Kopytka (literally: little hooves) are a kind of potato dumplings in Polish, Lithuanian, and Belarussian cuisines. They resemble Italian gnocchi when it comes to taste and appearance, but they differ slightly in shape and toppings. The little diamond shapes are supposed to resemble cloven hooves of a small animal.
Although a piece of animal, still vegetarian
The typical ingredients inlcude boiled and mashed potatoes and flour, but sometimes also eggs, salt, and other seasonings are added. The Polish variant of the dish is usually cooked in salted water, whereas in Belarusian and Lithuanian cuisines kopytka are baked first, then stewed or boiled in water.
They can also be referred to as kapytki, which is the Belarusian word with the same meaning. Kopytka are typically made by first boiling potatoes in water until they are soft. The potatoes are then either mashed until they are free of lumps, or pressed through a ricer to ensure a light, fluffy texture to the potatoes in preparation for using them to make dough.
A bit of history
According to some records, it was the Polish King John III Sobieski who introduced potatoes to his countrymen in the 1600s, after a visit to Vienna. This resulted in a love affair that was to make Poland one of the 20th century’s giants of potato production. Poland and its people are known for potatoes and its adoration toward those vegetables. Therefore, it’s no wonder that the Poles have various names for this outstanding vegetable; pyra, kartofel, grula, bulwa. Interestingly, pyra is also a nickname for a person from Poznań. This led to the Polish cuisine being frequently based on potatoes and the invention of a variety of dishes with the use of this vegetables, with kopytka being one of the most popular ones.
How and what to serve it with?
It is believed that the best kopytka should be soft and fluffy in texture. The kopytka can be served savoury, for example, they can be baked with cheese or fried bacon. One of the most popular forms of serving the dish is adding fried onion or a variety of sauces such as goulash or mushroom sauce. Kopytka are frequently consumed as the main course, topped with buttered breadcrumbs, but they can also be served as a side dish combined with meat and salad. Sometimes, the fried version of kopytka is prepared and served on its own. A bit less popular is serving it sweet, but you will easily encounter this version as well if you come to Poland. The dessert variant is served with melted butter and sugar, cinnamon, sweetened quark, or sugar with sour cream.
The Poles frequently prepare kopytka from the leftovers from the previous day dinner. However, the potatoes that you will use for the preparation of kopytka should include neither milk nor butter. You can start off with plain potatoes that’s been cooked without removing the skin, jacket potatoes as the British would say, or ziemniaki w mundurkach (English: potatoes in uniforms) as they say in Poland.
Recipe for kopytka
- 1 kg of potatoes
- 250 g of four
- 1 egg
- ½ tablespoon of salt
- Peel potatoes and cook them until they become soft. Before they are completely cooled down, press down with a potato ricer. It will be easier if you do it when they are still a bit warm.
- Spread the flour on the kitchen table or other working space and place the potato mass on top. Place egg and salt on top of the top.
- Knead the mixture until the dough becomes soft. Try not to leave any lumps in the mass.
- Prepare the water in a big pot and bring it to boil.
- In the meantime, place ¼ of the dough for dumplings on a board covered with flour and roll it out with your hands into a string resembling a snake about 2 cm thick. Use a knife to cut hooves about 1.5 cm long.
- Place the prepared hooves in the boiling water and cook them for about 1,5 min. After they’ve come out to the surface of the water, let them float for a few more minutes. Afterwards, fish them out. Repeat the process with all other portions. Remember to spread them out on the plates quite separately in order not to end up with a big sticky mass.
- Serve the kopytka either with fried onion, goulash or mushroom gravy.