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Potato vareniki (dumplings)

Servings: 4
Vareniki are Ukraine’s answer to pierogi or ravioli - shaped into half-moons rather than squares, as a talisman for a good harvest. You can have a whack at making your own using leftover mashed potatoes, seasoned and spiced with white pepper, wrapped in a classic dumpling dough. But this version takes a shortcut with frozen vareniki (because I know you’ll be more likely to try it that way!) which you can find at many large independent grocers, supermarkets, and especially at continental delis in areas where Eastern European communities have settled (in Melbourne, I grab mine from Glenhuntly Road in Elsternwick, Centre Road or Koornang Road in Bentleigh, and Carlisle Street in Balaclava). If you chance upon potato pierogi in a Polish application, they’ll still absolutely work (a case of ‘a rose by another name’). The fried onions are what makes this - sweet, syrupy, and piquant. They cut through the richness of the dough and the sour cream, and make this a much more complete meal. Star anise brings out the natural sweetness of the onions, but I wouldn’t be rushing out to buy some if you don’t have any - last time I ran out, I knocked on a neighbour’s door, and she kindly gifted me 3 star anise pods. It felt like something out of a fairytale… which incidentally is a place where dumplings also often feature!
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Ingredients 

  • 3 brown onions diced
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 50 g butter
  • 1 kg vareniki frozen
  • Sour cream & dill to serve

Instructions 

  • Place a large lidded frying pan onto a low heat. Add in the oil, onions, star anise and a good pinch of salt. Pop a lid on and leave them to sizzle for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. They should develop a golden colour and turn translucent. To complete the caramelization, remove the lid and plonk in the butter. Turn the heat up to medium and let them sizzle for another 5-8 minutes. Keep an eye on them as they’ll change quickly - you want a deep golden colour, and a few darker brown bits will only add to the complexity of flavour. Fish out the star anise pod.
  • Meanwhile, cook the vareniki using packet instructions (big pot, plenty of well-salted water, like pasta!). When the vareniki are finished, drain off and add them to the onions in your pan (if it’s big enough) or combine the two in a big serving bowl or mixing bowl.
  • Serve with sour cream and dill.
  • If you’ve made more onions than you need, they will keep in your fridge for up to 2 weeks.

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