I was in quarantine in Greece, during the COVID pandemic, at an isolated beach house last year. Yiayia had left enough food in front of the door to survive for a month if I needed to. Amongst her many dishes was a bag full of small savory pastries I had never seen before, Greek potato Piroshki. With just one bite, I fell in love. It turned out the be the most delicious snack I had ever tasted, and within a day, I finished all of them.
In the following year, I cooked the dish together with Yiayia to learn how to recreate this incredible vegan dish. Today, I am ready to share her delicious recipe with you!
How did Piroshki end up in Greece?
Piroshki is traditionally not a Greek but a Russian dish. However, a part of the Greek population did not live in Greece for more than three thousand years, the Pontic Greeks, or Pondians. These people are Greek and have always called themselves Greek. However, they lived in the Pontus region, located in modern-day Turkey, South of the Black Sea.
Due to the remote location of the Pontus, the Pontians have a unique culture, identity, and diverse cuisine that differs from the Greeks. When the Pontic Greeks had to leave their region in the early 20th century, many returned to Greece and took their cuisine with them. Piroshki is just one of the many delicious recipes of Pontic Cuisine.
What is Piroshki?
Piroshki is a fried dough with a savory or sweet filling inside. The dough is made with yeast to provide a fluffy texture around the filling. The outside, however, becomes crunchy when the dough is fried. Famous Pontian Piroshki fillings are minced beef, mushrooms, cheese, and apricot. But my favorite, and fully vegan, Pirsohki, is with potatoes.
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- There is a vast variety of Piroshki recipes out there. Some include milk, others eggs, and some only water. I believe you can not find two people who follow the same recipe or have the same result. Piroshki is personal, handed over in a family every generation. Each Piroshki is unique.
- Unless you’re making potato Piroshki on a Greek summer day, you must give your dough some special love. Yeast works best at a higher temperature, so keep your dough warm! Wrap the dough in a blanket and put it next to a heater when it’s rising. This way, you will get the best texture in the end.
For the dough:
- 1 glass of medium-warm water, around 350 ml
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 1 tablespoon of vinegar
- 2 teaspoons of sugar
- 1 package of active yeast
- 450 – 500 grams (around 1 pound) of flour
- sunflower oil for frying the Piroshki
For the filling:
- 1 kilo (2,2 pounds) of potatoes
- 2 big white onions
- 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley
- salt and black pepper to taste
- olive oil
- a bowl
- two saucepans
- a blanket
- a towel
- optional rolling pin
Yiayia’s Greek potato Piroshki:
Time needed: 2 hours and 30 minutes
- Make the dough
Mix the warm water, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Add the yeast and mix in. Wait till the mixture starts bubbling a bit. Then, you can start adding the flour. Tablespoon by tablespoon, while mixing it in by hand.
- Knead the dough and let it rise
When the dough feels dry but still sticks slightly, it is time to knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes.
Cover it with a towel and leave it to rise for 1 to 3 hours. If you live in a colder climate, wrap the bowl in a blanket and put it close to a heater to activate the yeast.
- Make the filling
While the dough rises, it is time to prepare the filling. Cut the onions and peel the potatoes. Add olive oil to a saucepan and fry the onions till they are soft. Then, add the potatoes, cover them with water, and bring them to a boil. Leave until the potatoes are soft, around 20 to 30 minutes.
- Season the filling
Strain and mash the vegetables. Add fresh parsley, salt, and a lot of black pepper. Don’t be afraid to add too much. You want the filling to taste like you have put slightly too much pepper to have the best result when putting everything together.
- Make a sheet of dough
Once the dough has risen, it is time to prepare the Piroshki. Sprinkle flour on your counter. Take a small piece of dough and open it with your hand or a rolling pin.
- Assemble the Piroshki
You make a small sheet of dough, and in the middle, you place about a tablespoon of the potato mixture. Then, wrap the filling inside the dough.
I usually make a triangular sheet, fold the top and sides of this sheet over the filling, and use the bottom to roll everything inside.
Repeat step 5 and 6 until you have used up all the dough and filling.
- Fry the Piroshki
You fry the Piroshki for about 3 to 4 minutes per side until they are golden brown. You want them to float in the sunflower oil, so use around a liter of it in a saucepan. The oil needs to be hot enough so that when you place a piece inside, it starts sizzling immediately.
When the Piroshki is nicely fried place it on a plate with a kitchen towel to absorb excess oil. Let it cool down, and enjoy!
- You shouldn’t immediately fry a Piroshki after assembling one. Leave them on the counter to settle a bit. Once you have around 10 of them, you can start frying the first one. Or wait till you have assembled all of them.
- The time a potato needs to boil depends on the type as well as the size. Test if the potatoes are ready by trying to lift one with a fork. If they fall off they are ready.
- It takes some practice until you find your way with the dough while assembling the Greek potato Piroshki. Don’t expect a good-looking first batch and remember that the taste is more important than the appearance. The most important thing is to find a way that works for you.
- If you have left-over potato filling in the end, you could use it to make a nice potato salad or just eat it as a side-dish later in the week.