Vendor MBK’s Ukrainian Vareniki

Once I had the first bite, the memories came flooding back.

MBK says…

When I was young, my sister and I would often be at my grandparents’ (Bubcha and Dodds) house. They were Ukrainian immigrants who came to Australia in the 1950s after World War II. They may have met in a work camp near Russia at the end of the war, but that might just be family myth. They knew how to make peasant food tasty and cheap. We would often get all the ingredients from Footscray Market.

Sharing this recipe floods back memories of their laminex, chromed-edged kitchen table, covered in white tea towels full of vareniki (we called them “piroshki”, but that’s a slightly different recipe). Helping Bubcha prepare the dough, rolling it and cutting out circles. With the scraps of leftover dough, we would make a little treat – filled with a little jam and cooked in the oven – while we kept making the vareniki. Ukrainian dumplings can be filled with so many different fillings, from sour cherry to sauerkraut. My favourite is potato and cheese.

After they were boiled and cooled, Dodds would add some butter (a lot, I think) to a frypan with some chopped onion, then lightly fry both sides of the vareniki. He’d serve them hot with lashings of thickened cream poured on top (and he would let me lick the edge of the thickened cream tub). Yum! I think my record was 21 in one sitting.

Last time I made these – about five years ago – I followed this recipe. I made a great fun mess but, once I had the first bite, the memories came flooding back. I couldn’t hold back the tears of joy rolling down my cheeks. Best shared with many friends and/or family. Best comfort food I’ve ever had. Slava Ukraini.



Ukrainian Vareniki

Makes approx 50 vareniki

2 cups plain flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
7–8 tablespoons water
1 large egg white, lightly beaten

Potato filling
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
3 large potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed
115g (½ cup) of farmer’s cheese (or quark or cottage cheese)
60g Colby cheese, grated
Salt and pepper
Butter, fried onion, spring onion and cream to serve (optional)


For the dough, place flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add egg yolks and oil into the centre and beat with a fork, slowly incorporating the flour. Add water a little at a time until it forms a dough.

Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead until smooth, about 2 minutes. Cover with a tea towel or bowl and let it rest for 30 minutes.

For the potato filling, melt butter in a small frypan on medium heat. Add onion, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned, 15 minutes tops. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine mashed potatoes and cheeses. Add the onion and melted butter and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble, divide the dough in half and shape into 2 balls. Keep one covered while working the other ball. On a floured surface, roll out a ball into a very thin sheet, about 3mm thick. Make sure it doesn’t tear. Using an 8cm cookie cutter or an inverted glass, make small circles in the dough. Gather scraps and set aside, covered.

Place a heaped teaspoon of the filling in the middle of each circle. Fold the dough in half, over the filling, to form a semi-circle. Brush the edges with the egg white and pinch edges firmly together (use a fork to seal, or just press very firmly). Place the vareniki on a large, lightly floured baking sheet, about an inch apart. Cover with a damp tea towel.

Repeat process with second ball of dough, using the leftover scraps for the final batch.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and carefully lower some of the vareniki into the water. Avoid crowding them. Boil, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until they rise to the surface and are cooked through, about 4–5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, carefully remove the vareniki to a colander. Drain thoroughly. Repeat process with remaining vareniki.

The vareniki can now be eaten with a little tossed butter. Or, once cooled, try frying them slightly on each side with a little butter and onion, then serve with thickened cream and spring onion. Yumbo!

Once cooked and fully cooled, they can be frozen.

First published in Ed#704