There’s not too much mention of food in the start of Leigh Bardugo’s trilogy, and what food there is tends to contribute to the vaguely Russian inspired setting. This soup is no exception.
“Winter looked different to me than it ever had before. I spent sunny afternoons skating on the lake or sledding on the palace grounds with the other Summoners. Snowy evenings were spent in the domed hall, gathered around the tile ovens, drinking kvas and gorging ourselves on sweets. We celebrated the feast of Sankt Nikolai with huge bowls of dumpling soup and kutya made with honey” 187
The hearty food helps to show the vitality and homelike qualities of the place Alina’s in, especially when she’s never had much appetite before.
But why should Alina and the Summoners have all the fun when you can make dumpling soup too?
In Russian cuisine, these dumplings are called pelmeni. They’re boiled in a chicken broth base. You don’t have to just eat these dumplings in soup. You can also boil them and eat them with a little butter and dill or toss with your favorite sauce. They’re a little like a thicker shelled ravioli.
Pelmeni and chicken soup recipe adapted from Mom’s Dish
This soup serves 4-6. If you need to serve fewer people, you can easily halve the soup recipe, which is what I like to do because I don’t like having leftover soup. I would still make the full batch of pelmeni though, because you can freeze them and add them into boil later into any soup you like (or just into water).
For the soup:
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped (I usually just have baby carrots in the house, and you can just chop those into rounds–it works just fine. I usually use about four per large carrot)
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon of your favorite seasoning blend (I like Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute) or a few sprinkles of your favorite herbs like thyme, oregano, or basil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 8 cups chicken broth
For the pelmeni:
- 3 cups flour
- 2/3 cup lukewarm
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 pound ground beef
- 1/2 pound chicken sausage (you can also use ground chicken, but if you use seasoned sausage, you don’t really have to season the mixture)
- 1/2 onion grated (optional)
Make the soup. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat and add the vegetables and garlic. Cook stirring occasionally until the veggies are browned. Add in broth and seasonings and simmer while you make the pelmeni.
To make the pelmeni, measure out flour into a large bowl. Add eggs and lukewarm water and stir to combine until the mixture just comes together to form a dough.
Make the filling by combining the meat and the onion together and mixing thoroughly.
On a dusted surface, roll out the dough thinly and cut out circles with a biscuit or cookie cutter. Put small amounts of filling in the center of each dumpling and fold over into a half circle, pinching the edges. This creates a kind of crescent shape, and then you fold the edges together and pinch them to create a circle. Repeat until you’ve used up all your mixture, rolling your dough again if you need to.
Bring soup back to a boil and add in the dumplings. Cook for twenty minutes. They’ll rise to the top when they’re done cooking.
Ladle into bowls and serve with a big hunk of bread.
This soup base is inspired by my mom’s famous chicken soup. Is there a soup that you love making at this time of year, or indeed any time of year? Let me know in the comments.