BRUSSELS, Belgium — On Christmas Eve, Polish families spend the day preparing the wigilia banquet. Children decorate the Christmas tree, and hay is placed under the tablecloth to recall Christ's birth in the manger. No meat is eaten, but there should be 12 dishes — one for each of the apostles.
Fried carp is often the centerpiece, but kicking things off is a warming bowl of ravioli-like pasty parcels filled with chopped wild mushrooms and floating in steaming beetroot soup.
Celebrations get under way only after the first star is spotted in the sky, the lighting of the Christmas tree and the ceremonial breaking of holy wafers.
4 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
1 large egg, beaten
salt and pepper
1/3 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbl water for sealing
Filling: Melt butter in a large skillet. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the chopped mushrooms and cook an additional 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, or until the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated and the mixture starts to sizzle.
Put the onion and mushroom mix in a large bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, parsley and the beaten egg. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Mix everything together to form a firm paste. Allow the paste to cool slightly before filling the dumplings. The filling can be made 24 hrs ahead of time.
Dough: Whisk together the egg, milk and salt.
Stir in half of the flour until it is incorporated, then add the other half and continue to stir.
After it comes together into a thick, sticky dough, place the dough on a floured surface and knead until it is smooth, supple and soft, but not sticky. Add additional flour, as necessary, to achieve this.
Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap or place in bowl and cover with plastic. Let rest 15 minutes.
Dumplings: Take half the dough and roll it out as thin as possible, about 1/8 in thick, Cut the dough into 1 1/2 or 2 inch squares. Place a small amount of filling into the middle of the square.
Brush a bit of the beaten egg along the edges and fold the dough over to form a triangle, Seal well. Place on the work surface with the top pointing away from you and fold the two side point together, pressing to seal.
Heat salted water in a large pot to a boil. Add the dumplings, let them rise and cook for 3 to 4 minutes longer. (Give them a stir if they are sticking to the bottom).
Drain. Place a few pockets in each soup bowl and fill with hot borscht or broth.