Tag Archive for: Dumplings.

I’ve been taken to task for snubbing a potato dumpling. So cepelinai, I belatedly salute you. Russian pelmeni, Polish pierogi and all manner of Alpine/Italian cousins were spotlighted in a recent piece of mine on noodles and dumplings.

Absent, because I’ve never tasted it, was Lithuania’s national dish. Literally it means zeppelins because their shape resembles the rigid airship developed by Graf von Zeppelin at the turn of the 20th century.

Didžkukuliai was the original name for these sizeable dumplings made from grated and riced potatoes stuffed with ground meat, dry curd cheese or mushrooms. After boiling, the cepelinai (pronounced sep-elle-in-ay) are often served with sour cream sauce or pork rinds, apparently. I’m still seeking a restaurant that serves them; no hope of unearthing another traditional fave, deep-fried crow meat, on any menu soon.

In common with all Eastern European and Baltic states, Lithuania has a vast appetite for potatoes. In the global spud league table it trails troubled Belarus, but an annual average consumption of 100kg per capita is mightily impressive, some three times the world average. Few dishes are unique to one country. Similar to cepelinai are pyzi in neighbouring Poland, Norwegian raspeball, the Acadian poutine râpée in Canada and from Germany Kartoffelklöße.

It’s a sign of the times that the Lithuanians are developing lighter versions of their centuries-old signature dish.

Soured cream and bacon bits decorate a traditional dish of cepelinai

A release from Lithuania Travel https://lithuania.travel/en/ informs me: “Cepelinai used to be the perfect hearty meal delivering the necessary energy that our predecessors needed to endure the cold climate while working the fields. The times have changed, so has Lithuanian cuisine: over the last few decades, the local chefs have introduced foreign flavours to cepelinai and have transformed it to a healthy everyday dinner or lunch option.” Fillings now range from buckwheat to cottage cheese and mint, carrot and hemp seed.

New fillings are everywhere – upmarket Burna House in the capital Vilnius recommend their pulled duck and offer a pink dough version, using beetroot, another Lithuanian favourite. See the recipe below, but first a simpler more trad version… 

Lithuanian cepelinai 

Serves four


400g waxy potatoes; a beaten egg; one diced shallot; 250g minced pork; ½tsp ground caraway; one crushed garlic clove; 1tbsp plain flour plus extra for dusting

For the sauce:2tbsp dried porcini; 1tsp butter; two diced shallots; 200g sliced mushrooms; 200g crème fraîche.

To serve: two rashers smoked streaky bacon; chopped dill.


Divide the potatoes into two batches. Chop one batch into chunks and boil for 15-20 minutes until tender, then drain and mash. Finely grate the remaining spuds and tip into a bowl lined with a tea towel. Squeeze tightly to expel any liquid; keep 2tbsp of this juice and discard the rest. In another large mixing bowl, add the reserved potato juice, the grated potato, mashed potato and half the beaten egg. Beat everything together, seasonand leave to cool, then chill while you prepare the filling.

Mix together the shallot, minced pork, caraway seeds, garlic, remaining egg with salt and pepper. Now blend 1tbsp of flour into your potato mixture and divide into 8. Flour a work surface and lightly shape the potato dough into flat round patties, approximately 1cm thick. Put 1 heaped tsp of the pork filling in the middle of each one, then gently encase the pork and form a dumpling. Roll them in your hands to achieve the signature zeppelin shape. Repeat with the rest of the patties and filling. Bring a large pan of water to a rolling boil, then reduce to a simmer. Gently lower in the dumplings, cover and cook gently for 30 minutes. The water must not boil or they might start to disintegrate.

Meanwhile, fry the bacon until crisp, then chop into small dice and set aside. To make the sauce, pour 100ml of boiling water over the dried porcini and leave to stand for five minutes. In a saucepan, heat the butter and add the shallots, frying gently until they are soft and translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes more. When they are cooked, pour in 1tbsp of the liquor from the porcini and discard the rest. Chop the porcini and add them. Fold in the crème fraîche, bring to a simmer, then season.

To serve, place two dumplings on each plate and pour over the mushroom sauce. Sprinkle the dill and bacon pieces over just before serving. 

Burna House Pink Cepelinai with Curd ‘Raudonieji Cepelinukai su Varške’

Serves four 


For the potato mixture: 800g raw blended potatoes; 300g fresh potatoes (peeled); 100g finely chopped onions; 60g milk; 60g butter; 250g fresh beetroot juice; 40g potato starch

For the stuffing: 400g cottage cheese; 2g fresh tarragon; 40g soured cream.

For the white wine sauce with sundried tomatoes and capers: 400g heavy cream; 100g dry white wine; 80g sundried tomatoes; 10g capers; 5g cornstarch; 15g salt; 10g fresh thyme; 20g cooking oil

For garnish: chopped dill, spring onions and parsley; black pepper.


