When I was an adolescent I discovered that I had a significant intolerance to gluten. My iron was extremely low (almost non-existent) and I was constantly exhausted and unable to stay awake during class. Fainting spells, heart palpitations, dizziness, breathlessness, and severe fatigue were all common place in my life at that point. I had no idea this was not normal. Oh, and gut pain. Constant gut pain. Fortunately I met a great alternative practitioner who nailed my health issues. I had to remove all whole grains and gluten from my diet and consume as much red meat as possible. For the first time in my life I felt vibrant. No headaches, no dizziness and no FATIGUE! Oh gad. The dreaded fatigue is the pits! No gut pain either for the first time in two and a half decades. I had no idea how hideous I felt almost all of the time.
Initially it was difficult to figure out gluten-free alternatives, but my love of food pushed me to be creative and find other delicious options. Over the past two decades there has been a gluten-free explosion and now there is a gluten-free replacement for almost anything. Almost. I can honestly say that I don’t miss gluten 99.9% of the time. But when I do, I get into the kitchen and obsess over a gluten-free alternative.
These pierogi are an example of this. I ADORE pierogi. But a) they are not well-known in New Zealand, and b) they are gluten-laden bundles of excruciating pain and fatigue (for me and the kids at the very least). I played around with a few different dough ideas until I came up with this one. Third time lucky! The dough is very easy to work with and the dumplings boil up and fry perfectly. And they can be made and then frozen and boiled from frozen and then fried again. The dough can also be frozen and then thawed etc. It is a win-win-win-win scenario.
I made a roasted pumpkin, caramelised onion, sage and feta filling for these, but the options are endless. Mashed potato, onion, garlic, fried bacon, rosemary, cheese, pesto, and kumara (sweet potato) are just some of the different things that can be mixed and matched for a drool-worthy pierogi. Have fun with it and play around! And remove any dairy if wanting dairy free.
For those unfamiliar with pierogi, these dumplings are a Polish food (pierog – singular – means ‘pie’ I believe). Bags of pre made pierogi are commonly found in the freezers of your average Canadian home. They are a favourite of mine and have now become a favourite of my son’s! If you haven’t ever had a pierogi, be warned. These things are a food of the comfort food gods.
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup red or white sorghum flour (or buckwheat, brown rice or teff flour)
2 TBLS + 2 tsp potato starch (known as potato flour in NZ)
2 TBLS + 2 tsp tapioca starch/flour
2 TBLS ground chia seed
pinch of sea salt
1 TBLS olive oil
165 mls warm water
- Place all dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk/mix to combine.
- Create a well in the centre and add warm water and olive oil. Mix with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.
- Knead by hand for a minute or so until the dough is smooth. It should not be too dry or too sticky. If necessary, add more water or buckwheat flour a small amount at a time to get a workable dough that can be rolled out easily on a lightly floured surface without cracking or sticking. Allow the dough to rest for 20-30 minutes while you make the filling for the pierogi.
Pierogi Filling (omit dairy if wanting dairy free)
quarter of a pumpkin or squash – cubed
1 onion – chopped
handful of fresh sage (or dried)
30g feta cheese
30g colby or cheddar – grated
sea salt and pepper to taste
olive oil and/or butter for frying/roasting
- Chop a quarter of a pumpkin into cubes and place in a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast at 190 degrees C for about 40 minutes.
- While waiting for the pumpkin to roast, chop one brown onion (or purple or white) and sauté in butter (or olive oil) over medium-low heat until it caramelises. Add chopped fresh sage a few minutes before removing the pan from the heat.
- Mash the roasted pumpkin in a bowl. Add the caramelised onion and sage, feta, grated cheese and salt and pepper and mix well.
Making the Pierogi (dumplings)
- On a lightly floured surface (I use buckwheat flour to dust with), roll out the dough until it is about 3-4 mm thick. Sprinkle the dough with flour as you roll to stop it from sticking to the bench and rolling pin.
- Use a glass or cookie cutter (about 6-7 cm in diameter) and cut out as many rounds as you can. Leave the scrap dough to the side for re-rolling.
- Re-roll each circle lightly to create a slight oval (this makes stuffing them easier). You can dust each circle with flour and stack them in a few piles until all the dough is rolled out, or roll them and fill them as you go. But cover the unused dough and rolled out rounds with plastic wrap to keep from drying out.
- Re-roll the scraps as above, and add a few drops of water as necessary to get the right consistency.
- To fill, use a teaspoon and place a heaped spoonful of filling off-centre on one side of the oval. Using your finger, lightly wet the edges and gently fold, matching the edges. Press the edges together between your fingers to create a tight seal, or use a fork if you want a decorative edge.
- You can either freeze them individually on a tray before putting them together into a container, or cook them straight away.
Cooking the Pierogi
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Carefully drop 6-8 dumplings at a time into the boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes (they will rise to the top once cooked).
- Use a slotted spoon and lift the dumplings out of the pot and into a colander. Drizzle with a little olive oil. You can eat them now, or fry them one boiled (my favourite!).
- Heat butter or olive oil or coconut oil in a frying pan (preferably a well-seasoned cast iron skillet or a non-stick pan) over medium heat and fry each side of the pierogi until golden.
- Serve with sour cream or pesto and sauerkraut.
Frozen pierogi can be placed directly into boiling water and then fried to cook or thawed first and then boiled/fried.
Please let me know if you have tried them, thanks!