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Eastern European "pierogi"

12 March 2019
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This month, we get a taste for Eastern European cuisine.

Words & Photos Vanessa Ortynsky

I recently visited Kate Grater at The Pierogi Joint, a café in Hillsborough that’s introducing Christchurch to Eastern Europe’s favourite dish. Originally from Canada, Kate has been living in Christchurch since 2013 and educating Kiwis on one of Canada’s most popular foods, the humble pierogi (which takes various spellings and forms!). Kate describes the pierogi as a European dumpling, making it a bit easier for New Zealanders to get their head around this culinary delight.

If you’re wondering why so many Canadians have an affinity for Eastern European cuisine, you’re not alone. Following the Brits and the French, the next large wave of immigrants came to Canada from Eastern Europe, many making central Canada, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, in particular, their home. As a multicultural country, Canadians of all culture and have retained many of the traditions to this day. Given my background as a Ukrainian Canadian (just look at my surname if you need proof), I was delighted when a friend mentioned The Pierogi Joint was becoming a permanent fixture in our fine city.

Kate initially launched The Pierogi Joint in 2014, though, following a brief hiatus, is now back in full force. The business connects her to her Canadian heritage and she loves that it introduces New Zealanders to an entirely new culture.

The menu changes regularly and is inspired by what’s local, in season and fresh. When I visit, she’s serving up cranberry cheeseburger and, my personal favourite, The Gourmet, which is filled with kumara, feta and pine nuts! If you’re a bit of a purist, she’s also got the original, humble pierogi, which pays homage to that which is filled with potato and served with fried onions and sour cream.

The Pierogi Joint also caters to all dietary requirements, including vegan and gluten-free. Oh, and she’s introducing sausage like the traditional kubasa as well as a vegan sausage.

Definition:

Pirogi, pirohy, pyrohy, varenyky are filled dumplings made by wrapping unleavened dough around a savoury or sweet filling then cooking in boiling water or pan-frying. Pierogi, which consist of noodle dough and have to be cooked in boiling water are associated with the Central and Eastern European kitchens where they are considered national dishes. Their variant varenyky and pyrohy are popular in Ukrainian and Russian cuisine. The dumplings may be served with a topping, such as melted butter, sour cream or fried onion or a combination of those ingredients.  

Where to find them
Kate’s pierogies can be found at The Pierogi Joint, her café on 7a Nuttall Drive (enter from Desi Street) and a variety of local markets, including the Christchurch Farmers’ Market. She has regular nights at Level One in New Brighton (1/217 Marine Parade).

Making pierogies

Making the perfect pierogi take skill and dedication. Not only has Kate nailed down the pinching technique, she also loves sharing her love of pierogi making and hosting regular cooking classes. Invite your friends over for a few fun-filled hours learning the art of pierogi making and testing out new fillings.

Sweet or Savoury

Growing up, we had regularly had savoury pierogies, often with potato, potato and cheese, sauerkraut or prune (yes, prune) filling. When we visited the motherland for the first time, I was surprised to see sweet pierogies a permanent fixture at the dinner table. Blueberry and cherry pierogies were popular, but Kate is offering more gourmet options like apple pie, sweet cheese vanilla custard (served with ice cream, caramel and dusted with cinnamon!)

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