Being a Devonian lad, I have on many occasions been referred to as a “Devonshire Dumpling.”
As a child, I took it as a mild insult, as my relatives from East Anglia often used it with a tone that suggested I was round and stodgy. As an adult, I wear it as a badge of pride. Not just because of my love of my home county, but also because of my love affair with the humble dumpling.
With spring in full swing, our farmers and growers across Devon are starting to provide us with the abundance of fresh produce that we are known for, and it will all find its way into a wide range of dishes. Top quality beef and veg will no doubt be turned into stews – and you can’t have a stew without dumplings. Fluffy, nourishing, and steeped in the flavours of the cooking broth our British dumplings are real soul food. They have been an ever-present staple in my kitchen from youth to adulthood. They are part of who I am.
Now, word has reached my ear of another of my favourite tasty morsels being made down in South Devon. Sharing stories of our culinary travels over coffee and cake, my wonderful food editor Susan Clark told me of her recent visit to Riverford Organics near Buckfastleigh, where she experienced a delicacy being made by one of the Polish farm workers.
“I can’t remember what it was called,” Susan said “But it was a little parcel, folded up with a delicious filling.”
Almost choking on my cake with excitement, I exclaimed “Pierogi!” as my face lit up with joy. Another type of dumpling was being made with fresh produce on a farm in Devon, and that made me very happy.
My first encounter with these Polish dumplings was well over a decade ago, whilst living in a house share at university. My housemate Jan taught me his pierogi recipe, and I returned the favour by introducing him to the comfort of our herby suet dumplings and slow-cooked beef stew. Over the next few weeks, our housemate from China taught us a gao zi recipe for steamed shrimp dumplings, and our British-Asian neighbour share his mum’s recipe for samosas. We weren’t your usual student household. We never ordered takeaway.
I realised then that no matter where we came from, wrapping up flavours in dough was a gift that we could all give, and that we should gladly receive from others. With the welcome return of pierogi to my kitchen, I’ve been gleefully stuffing them with our local produce, and I’d say they’re unquestionably Devonshire dumplings too!