Zuza Zak
9 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
Laura Edwards

A dozen years ago, at a sit-down wedding event the conversation turned to food. (What else are you going to talk about with a group of strangers on your table?) When a girl scoffed ‘isn’t Polish food just dumplings?’ at some remark I’d made about my Polish culinary preferences. It was in that moment that I became filled with a determination to do something to remedy this common misconception about my homeland’s food. I didn’t know how I was going to tackle the problem, yet the seed was sown. Although, it’s entirely understandable that people don’t know much about the rather niche subject of Polish food I wanted to add my offering to the world on the various wonders of Polish cooking.

Although dumplings may not be the most important food to us Poles, we do love them dearly. Pierogi are the most universally recognisable of our Polish dumplings yet there are many, many more varieties. Some we use as a carbohydrate base for a main meal, others are a meal in themselves; some are eaten with soups, while others can be eaten as a dessert; some are sweet, while others savoury. There are dumplings that are unique to certain regions, and some that are called by the same name yet eaten differently from area to area. A good example of this is the potato pyzy, which in my region, Mazowsze, are usually eaten as UFO-shaped balls with a dent in the middle – this is how my grandma Ziuta used to make them and she was a Mazovian through and through. My grandma Halinka on the other hand, reminisced about stuffed pyzy that she used to eat in Lithuania (which I have recreated in this chapter with lamb). Pierogi have even more varieties, in the mountains they are stuffed with buckwheat groats and bryndza (a salty, creamy sheep’s milk cheese similar to feta), while in other regions it’s spiced with meat or sauerkraut and wild mushrooms as a vegetarian option. Come the summer, however, you’ll find most parts of the country enjoying both bilberry and strawberry pierogi.

Making dumplings is not a precise science – there are many variables such as the size of the eggs, the type of flour, the way you knead, whether or not you leave the dough to rest or not. Although, I give you the precise measurements, I ask you to listen to your inner voice – the inner old Polish housewife – that will tell you to add more water when the dough feels too dry, to cover your hands with flour when the dough is too sticky, to be patient and knead it for a while when it seems like the dough has gone awry, or simply to cover it with a damp cloth and have a rest when you think it’s ready.

There are also many different types of pierogi dough, not to mention different ways of preparing the same dough. But when it comes to classic pierogi dough one method is not necessarily better than another. Adding eggs to the mixture is the way most Polish people would make pierogi nowadays, yet this was not the original method. Old-style Polish dough used to be made from flour and butter – no eggs – but due to the Italian influence on our cuisine over hundreds of years, eggs replaced butter as the binding agent. I use both in the recipes in this chapter, but if you run out of eggs, then you can experiment with adding more butter. All in all, I find dumplings to be quite forgiving and even if the result isn’t perfect they will still leave you feeling very satisfied that you made them yourself.

Making dumplings

Dumplings are incredibly simple to make and very much part of our Polish heritage, all you need is a little confidence in the art of folding and preparing the dough, to make these little wonders. Once mastered, dumplings can be made in minimal time and truly are little flavour bombs that you can fill with whatever mixture your heart desires!


1. Put a teaspoon of the filling onto the dough about a third of the way down (you can make a few pierogi at once this way).

2. Fold the shorter edge of the dough over the filling.

3. Use your cutter or wine glass to cut a half-moon shape out of the dough with the filling in the middle.

4. Pull the dumpling [s] out and use the tip of a fork to press down the edges and create a frilly effect.


1. Cut circle shapes out of the dough with a cutter.

2. Put a teaspoon of the filling inside each circle.

3. Close each circle to create a half-moon shape.

4. Press the edges down with your fingertips to seal the pierogi and create a frilly edge.


1. Cut equal size squares out of the dough.

2. Put ½ teaspoon of filling in the middle of each square and pull the edges together diagonally to close.

3. Seal the edges to create a triangle.

4. Pull the edges together that are the furthest apart from one another around your little finger.

Recipes in this Chapter

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