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  • Dorota Lockyer

Recipe: Delicious Yam & Cheese Perogies

Perogies -- filled pasta dumplings -- are a Slavic staple that are relatively easy to make, great for dinners and mid-week meals. (Fun fact: in Polish, the correct term is pierogi (plural; the singular form of the word is pierog. So, one pierog; two pierogi!) While this recipe has a oven-baked yam filling, you can make them with many other fillings, from the traditional potato and cheese, to a more dessert-type with blueberries or some other fruit. And, best of all: if you have the time to make a big batch, you can easily freeze them and pull them out on a day when you're out of ideas for dinner -- or just have a craving for perogies!

The Simple Ingredients of Homemade Perogies

The filling for this recipe is a mixture of oven-baked yams (with a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkled with cinnamon and oregano) plus old cheddar cheese. However, you can make your perogies with whatever filling that your heart (and tummy) desire! The traditional Polish fillings are potato and farmer's cheese (these perogies are called pierogi ruskie), sauerkraut, mushroom, sauerkraut and wild mushroom (traditional Christmas Eve pierogi). Sweet/dessert perogies are filled with sweet farmer's cheese, fruit (blueberry, strawberry, plum...), poppy seed and dried fruit (also eaten on Christmas Eve). But, new fillings are on the rise! Any mix of flavours that you'd use in an Italian ravioli work for perogies too: spinach and ricotta, pumpkin and parmesan, avocado and feta, garlic and shrimp, and the oven-baked yam filling used in today's recipe! Just search ravioli recipes and you'll be inspired for your own unique combination.

And how to eat your homemade perogies? You can simply boil them in a pinch and top them with a bit of olive oil or butter, but a delicious way to increase the flavour is to fry them for a bit with olive oil and onions after boiling them, and serve with plain Promise Valley yogurt.

This recipe uses Promise Valley eggs and plain yogurt, plus our favourite One Organic Farm's organic all-purpose flour for the dough. (Note that this is just one recipe you can choose for the dough; there are other recipes for dough without eggs and yogurt -- but we love the flavour of this dough! The eggs add more structure to the dough, making it stiffer; butter adds a nice buttery flavour and richness to the dough.) You can choose your preferred local organic butter, yams, and extra-virgin olive oil for the other ingredients. We prefer to choose ingredients that are as local as possible, and ideally organic -- not sprayed with pesticides and chemicals that are detrimental to the environment and our bodies. We encourage you to look up the small, family-run organic farms local in your area and support them.

INGREDIENTS

(This will make approx. 24 perogies)

For the filling:
8 ounces yams (1 medium or two small), sliced into approx. 1/2-inch slices, peeled
Enough olive oil to coat
Salt, ground pepper, ground cinnamon, dried oregano (to taste)
1-2 tbsp milk (or cream)
1/4 cup of grated cheese (Cheddar, mozzarella, or your pick)

For the dough:
1 large egg
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 tsp salt
2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour

INSTRUCTIONS

To make the filling:
1. Oven-bake the yams. First, in a bowl, toss the slices of yams with olive oil (enough to just coat them), a pinch of salt and ground pepper, and season with ground cinnamon and dried oregano to your taste. Usually it comes to about a teaspoon of cinnamon, and a teaspoon of oregano. Place the slices on a baking sheet so that they're not on top of each other, and bake at 415 degrees F for about 15-20 minutes (depending on the thickness of your slices).
2. Remove from oven and put back in bowl. Once the yam slices are soft and easily mashable with a fork, remove from oven. Let them cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a bowl (you can return them to the bowl you tossed them in earlier).
3. Mash or rice the yams. If you don't have a ricer, you can use a potato masher or your fork to mash them until very smooth.
4. Stir in the milk and cheese. Stir in the cheese and tablespoon of milk (if the filling is too dry, add a little more milk). The filling should be firm enough to roll into a ball. Taste the filling to make sure it's to your liking!


To make the dough:
1. Mix the egg, yogurt, and butter together. Whisk the egg, then add the yogurt, and melted butter. Add salt, and whisk them all together.
2. Add wet ingredients to dry. Add the flour into a bowl, then pour in the wet mixture. Gently stir the wet mixture into the flour, At first it will seem dry and shaggy, like it will never come together, but keep mixing.
3. Smash the dough to the sides of the bowl. Once the dough starts coming together, use the palms of your hands to press the dough to the insides of the bowl. This will help it come together. Once it's more of a ball, knead the dough until it forms a ball in your hands.
4. Knead the dough. Take out the dough and knead on a board for about 1 minute.
5. Let the dough rest. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover, and let rest for 15 minutes.



To assemble the perogies:
1. Divide the dough. Divide the dough into four pieces. Place one on your board, and put the others back into the bowl, and cover. (They will begin to go dry on the outside if left out for too long.)
2. Roll out the dough. Roll out the dough as thinly as possible. (A tip for rolling out dough: roll from the center out to minimize the amount of times you have to roll. As the dough gets thinner, avoid adding flour to the top of the dough; you want the top of the dough to be flour-free so that you get a good seal. You can add flour on the other side if you find it's sticking to the board.)
3. Cut the dough into rounds. With a 3-inch round cookie cutter (or you can use a glass if you don't have a cutter), cut out as many rounds as you can. (Tip: cut them as close to each other as possible; any dough left over will need to be rolled out all over again next time.)
4. Spoon the filling into the rounds. Spoon about 1 tsp of the filling into the very centre of each round.
5. Fold the perogies. Cupping the perogies in your hands, gently fold the perogies with your fingers into half-moon shapes.
6. Pinch the perogies. Gently but firmly seal the perogies by pinching the sides of the perogies with your thumb and pointer finger. Start with one pinch on the top, and move along until you get to the end. (Tip: it's important to not get any of the yam filling between the dough at this point, otherwise it will not seal properly and water will get into your perogies when boiled. If you have to, pull the dough a little around any filling that's in the way. If you find that the dough isn't sealing because it's too dry, wet your fingers in water while pinching to moisten the dough.)
7. Crimp the edges. Place the perogies down, and with a fork, crimp the edges -- first on one side, then the other.

8. Repeat steps 2-7 with the rest of your dough until you don't have enough dough left to form any rounds.



To cook the perogies:
At this point, you can either place your perogies on a baking sheet and freeze them; or, you can boil them and eat them! To boil them, bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the perogies, and boil them until they float up (usually about 3-5 minutes). With a slotted spoon, remove them. If you want to fry them, place them into a warmed skillet over medium heat. (I usually cook onions for several minutes in the skillet before adding the perogies.) Cook, flipping them occasionally, until brown and crispy. Remove from pan, add plain yogurt -- and serve!

(Partially adapted from this perogies recipe.)
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