I was born in 1956, in the midst of the Cold War, 11 years after the Second World War ended. The memory and the culture of war were very present in my childhood–
in family stories, in comic books, in the movies.
When I was seven my parents took my older brother and me to a screening of “The Great Escape” starring Steve McQueen. I was too young. I started to cry during a battle scene and my mom led me by the hand out of the darkened theatre.
We walked up and down Yonge Street, looking into store windows, watching a woman buy a paper, a man dropping a letter into a mailbox—people living their ordinary lives. I found this immensely comforting.
On February 23, the night before Russia invaded Ukraine, people were living their ordinary lives. I imagine families sitting at their kitchen tables, looking into each other’s eyes. The next day they were at war.
Two days later, anxious and afraid of what the coming weeks would bring, I found comfort in honouring the people of Ukraine and the anti-war protesters in Russia by making pyrizhky (or piroshky), a hand pie beloved in both countries.
- 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 3/4 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk, warmed
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 tsp water, for egg wash
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 lb ground bison
- 1 medium onion
- 1/2 cabbage, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 tsp anise seed
- 1/4 cup pesto
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk and sugar and sprinkle yeast over top. Let stand for 5 minutes, until the yeast has bloomed.
- Whisk in the egg, butter and salt, switch to a wooden spoon and stir in the flour, reserving the final 1/4 cup. Stir until the dough comes together into a shaggy ball. It should be quite soft, but not sticky. If it is sticky, add the reserved flour.
- Knead on a counter dusted with flour for several minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to stand until the dough has doubled in size, about one hour. While the dough is rising, make the filling, below.
- Transfer the dough to a counter dusted with flour, and divide it into 16 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, cover with a tea cloth and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- One by one, roll each ball into a disc 4 inches in diameter. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of filling into the centre of each disk and pull the dough up and around the filling, pinching the edges together firmly to seal. Place seam side down on the baking sheet, spaced two inches apart.
- Cover each baking sheet with a tea towel and let rolls rise until puffy, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375F.
- Brush rolls with egg wash. Bake in the middle of the oven until golden brown and shiny. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Melt butter in a medium frying pan. Add bison and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes, breaking up any clumps with a fork. Transfer cooked bison to a bowl.
- In the same pan, cook the onions until soft, about five minutes. Stir in anise seeds and cabbage and cook until the cabbage is soft, adding water to the pan as necessary, for about 20 minutes.
- Stir in the bison, pesto, apple cider vinegar and salt and mix until thoroughly combined. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature before filling the dough.