Lithuanian food, bring more potatoes !
In Lithuanian food, the potato is the king of all vegetables and there are an endless number of potato dishes out there. They are often grated before they are cooked. Bulviniai blynai, or potato pancakes with sour cream are a must-try treat. Another well-known dish to look out for is Žemaičių blynai, soft, stout potato pancakes with a crispy outside and stuffed with meat or mushrooms. A Lithuanian meal isn't a meal without some pieces of the black bread. Hard and crusty on the outside and firm and slightly sour on the inside, this bread is made from dark rye flour. In the old days every Lithuanian farmer's wife would make her own black bread. A loaf was always kept, covered by a towel, in the most honorable place in the house. Read more about Lithuanian dishes and how to make them
Pork, potatoes, dairy products, black bread and cabbage. Not the ingredients you’ll associate with haute cuisine. But the ancient ingredients used in traditional Lithuanian food are the basis for a range of very tasty dishes. The most famous potato dish are the cepelinai or didžkukuliai, which are an outcome if you’re planning to go bear hunting with minus 25 degrees Celsius. Cepelinai are huge dumplings in the shape of a Zeppelin (yes, the airship), stuffed with minced meat, mushrooms or cottage cheese and almost always accompanied with fried cubes of pork fat. And if that is not enough, it’s served with a big spoon of cream.
How to make Lithuanian dishes
Balandėliai ("little doves") are made from cabbage leaves stuffed with a minced meat, rice and onion filling. They can be served with sour cream or tomato sauce. Since rice is not grown in Lithuania, pearl barley had been used instead in the traditional recipes. This Lithuanian dish is far from unique, of course - many traditional cuisines in Europe and elsewhere in the world have some sort of stuffed cabbage rolls.
What you need for Balandėliai
You will need:
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 cup finely chopped celery
- 1/2 cup finely chopped bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup cooked rice
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef or lamb or pork (or a combination)
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
- 1 large beaten egg
- Pinch marjoram
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup tomato purée
- 1 cup beef stock
- 3 tablespoons sour cream
How to make Balandėliai
- Remove core from cabbage. Place whole head in a large pot filled with boiling salted water. Cover and cook 3 minutes, or until softened enough to pull off each leaf. You will need about 18 leaves.
- When leaves are cool enough to handle, use a paring knife to cut away the thick center stem from each leaf, without cutting all the way through. Chop the remaining cabbage and place it in the bottom of a Dutch oven or large saucepan.
- Saute chopped onion, celery, and bell pepper in butter in a large skillet until tender, and let cool.
- In a large bowl, mix cooked rice, cooled onion mixture, meat, garlic, egg, marjoram, and salt and pepper until well combined. Don't overmix or the meat will become tough.
- Place about 1/2 cup of meat on each cabbage leaf. Roll away from you to encase the meat. Flip the right side of the leaf to the middle, then flip the left side. You will have something that looks like an envelope. Once again, roll away from you to create a neat little roll.
- Place the cabbage rolls on top of the chopped cabbage in the Dutch oven, seasoning each layer with salt and pepper. Combine tomato purée with beef stock and pour over rolls. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer on the stove top for 1 hour.
- Serve with pan juices and a drizzle of sour cream, or mix the pan juices with sour cream and ladle it over the cabbage rolls.
- Cabbage rolls freeze well before or after cooking and can be made in a slow cooker (see your manufacturer's instructions).
Lithuanian potato-meat dumplings are known as zeppelins or cepelinai because of their shape. These are hearty affairs that take some time to make but are well worth the effort. Another variety is the potato-cheese cepelinai.
