Pelmeni were a treat and at home, we enjoyed them with sour cream and soy sauce (no doubt an influence from the time my family spent living in China). Piroshky, on the other hand, offered more varied fillings and were great for when we were on the move. My brothers, sister and I enjoyed the tasty pie pockets most Saturdays at Russian school, once or twice a week as an after-school snack at our grandparents' houses, and occasionally alongside borscht for dinner.
Stuffed with a cabbage filling, these yeast buns are fried until golden here, but are also commonly served steamed.
Piroshky are popular Russian boat-shaped pies that can be held in one hand, and for this reason, they're often eaten at picnics. They can have sweet or savoury fillings. Common choices include ground meat (usually beef, pork or a mix), sautéed cabbage, mashed potato, fried mushrooms or stewed fruits. Although you can eat piroshky hot or cold, the tastiest is when they're pulled straight from the deep fryer or oven.
My Baba Tonia baked the best piroshky in Sydney. Sometimes I'd pop over after school just as she was pulling a batch out of the oven. The waft of the yeast-leavened dough and ground meat filling (which she usually mixed with glass noodles – another Chinese influence) was enough to make me drool even before I entered the house. She knew her baked piroshky were my favourites. They were buttery and soft, the mince inside was so fatty the oil would drip as you ate them. Unsurprisingly, I would often eat too many and 'ruin' my dinner.
"The waft of the yeast-leavened dough and ground meat filling was enough to make me drool even before I entered the house."
Fried piroshky also made a weekly appearance at the Russian school canteen that my siblings and I attended most Saturdays. Typically, ground meat and mashed potato piroshky were on offer at recess and lunch. During lent, sautéed cabbage often replaced the minced meat variety, and sweet stewed apple, too.
My uncle has a hand-written book of Baba's recipes stored somewhere. I plan to master it one day and pass down the recipe to my daughter. While there are recipes online, nothing tastes quite as good as Baba's.
In the meantime, my dad knows where to buy them. After I mentioned them once or twice (or maybe 10 times) to him, we're off to collect some of the best home-cooked piroshky in Sydney.
Luckily some people are still keeping the traditional recipe alive and in a few days, I hope to savour fresh piroshky made lovingly by someone else's baba.
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These little layered cakes are the sweetest hats you'll find. Made up of custard cream and a chocolate topping they are covered in shredded coconut for a little texture but you can also use nuts as well, if you have them handy. They are best served chilled and if you aren't much for a dessert fork, then eating these with your hands like a cupcake is absolutely acceptable!
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