December has started, so we can officially start the countdown to Christmas. To be honest, the Xmas season in London starts pretty much five minutes after Halloween and in the shops you can actually encounter chocolate snowmen in September, but that trend is too weird for me to follow.. December however is a whole different matter. A new page in the calendar and it feels as if someone has pressed the ‘Christmas time’ button in my head. Perhaps that’s the result of being exposed to all the festive decorations and lights on the streets in the evening, combined with a practical approach – when it comes to all the dishes that can be prepared in advance and frozen (like these Christmas Eve dumplings) I start preparing them a few weeks before Christmas Eve to avoid last minute madness. Anyway, Xmas preparation time has started!

This year on the blog, you’ll see quite a few traditional recipes for Polish Christmas Eve. Hope you’ll like it too!


Christmas time always brings childhood memories to my mind and in particular festive time spent at my grandparents’ house and various traditions around the Christmas Eve night, which are quite important to me even to this day.


The first tradition is looking out for the first star to appear in the sky before starting the Christmas Eve dinner. It’s the symbol of the Christmas Star that brought the magi to Bethlehem. Let’s see if it brings guests to our house this magical night. I remember staring into the December sky with my dad, before we officially called everyone to take their place at the table. What if the sky was cloudy on that evening? Well, it’s hard to say, but the magic of Christmas combined with a large dose of imagination helped in every situation.


And I don’t think I’ll surprise anyone by saying that Christmas also brings lots of food-related memories, and in particular the Christmas Eve dinner. The entire Christmas Eve day was for me the time spent with my mum and grandma in the kitchen, getting everything ready for the evening, chatting about everything and anything. Although I admit my dad and grandpa also had their specialties to prepare for that night.


There’s no Christmas Eve without these little Uszka – Dumplings. Here’s a quick Polish lesson for you: it’s one ‘uszko’ (singular), or ‘uszka’ (plural) and it means little ‘ears’, due to their look I suppose.


In this recipe, I suggest dried porcini mushrooms, although I’ve been lucky enough to get some wild mushrooms personally picked and dried by my beloved dad. Thank you dad!


Christmas time is officially open. Let’s enjoy every moment of it!

Ingredients

For 4 people (makes about 24-30 small uszka)

For the dough
150g flour
100ml hot water
1 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of salt

For the filling
30g dried porcini mushrooms
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preparation

To make the dough, in a large bowl sift together the flour and the salt. Add olive oil. Step by step add hot water, mixing until all the ingredients come together, first with a large wooden spoon and then with your hand. When the dough starts forming, transfer it onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes until you get a smooth, elastic dough.


Transfer the dough to the bowl and cover with cling film. Set aside for half an hour.


In the meantime, prepare the filling. Place the dried mushrooms in a small pan together with 200ml of water. Bring to boil and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.


Heat the olive oil on a frying pan and melt the butter. Add the onion and cook for about 3 minutes until soft. Leave to cool.


Drain the cooked mushrooms and leave to cool. Finely chop the mushrooms, add the onion, mix and season to taste with salt and pepper.


On a slightly floured surface, roll out the dough. If you’re making the uszka on the day, you can roll it out thinly, if you’re planning to freeze them, a slightly thicker dough will be better.


Using a small glass or a round dough cutter cut out circles of about 4cm diameter from the dough. In the middle of each circle place about half a teaspoon of the filling. Fold in half with the filling inside and with your fingers seal the dough, crimping it on the edges. Then seal both edges together to make a shape as on the photos. You’ve just made an ‘Uszko’!


Place each uszko on a floured surface.


In a large pot bring to boil water with a pinch of salt and a few drops of vegetable oil. Gently place about 12-15 uszka onto the boiling water and cook for about 2-3 minutes until they start to float. Using a slotted spoon take uszka out and space them out on a plate. You can also sprinkle them with a bit of olive so that they don’t stick together.


Serve in hot beetroot soup. (Here’s the recipe for a clear beetroot soup).


You can prepare uszka in advance and freeze them after cooking. Leave boiled and drained uszka to cool and then place them on a floured tray or wooden cutting desk. Place them in the freezer for a few hours. When frozen, transfer to plastic freezer bags to store.


Bon appétit!
Lena x

Uszka – Christmas Eve dumplings
Uszka – Christmas Eve dumplings




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