Varenyky, or written in Ukrainian вареники, are one of the most popular Ukrainian foods. In fact, if you read any list of popular Ukrainian foods to try you’ll definitely see varenyky. I’ve already posted a recipe for fried varenyky with shkvarky, but this time I’m showing a recipe for black varenyky with pike, something not at all traditional.
Like most dumplings, varenyky consist of a filling wrapped in dough. Traditionally the filling is mashed potatoes and onion, however fresh fruits like cherries are also popular depending on the season. The closest relative would be a pierogi, although varenyky are traditionally boiled rather than fried (but Poland and Ukraine do change it up occasionally).
Making The Varenyky Pike Filling
Using pike, or any fish for that matter, as a filling is as untraditional as it gets. Hence why I decided to completely change the color. Don’t worry, there was no artificial black food coloring used in this recipe…that black color comes from cuttlefish ink (which is most popular with Italian, Slovenian, and Croatian cuisine.
The fish in this filling is pike, which is a delicious river fish. I poached three fillets in butter, salt, and pepper. Now, this fish is quite annoying because of the bones so do take special care to pick around and make sure you get them all out. Don’t worry about making the fillets pretty, as they will be mashed up with walnuts anyways.
I use walnuts in a lot of dishes, like my HOMEMADE TORTELLINI WITH WALNUT SAUCE and my APPLE WALNUT SALAD, because Alona’s grandmother has a few trees on her land. I believe that fish and walnuts go well together and those two ingredients basically make up the filling of these black varenyky. Of course, with a little salt and pepper added in.
Making The Varenyky Dough
The dough for these classic dumplings is quite simple. I do it in my stand mixer, but most people will do it by hand similar to most pasta dough. I do 450 grams of flour (a little over 3.5 cups), 65 ml Olive Oil (neutral oil is more traditional, I just like using olive oil in doughs), 1 large egg, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp sugar, and 250 ml of water. After mixing everything until combined, you can add more flour or water to get the right consistency. I like it where it is moist and springy, but will not stick to my fingers.
Now if you see the picture above, the black doesn’t seem to be completely through the entire dough. This is because I forgot to add the cuttlefish ink until the dough was already almost combined. I only had about 2 tsp of ink left, but if you want to make it black I’d just suggest adding enough to where your dough is completely pitch dark.
I use a pasta roller to make perfect circles for the black varenyky, but you can of course do it all by hand. As I rolled out the dough the black started to be more and more apparent, I guess the pressing caused the ink to spread more.
Just like with most dumplings, add about a teaspoon of filling to the circle, fold in half, and then crimp shut. You can do a fancy Asian style like I do for my Gyoza or just squeeze the ends together tightly until sealed.
Making The Dish
I decided to fancy up the dish a bit and served these black varenyky with pike on top of a pea cream. I also paired them with some fried potatoes seasoned with my favorite salt mix. Varenyky are not a fancy dish, but I did want to make them a bit classed up. The pea cream was just 200 grams of peas blended with 3 tbsp of heavy cream, a tsp of garlic powder, and half a tsp of salt. The seasoning wasn’t overpowering, but it did make the final result shine.
After everything is prepared you only need about 2 minutes to boil the black varenyky. Once they float to the top they are done. I like to toss them in a little neutral oil so they don’t stick to each other. You can make any filling you like, but if you think you may like these black varenyky with pike I suggest you give them a shot.
Other Fish Fillings?
You can use other fish fillings like: canned tuna, hake, sea bass, or something of your preference. I suggest getting creative and letting me know what you come up with in the comments. It may not be traditional, but that doesn’t mean it ain’t good.
You Might Like These Other Tasty Ukrainian Recipes:
- Ukrainian Liver Cake (Печінковий торт)
- Holubtsi (Ukrainian Cabbage Rolls)
- Syrnyky (Ukrainian Cheese Pancakes)
- Ukrainian Cheesecake
- Chebureki (Чебурек)
- Veal Karpaty
- Village Duck
- Hutsul Banush (бануш)
- and more!
Black Varenyky With Pike
- rolling pin
- Pasta Roller (optional)
- 450 grams Flour AP
- 65 ml Olive Oil or a neutral oil to be more traditional
- 1 large Egg
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Sugar
- 250 ml Water
- 1 tbsp Cuttlefish Ink if you have less it is okay, but the more you use the blacker it will be.
- 600 grams Pike about three filets
- 100 grams Butter or more depending on the size of your pan
- 125 grams Walnuts about 1 cup shelled walnuts
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Black Pepper freshly cracked
- 200 grams Peas
- 3 tbsp Heavy Cream
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- In a pan on medium low heat add the butter. When it is fully melted add the pike fillets seasoned with salt and pepper. Let poach in the butter for about 5 minutes per side. They will be of course overcooked, but we are mashing them anyways.
- Place the pike fillets in a bowl along with all the now browned butter. Blitz the walnuts in a blender or food processor until they are in small bits, not so much as to make a paste. Add to the bowl.
- Mash everything together with a fork until you create a rough homogenized mixture. Cover bowl with plastic and set in the fridge.
Black Varenyky Dough
- Place all the ingredients in a stand mixer with hook attachment (or in a bowl) and knead until well combined. If you need to add more flour or water to get a good consistency that is okay.
- Roll the dough into a tight ball and let sit for 20 minutes.
- Roll out sheets of the dough using a pasta roller or rolling pin and cut out circles. I used a ring mold but you can just use a circular cookie cutter if you prefer. Place about a tablespoon of filling into the middle, fold over, and press to seal.
- Place finished varenyky under a damp towel to keep from drying out while you make all of them.
- Add all the ingredients to a blender and let run for a few seconds until everything is combined.
Boiling The Varenyky
- Start a pot of boiling water. Drop in the varenyky and let boil for about two minutes, or until they float to the top. Place in a bowl with a little neutral oil so they don't stick to eachother.
- Plate and enjoy!