SERVES 2 NEWLY CONVERTED SYR-HATERS
(MAKES 12 DUMPLINGS)
By syr, Ukrainians mean a particular curd cheese, standing somewhere between cottage and ricotta cheese, made from raw milk at home and used for everything from spreading on rye bread to filling dumplings. So important is syr that it has also come to be a generic word for all cheeses.
Traditionally, Ukrainian mothers knew that syr was good for their children’s bones and teeth, but my friend Katrya detested it. Her mum kept trying to sneak syr into sweet treats that Katrya might be persuaded to eat, but all her attempts failed miserably. Then one day she made syr into savory little curd cheese cushions… and, lo and behold, Katrya has been happily eating these Ukrainian cousins of Italian malfatti with butter and herbs ever since.
You don’t have to abandon this fabulous dish in the colder seasons, either – just substitute the beans with winter greens. Some feta or other salty cheese can be added too, if you like.
4 oz syr curd cheese or well-drained ricotta
2/3 cup (75g) all-purpose flour
Large handful of finely chopped dill
8 oz green beans, tops trimmed
1/3 cup sunflower or vegetable oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp clarified butter (or butter with a splash of oil)
Pinch of poppy seeds
Sea salt and black pepper
For the dumplings, gently mix together the curd cheese or ricotta, flour, egg, and dill, then season with salt and pepper – it will be quite a wet dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and carefully knead until it is no longer sticky, then cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave to rest while you get on with the beans and onions.
Cook the green beans to your liking: for crisp-tender, drop into boiling water and cook for 2 minutes; I prefer my beans softer, so I boil them for at least 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
To make the crispy shallots, pour the oil into a frying pan over low heat. Just before you are ready to fry, toss the shallots in flour seasoned with salt, then shake off any excess and drop them into the hot oil. Cook until they are golden brown, but be careful not to take them too far, or they will taste acrid. Drain on paper towels.
Now, on a lightly floured surface, gently shape the dumpling dough into a 10-inch sausage and cut it into 12 pieces. With floured hands, lightly coax each piece into a dumpling about 21/2 x 3/4 inch. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil, then slip in the dumplings, in batches, and cook for 2–3 minutes – they will float to the surface when they’re done. Drain well in a colander.
Melt the clarified butter (or butter and oil) in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the dumplings and gently toss for a few minutes, until they are a light golden color, then add the green beans to the pan and stir to warm through.
Serve the dumplings and green beans with the crispy shallots, poppy seeds, and some black pepper.
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