Cook the freshly peeled potatoes in salted water and drain them. Heat the milk until it starts boiling, add it to the potatoes along with the butter. Mash until smooth. Mix the mashed potatoes with the raw blended potatoes and the beetroot juice. Add 5g  salt

For the stuffing mix the cottage cheese with the tarragon, sour cream, and 3g salt.

To form a single cepelinas take 50g of the potato mixture and pat it flat in the palm of the hand. Place 20g of the stuffing in the centre and, using slightly dampened hands, fold the potato mixture around the cottage cheese stuffing into a zeppelin shape, sealing well.

Mix 2.5 litres of water with the beetroot juice and bring it to a boil. Gently lower the cepelinai into the boiling water and juice mixture and cook for 15 minutes on low-to-medium heat.

For the sauce saute the onions on some cooking oil until golden brown. Add the wine and fresh thyme. Cook for 7-10 minutes until the alcohol evaporates. Add the cream, bring it to a slow boil and simmer for 15 more minutes on a low heat. Add the sundried tomatoes and the capers and bring it to a boil. To thicken the sauce, add the cornstarch.

Serve the cepelinaiwith the white wine sauce and garnish with fresh dill, spring onions, ground black pepper, and parsley.

Consume while watching Part Two of Jonathan Meades’ BBC polemic travelogue, Magnetic North (find it on YouTube), which features The Hill of Crosses, a pilgrimage site in Northern Lithuania. Dating back to the 1831 Uprising, this small hill in the middle of farmland holds up to 100,000 crosses of all sizes, from tiny wooden crosses to huge handcrafted metal specimens. Destroyed several times and suppressed by the Soviets, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a symbol of the nation’s tenacious survival. Christians from across the world flock to pay homage, but it also eerily reflects Lithuania’s unquestionably pagan roots. 

I’d love to visit one day, first having feasted on didžkukuliai and Midus Lituanian Mead, naturally. And if you also plan to go down the fried crow route here’s a full-feathered report from the rather wonderful meateater website.

Many thanks to Lithuania Travel, Burna House, Vilnius and Andrius Aleksandravičius for the cepelinai images.

Ominous warning for the recipe I was about to challenge myself with. Spicy Mutton and Tomato Biang Biang noodles. What could possibly go wrong? Not the roasted tomato and mutton broth constituents of this adaptation by Pippa Middlehurst of a classic dish from Xi’an, eastern hub of the Silk Road.

No, it was the handling of the biang biang that was likely to shoot me in the foot. Basically you’ve got one chance to stretch the noodle dough to the right silky, elasticity. BIang Biang is the onomatopoeic sound the dough makes when you slap it on the worktop. Pippa says it takes practice to perfect; after much trepidation and the required minimal contact I landed lucky with my metre lengths of noodle. Comparatively. The final dish, laced with coriander, cumin and star anise, was gorgeous.

It’s from Bowls and Broths (Quadrille £16.99), sophomore cookbook by the cancer research scientist turned supper club maestro, aka @pippyeats, after the huge success of her debut, Dumplings and Noodles

The new book will be published on September 2, ahead of the launch of her food school and fully-equipped community cookery space for hire, Noodlehaus in Ancoats later in the year. It might well fit the bill for any further educational initiation of mine into the noodlesphere. So far £43,775 has been pledged in a Kickstarter Campaign.

This base in an old mill is the obvious next step for Pippa, winner of the BBC’s Britain’s Best Home Cook in 2018. She quit the lab that year to run cookery workshops and supper clubs around Manchester under the Instagram soubriquet @pippyeats. Result of travels around Taiwan, China and Japan, including noodle school in Lanzhou, was Dumplings and Noodles.

Her latest local al fresco expedition was setting up stall last weekend at Platt Fields Market Garden, providing high class ballast for their Deya Brewing and Friends event. Yet another sign of a new wave city food culture that transcends traditional restaurants and bars.

As for her own project, she told my colleagues at Manchester Confidential ahead of her Kickstarter launch: “I am so excited to be able to create my dream cookery school in the heart of Manchester. The building is in an old mill and has the most incredible natural light,  which will be amazing for the photography workshops I will be hosting. The space will be open to all and I am looking forward to working with the community to provide a space that people can come and learn about cooking as well as share my love of cooking.”

That love of cooking bubbles over (like my biang biang noodle pot) in the new tome, which lives up to its manifesto: ‘Build a bowl of flavour from scratch with dumplings, noodles and more’. 

Broth is the key. So my next dip into Pippa’s bowl-centric universe is a ramen, a dish I love but – guess what? – have never quite got right. She proposes a Tonkotsu Tsukemen. Just need now to source the requisite amount of pork bones and chicken feet.

It’s a culinary keepsake from her time in Japan and bears the inevitable proviso: “The noodles were thick and bouncy with a perfect amount of resistance and chew.” For someone whose ‘al dente’ pasta has been dubbed by my nearest and dearest as ‘al dentist’ it’s yet another challenge.

Noodlehaus, 37-49 Devonshire Street North, Manchester, M12 6JR. pippyeats.com