, they got together to make masses of perogies (I mean, they made 3,000 in a day) as a fall fundraiser for the school. This took the form of a community supper in which about half the perogies were consumed with oceans of beet borscht while the other half of the perogies were flogged by people running about, sometimes thrusting a bag of frozen perogies in your face, sometimes making urgent announcements from the microphone on the stage.
I did indeed "contribute" to the fall supper preparations, but not in any way that increased my culinary fame or that resulted in my son turning away from the frozen supermarket variety and championing his mother's wonderful homemade perogy skills. I hid away (in true introvert style, I think) in a corner of the large communal kitchen chopping up onions or peeling beets or potatoes.
I was a little intimidated by the animation of the event and listened to someone shriek, "No, no, you never put in the margarine before the...." or ask with a voice laden with accusation, "Who took my paring knife? That is my own personal paring knife," and such. I watched quietly from my corner as they transformed goopy dough into smooth little, kneadable balls that could be rolled out quickly without any dough sticking to the rolling pin. I marveled at how they could talk, roll, cookie-cut the perogy shapes, fill them all precisely, fold and seal, with none landing on the floor. Most of all, I remember that quick accuracy.
And, although I eat mostly low-fat vegan and gluten-free, I still remember with great fondness the absolute melt-in-your-mouth yumminess of those heart-invested perogies (and yes, I often ate them smothered in fried onions and sour cream!).
I'm happy to say that this low-fat, vegan, gluten-free perogy recipe is pretty delicious, despite the lack of cheese and eggs and sour cream. Enjoy!
© 2013 Cynthia Zirkwitz