I have recently discovered a new brand of yogurts called Greek Gods. I have noticed them before on the shelves of Sainsbury's but bought my first tub just a few days ago, when I saw a new cooking challenge on Foodies100 - to wow Aphrodite with a love-inspired recipe - using the Greek Gods yogurt. It was too late to apply for the free sample to take part in the challenge, thankfully our local Sainsbury's had it in stock. My choice of a recipe was perhaps quite unusual for Aphrodite, as I decided to take her on a culinary trip to Russia and make a plate of vareniki (crescent-shaped dumplings) to serve with the Greek yogurt with honey.
Russian Mamas & Babushki instil the rules of hospitality: all friends are welcome any time. Even if you have unannounced visitors, you have to offer them food, if your guests refuse, always presume it is out of politeness and insist they should have at least a few cups of tea with whatever you have on offer. Russian hospitality is bordering on smothering you with love and stuffing with food. And if you know in advance that you have guests coming for dinner or tea, you spend hours preparing food.
Making vareniki is quite a long process, that's why often it is done with your family or friends around, when you sit by the table and everyone is taking part in folding the pasta shapes into crescents and pinching the corners together.
400g plain flour
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium eggs
150 ml cold milk
1 tsp salt
300g cottage cheese
Ifyou have a food processor, chuck all the ingredients except the cottage cheese and ricotta and mix it well, as you would when making the Italian style homemade pasta dough. Otherwise, make a heap of flour on a clean table surface, crack an egg inside, pour a bit of milk and start mixing and kneading, add another egg, more milk, and keep kneading. It will take quite a bit of effort, and you will know the dough is ready when it is elastic and doesn't stick to hands anymore. Put the dough ball covered in plastic or a clean teatowel in the fridge for half an hour.
Later take the dough out and using a rolling pin roll the pasta on the table. You might want to divide your dough into 3-4 pieces if your work surface is limited, that's what I did. The rolled dough has to be very thin, about 1 mm. Cut out the circles with a cookie cutter or a small glass.
Put a bit of the cottage cheese/ricotta mix inside each circle, close it as a crescent and pinch the edges so that the filling doesn't escape during the cooking.
Once all your vareniki are done, cook them in batches in a big pan full of the boiling salted water.
Traditionally vareniki are served with the smetana (soured cream) and/or some sweet berry sauce.
I have chosen a Greek style yogurt with honey from Greek Gods, as I think this is a classic celebration of flavours, and one that I particularly enjoy.
This yogurt is very thick, it reminds me of the smetana (soured cream) that my grandma who kept her own cows used to make. It's a type of yogurt where you put a spoon in and it keeps standing.
For those who have a sweet tooth, add a drizzle of the berry/fruit sauce (I used the mango , banana and lime sauce).
It was quite time-consuming to prepare but fun. It also brought back memories of my Grandma and Aunt Lydia who used to make enormous batches of sweet dumplings filled with the cottage cheese and also with cherries (my favourite). I remember biting in , with the sweet cherry juice dribbling down my chin, oh joy.
Hope Mighty Aphrodite will enjoy the taste of the Russian-inspired recipe. Cooking for your family and feeding friends is definitely a labour of love.
And as this is a big tub of yogurt, I have also done a mango smoothie with it.
Just whizz a few cubes of mango, 4 tsps of yogurt and half a glass of almond milk (per person) for a lovely thick smoothie.