About the author

Originally from London, I moved to Poland to absorb as much of the culture as humanly posssible. Maybe the biggest influence on me has been the food and I credit my adopted babcia, (Polish for grandmother) Ania, with much of the information here. I lived in Zielona Gora and Szklarska Poreba which are in the west and south-west of Poland respectively.
Please feel free to leave any comments or visit my other site An Englishman in Poland

Friday, 8 May 2009

Kopytka (little hoof dumplings) recipe

As I explained in the article on pierogi ruskie dumplings do not feature largely in the British cuisine and I have had little exposure to them even in foreign dishes.

Dumplings are lumps of various filled or empty doughs and can either be cooked in soups/casseroles or water. Whereas I had experienced dumplings cooked in thicker sauces, ravioli for example, I was introduced to the type cooked in water for the first time in Poland. To me the slimy texture of dumplings cooked in water feels wrong. I much prefer pierogi ruskie od smażone (sma-shoan-ay), or fried.
However, I found myself increasingly growing fond of one type of dumpling called kopytka (kow-pit-kar) which derives it's name from the shape as it resembles hooves of one ruminant or another. It consists mainly of a potato based dough with flour and is quite bland but the secret is in it's topping.
Pierogi in general can be likened to ravioli in all but the fact it is cooked in a sauce and not just water and keeping with the Italian theme, kopytka can be compared with gnocchi which too wonderfully derives it's name by it's physical appearance, lump.

Kopytka recipe

What you need for dough
  • Potatoes (about 5 medium sized)

  • An egg

  • Flour (about a cup and a half but probably more)

  • Salt

for topping #1

  • Breadcrumbs (1/2 cup)

  • Butter (3 tbsp)

  • Sugar (optional)

for topping #2 (also known as skwarki)

  • Generally any type of bacon, the fattier and smoked will give more taste.

  • Onion (1)

  • Butter (3 tbsp)

What you do:

  1. Peel and boil potatoes until cooked and tender.
  2. Mash thoroughly and leave to go cold.
  3. Add egg and add some flour, start to mix it all and add more and more flour until all the dough is not sticky to touch.
  4. Flour a large board and roll out the dough into a snake shape about an inch high and thick.

  5. Cut into diamond shapes that resemble hooves (otherwise it's not truly kopytka).
  6. Boil a large pot of salted water with a little oil

  7. Add kopytka (do not overcrowd pot).

  8. After they start to float, give them extra few minutes then remove to strain
  9. Add topping of your choice

Topping #1

  1. Basically just fry breadcrumbs in melted butter until golden. It should be moist yet crumbly.

Incidentally this topping goes well on vegetables such as boiled green beans or cauliflower with a dinner, obiad).

Skwarki topping.

  1. Cube or finely chop bacon and onion
  2. Melt butter
  3. Saute onion and bacon until browned.

This recipe is so easy with minimal ingredients, the hardest part is making perfectly shaped dough.

I can imagine that this is a recipe borne out of hard times, when food was scarce and a copious amount of ingenuity was needed to stave off culinary boredom. Growing up having Irish parents I have overdosed on potatoes in every way I thought possible but I think employing potatoes in this way is highly laudable.

I believe thinking about this spurred me on to try and introduce a bit of originality into my own culinary skills. Buckwheat groats are popular in Polish cooking and I decided to use buckwheat flour instead of white flour when making kopytka one day (By the way buckwheat flour is not used widely in preparing Polish dishes, I never knew you could get that type of flour until I saw it on a shelf in the shop). The flour has a supposedly sweet taste and I imagined some incredibly looking speckled masterpieces being the result of this amazing twist. However my kopytka turned out the colour of brain and since my dough shaping skills are still ashamedly inferior, looked like brain also unlike the masterclass displayed by babcja Ania.

click here for twitpick photo of kopytka looking like brain.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

There are quite a few names for very similar things in this topic which I hope readers will leave a little 'lump' of their insight before 'hoofing' it away to another site to make things a cit clearer.

Kopytka is the name for hoof shaped potato dumplings with no filling. Kluski is a broader term for dumplings without fillings of which there are several types. One type are Kluski śląskie (silesian) which are round with a dimple on one side and these are made with raw potato as opposed to cooked in kopytka. But what is different about Kluchy z łacha, pyzy, kluski drożdżowe or kluski na parze and then there are knedle?

On a similar note there are pierogi leniwe (lazy pierogi). I like the no nonsense straight names that can be given to Polish things. Pierogi are like parcels with fillings but if you you are in a sloth-like mood you can just mix in the filling (cheese) into the dough. Why waste time?

Anyway my favourite adverts on Polish television involve anthropomorphizing food produce in the Biedronka series. In the one below I was sure that they were pierogi leniwe but they look like kopytka and I am confused what pierogi leniwe should look like. From what I have seen they are the same shape as kopytka and have the same fried breadcrumb topping. Is literally the only difference the fact that white cheese has been mixed with the potato dough? If so what a nightmare if your allergic to white cheese and have to choose between seemingly identical looking dishes.

Kopytka are really filling but a few of them are a nice accompaniment to some meat (especially to bolster the protein content of the meal). Why not try them yourself, they are extremely easy with common, default ingredients and you feel like you are really cooking because you get your hands full of dough. One day I will fry them and see about kopytka without that dodgy texture but I have pierogi ruskie od smażone so i'm happy to leave leave it as it should be traditionally...slimy but delicious.