I love food, and you really can’t beat a good dumpling! Soft dough stuffed with delicious fillings – what’s not to love? So I was super excited to be invited along to learn how to make pelmeni – Russian dumplings – with top chef and blogger / YouTuber Alla’s Yummy Food.
Most cuisines have a variety of dumpling in their repertoire, and I’ve been lucky enough to try many along my travels (and whilst nibbling my way around London!) – Italian ravioli, Hong Kong wonton, Indian samosa, Polish pierogi, German kartoffelknoeldel, Chinese dim sum, Japanese gyoza and Nepalese momo – but I’d never tried Russian pelmeni before. BRING IT ON!
The event was held at Alla’s flat in Stockwell, South London, which was nice and cosy, and made for a really welcoming and authentic environment to learn to cook in.
Alla is Latvian / Russian and it was so lovely to hear her talk about how her grandmother taught her how to cook Russian dumplings as a child, while photos of the two of them lined the shelves of the living room around us. Alla also has an adorable three year old French bulldog Milo, who was on hand to provide all the cuteness while we cooked!
Alla had already measured out our ingredients which meant we could get stuck straight in, mixing our dough – first combining all the dry ingredients, then adding the wet. You can see Alla’s exact recipe here.
I love working with dough (you can check out some of my bread / dough recipes here) and really enjoy watching how it changes during the process – from unmixed ingredients, to a sticky / crumbly mess, to smooth light perfect dough.
Alla was on hand to check we were all doing ok, and told us to keep kneading, until the dough is smooth, elastic and when prodded, holds the dimples.
It was then time to prepare the filling! As there were 8 of us in a relatively small kitchen, Alla created one large batch of pork filling and one of cheese, while we watched on, and got to pass round for a quick mix each.
Alla added water to her pork mince to make the dumplings extra juicy when bitten into. The mix was also flavoured with onion, garlic salt, pepper and nutmeg.
For the cheese pelmeni, Alla had a huge bowl of cheddar, mozzarella and feta which she mixed together lightly using her hands.
Time to assemble our dumplings!
We rolled out our dough out thinly, so we could just see the worktop through it, and using a ramekin cut out circles. We then gently lifted the disc of dough and flipped it over, so the stickier side was facing upwards which makes it easier to form your dumpling.
We then grabbed a spoonful of either pork or cheese filling and placed it in the centre of the circle, which was then folded in half over the top, encasing the filling. Alla showed us how to gently pull out the edges and fold and pinch them together all around the semi circle so the filling doesn’t pop out, and then grab the two ends, pulling them wide and bringing them in front and pinching them together too. I’m not going to lie, I was absolutely SHOCKING at this, and I think all but my last three dumplings looked more like orecchiette than pelmeni but hey – they tasted good!
We made an absolute ton of dumplings – I couldn’t believe how many we managed to prepare with the ingredients. Alla explained that they are great to batch make, and then freeze so you can defrost them and have a quick, easy dinner. In Russia, they often made huge batches so there is plenty of food saved, ready for harsh winters when little food grew.
Pelmeni are traditionally boiled in a broth, or shallow fried. To give us a taste of both styles, Alla boiled the pork dumplings in a chicken broth and served with a sprinkling of dried dill over the top. They were delicious – so fresh and very light – I could eat A LOT of these!!
The cheese ones are obviously best fried, and my god they were good, and I think overall I preferred them to the boiled dumplings. They were total indulgence, like mini cheese toasties, and it was amazing to see how the dough changed consistency from being fried – crisp, flaky and buttery. YUM!
I had such a lovely evening learning to cook with Alla, and it was really nice to be able to sit and eat together as a group round her large kitchen table, to finish off the shared experience of cooking them all together.
Alla was a great host and teacher and I will definitely be trying to recreate these at home! They’re so quick and easy, and are really fun to make with others – it would be a fun activity for a girls night!
You can book your own cooking experience with Alla on Air BnB, and be sure to check out her other recipes over on her YouTube channel too.
Have you ever done a group cooking experience before? What did you make?
Thanks so much to Alla and LovePopUpsLondon for inviting me to learn how to make pelmeni Russian dumplings.