Perfect Piroger

Left With Pictures are back in the studio again, preparing for their third album.  They spent last weekend toiling away so diligently that I thought I would provide some much needed sustenance in the form of some pasties (UK) or pierogi (Poland) or piroger (Sweden).  This humble meal-in-one has had a bit of a bad rep recently, I think due to its ubiquitous presence in train station concessions and 24 hour garages (this, according to Toby, is what makes them typical band grub).    

But it is possible to make them less greasy and more wholesome, particularly if you add wholemeal flour, or Graham flour, as I did.   They are famously a meal in themselves, quick and easy to devour, you can eat them with your hands, hot or cold.  In Sweden they are considered the perfect picnic food. 

I used some Graham flour that I picked up on a recent trip to Sweden, as it is used quite a bit there as a low GI substitute for plain flour.  It is a bit trickier to come by in the UK.  It is not to be confused with the chickpea-based Gram flour, which is used a lot in Indian cooking (esp. in bhajiis).  Graham is named after an American Presbyterian minister, Reverend Sylvester Graham, who was an early food pioneer who shunned white flour.  You can use wholegrain or brown flour instead of Graham Flour, or simply use plain flour if you would prefer a less nutty taste.  

The recipe does take some time and patience, be warned, particularly if you have a small kitchen.  But this recipe makes a lot of pasties and they freeze very well, so you can have them on hand for those emergency picnics. You can really fill them with anything you like, but I went for a meatier option- mince, mushroom and potato and a veggie one- aubergine, feta and spinach. 

Two kinds of Pasty
You will need:
For the Dough:
50g fresh yeast or 2x 7g sachets of dried yeast
 500ml full fat milk
 50g butter
 2 tsp caster sugar
 2 tsp salt
 5 dl graham flour (or plain flour)
 7 dl plain flour
 1 large egg
For the fillings:
Filling 1:
1 tbsp olive oil
 1 large onion
 2 cloves of garlic
 250g lean mince
 150g button mushrooms
 1 large potato
 2tbsp tomato paste
 splash of balsamic vinegar
 2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary. 
 salt, pepper 
Filling 2:
1 tbsp olive oil
 1 large red onion
 1 large ripe tomato, chopped
 1 aubergine
 1 large sweet potato
 250 g feta, crumbled
 5 rounds of frozen spinach
 salt, pepper
 For the pasty pastry:
1. Crumble the fresh yeast into a large bowl.
2. Melt the butter in a pan on the hob.  Add the milk and heat gently until ‘finger warm,’ as my grandmother calls it- basically so that it is just warm to the touch.
3.  Pour a little of the butter-milk mixture over the yeast and stir until dissolved.  Then add the rest of the liquid and the sugar and give it a good mix.
4. Gradually add the flour(s), stirring between each addition to make quite a sticky dough.  If you are using dried yeast, you can simply add this to the flour just before this stage.
5. Leave to prove under a clean dishtowel for 40 minutes until nicely risen.
6. Knead the dough for a few minutes on a floured surface before dividing it into smaller, more manageable pieces for ease of rolling (about 6).  Unless you have an enormous table, in which case, roll away.  I’m jealous.
7. Roll out your dough to about the thickness of half a pound (I was going to say to the thickness of a 10p coin, but I feel that might be too thin.  A Swedish 10 kr coin is about right).  Find a bowl with the diameter of about 15cm and use this to cut out circles of pastry.
8.  Add your filling of choice (see below) onto one half of the circle of pastry and then fold the other half over it.  Use a fork and press along the outer edges to seal.
9. Repeat this process until you have used up all your dough and fillings.  This should make for about 30 medium sized pastries, but you can make larger ones if you would prefer, just use a bigger bowl. 
10. Transfer to a lined baking sheet/tray and leave to rise for a further 20 minutes under a clean tea towel.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 225 degrees.
11. Whisk the egg and brush over the exposed pastry.  Pop in the oven for about 15 min, until the pastry has cooked through (check the bottoms/unexposed sides) and they have a nice, golden colour.
12. Serve piping hot with mash or salad or eat cold as part of a picnic.
To make filling 1:
1. Peel the potato and chop into small cubes.  Cook the cubes in a pan of boiling, salted water until just tender.
2. Chop the onion and crush the garlic.  Fry in some olive oil.
3.  Add the mince and cook until browned.  Add the tomato paste.
4.  Add the mushrooms and fry until they start to colour a bit.
5.  Add the balsamic, salt, pepper and chopped rosemary.
6.  Set to one side to cool a little, ready for using. 
To make filling 2:
1. Chop the aubergine lengthways into thick slices.  Brush with olive oil, salt and pepper and pop in a hot oven until cooked through and golden in colour.
 2.  Meanwhile, peel the sweet potato and chop into small cubes.  Cook the cubes in a pan of boiling, salted water until just tender. 
3. Chop the onion and crush the garlic.  Fry in some olive oil.
4.  Add the aubergine, which you have diced, and the tomato. 
5.  Fry the lot until just beginning to colour and add the seasoning- cumin, mint (fresh or dried) and salt and pepper.
6.  Add the frozen spinach, which will melt and add moisture to the filling.  Cook over a low heat until all the spinach has melted into the mixture.
7.  Add the diced potato and cook for a further few minutes before adding the feta.  The mixture is ready just as the feta begins to melt. 

8.  Set to one side and allow to cool a little, before using as a filling.


  1. Leave a Reply

    Swedish Mike

    This looks really nice to me, you can’t go wrong with piroger! ;)

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    // Mike

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