What you need for Cepelinai
You will need:
- 1 pound ground pork or 1/3 pound pork, 1/3 pound beef, 1/3 pound veal
- 1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 large beaten egg
- For the Dumplings:
- 8 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and finely grated (not shredded)
- 2 large Idaho potatoes, peeled, boiled and riced
- 1 medium onion, peeled and finely grated
- 1 teaspoon salt, more or less to taste
- For the Gravy:
- 1/2 pound bacon, diced
- 1 large chopped onion
- 1 cup sour cream
- Black pepper to taste
- 1 to 2 tablespoons milk (if necessary)
How to make Cepelinai
Make the Meat Filling
- In a large bowl, mix together ground meat, finely chopped onion, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and egg until well incorporated.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
Make the Dumplings
- Add a drop or two of lemon juice to the grated potatoes so they don't turn brown. Place them in a fine-mesh cheesecloth or cotton dish towel and twist over a large bowl to get rid of the excess water. Pour off the water, reserving the potato starch at the bottom of the bowl.
- Unwrap the cheesecloth and place potatoes in the bowl with the potato starch you reserved from the bottom of the bowl. Add the riced boiled potatoes, grated onion, and 1 teaspoon salt or to taste. Mix well.
- Put a large stockpot of water on to boil. To form the zeppelins, take about 1 cup of dumpling mixture and pat it flat in the palm of the hand. Place 1/4 cup or more of meat mixture in the center and, using slightly dampened hands, fold the potato mixture around the meat into a football shape, sealing well. Continue until both mixtures are gone.
Cook the Dumplings
- Carefully lower dumplings into salted, boiling water to which 1 tablespoon of cornstarch has been added (to prevent dumplings from falling apart). Make sure water returns to the boil and continue boiling for 25 minutes.
- Remove dumplings with a slotted spoon or strainer, drain briefly on a clean dish towel and place on a heated platter.
Make the Gravy
- While the dumplings are boiling, make the gravy. In a medium skillet, fry the bacon and chopped onion until tender.
- Drain and combine with sour cream and black pepper. Thin with 1 to 2 tablespoons milk if necessary. Ladle dumplings with gravy or pass the gravy at the table.
This recipe for Lithuanian potato sausage, or vedarai, can be made entirely meat-less or with the addition of chopped, cooked bacon.
Lithuania is a largely agrarian society and it has relied on the potato in its cuisine, using it in sausage, savory puddings like kugelis, pancakes, dumplings like cepelinai, breads, and more.
Serve vedarai with sour cream alone for a vegetarian meal, or with bacon-sour cream gravy if not fasting.
The sausage can be cooked by boiling, boiling and browning in the oven, or simply cooked in the oven. Check out this tip for keeping grated potatoes from turning dark.
You will need:
12 medium peeled russet potatoes, finely grated
1 large finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons butter or 3 strips chopped bacon
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon marjoram (optional)
Salt and pepper
Few tablespoons all-purpose flour, if necessary
Hog casings, rinsed three times
Bacon-Sour Cream Gravy:
1/2 pound bacon, diced
1 large chopped onion
1 cup sour cream
Black pepper to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons milk, if necessary
How to make Viedarai
- Sauté 1 large finely chopped onion in 3 tablespoons butter or omit the butter and sauté the onion in 3 strips chopped bacon. Let come to room temperature.
- In a large bowl, combine 12 medium finely grated russet potatoes, onion with or without bacon, 2 large eggs, 1/2 teaspoon marjoram, if using, salt and pepper to taste. If mixture is too loose, add a few tablespoons of flour.
- Stuff mixture into cleaned hog casings. Prick the casing in several spots so it doesn't explode while cooking. Boil in salted water for about 1 hour or boil 45 minutes and brown in a 350-degree oven in a greased pan for 15 minutes.
- Alternatively, place uncooked potato sausage in a greased pan with 1/4 cup water and bake about 1 hour or until golden brown in a 350-degree oven. Serve with either sour cream or bacon-sour cream gravy.
The Bacon-Sour Cream Gravy:
- Fry 1/2 pound diced bacon and 1 large chopped onion until tender. Drain off all fat and combine bacon-onion mixture with sour cream and black pepper. Thin with 1 to 2 tablespoons milk, if necessary.