Kopytka - Polish gnocchi

by Tiggered

Polish cuisine has its own version of gnocchi: kopytka, delicious potato dumplings.

Italians are not the only nation who knows how delicious potato/flour dumplings are. Poland has its own version of gnocchi recipe - kopytka. Translated as 'little hoofs' due to their shape, they are common dinner fare in Polish homes and restaurants.
Reasonably quick and easy to prepare, kopytka are usually served as the main dish and taste best with generous helping of wild mushroom sauce. Frugal housewives appreciate them as a convenient way of utilising leftover potatoes, but even if you start from scratch, they are still budget friendly.
No one in the world makes better kopytka than my Mum, but with the help of my recipe and some luck you might come a close second :)

All pictures by Tiggered

Kopytka - the basic recipe

How to make kopytka?

The basic kopytka recipe is simple:

- 1/2 kg potatoes (cooked & mashed)

- 1/4 kg plain flour

- 1 egg

This will give you enough dumplings to feed two really hungry people (as me and my partner proved experimentally tonight).  

To tell you the truth, this was the very first time I actually dragged my kitchen scales out of their corner and checked the precise quantities of each ingredient.   Traditional approach to making kopytka is more casual:

Take whatever leftover potatoes you have, add one egg and enough flour to make flexible dough that won't fall apart when you shape it.  

I've learned it by trial and error, but I didn't take long to master the technique.  Good news:  it is nearly impossible to absolutely ruin kopytka, they should be edible and quite tasty even if you don't get the dough just right.  

Important tips:

- potato to flour ratio is about 2:1

- don't start adding extra eggs unless you're dealing with massive amouts of potatoes (above 2 kg)

I've spruced my kopytka up with some fried onion tonight - you can see dark bits on the pictures - but that's not obligatory.  


Shaping kopytka

Shaping kopytka is easy as ABC.

Take a piece of dough and roll it against a flat surface sprinkled with flour until you get a string about 3 cm in diameter.  Flatten it a bit.  

With a sharp knife, cut small pieces off the string.  Dip the knife in a flour bag if the dough is sticky.  

Each individual kopytko should be about 1.5 x 3 cm, but it doesn't really matter if you make them slightly bigger or smaller.  

They get slightly bigger once cooked.  

Preparing kopytka

kopytka doughkopytka ready to cookkopytka up close

Cooking kopytka

Boil some salted water in a large, preferably flat pot.  Add kopytka one by one once the water is boiling.  Stir gently from time to time.  

Kopytka are ready five to ten minutes after they float to the surface.  If in doubt, fish one out and cut it in half.  If there's no white spot in the middle, your kopytko is cooked (it works pretty much as with pasta).  

Don't overcook the kopytka, they like to fall apart if boiled for too long.  

Note on salt:

You probably have added some salt when boiling potatoes plus you'd be cooking kopytka in salted water.  I find this combination tasty enough, but you can always add some salt to the dough as well.  

Variations on the basic kopytka recipe

plain kopytkaI usually have my kopytka plain, garnished with sauce or similar, but today I felt adventurous and added some fried onion to the dough.  You can't go wrong with fried onion :)

It tasted ok, but it meant some extra preparation time and I'm not 100% sure if it was worth it.

You can always add stuff to the basic kopytka recipe to make them more interesting.  Smoked bacon, fried to a crisp.  Ham.  Various greens (I've recently come across this fantastic recipe for gnocchi with leafy broccoli).  Extra seasoning - garlic, chili, curry, whichever you prefer.  Sky - and your imagination - is the limit here.

If you use potato flour (potato starch) instead of plain flour, you'll get silesian dumplings instead of kopytka.  Just as delicious, slightly more chewy.  I'd have a hard time if I were to decide which dish I like better.  

I've heard of kopytka made with raw, grated potatoes instead of the mash, but I've never tried this variety.  

How to serve kopytka?

kopytka with wild mushroom sauceKopytka are usually served with thick sauce, which often adds dominant flavour to the dish.  Wild mushroom sauce is probably the most popular option (porcini being often substituted with button mushrooms for economic reasons).  Famous Polish milky bars inevitably have 'kopytka w sosie grzybowym', kopytka in mushroom sauce, on the menu, at least the ones I used to frequent always had.

For this particular batch I used instant sauce, because it's, well, instant.  It was delicious, with velvet-like texture and strong flavour, but it was also full of nasty chemicals the names of which do not ring a bell with anyone without a Ph.D. in chemistry.  I usually make my own sauce - my Dad, an avid (and certified!) mushroom-picker supplies me with industrial quantities of dried porcini so I never lack ingredients.  I have some extra for sale if you were interested :).

You can always use cheaper mushrooms - there's nothing like the real thing, but button mushrooms are an acceptable substitute.  

Italians serve their gnocchi with tomato sauce.  I'm not used to such a combination so I cannot honestly recommend it, but I guess it's worth a try.

If you want to keep things simple, you can forgo the sauce altogether and serve your kopytka with melted butter, fried breadcrumbs, fried onion or bacon.

Kopytka taste just as delicious (perhaps even better) on the next day, re-heated on the frying pan with some butter.  Just fry them until golden and crunchy.  I would illustrate with a picture, but my kopytka have already disappeared :)

Porcini sauce for kopytka, gnocchi etc.

Porcini sauce for kopytka, gnocchi etc.

Prep time 20 min  -  Total time 120 min
Ingredients for 4 servings
40 g dried porcini  • 1 onion  • 1/2 litre chicken/vegetable stock  • 3 tsp of cream and/or flour  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Rehydrating mushrooms

For the best effect, porcini should be soaked overnight. If this is impossible, half an hour before cooking will do.
Once soft, mushrooms should be diced or chopped into whatever size pieces you want in your sauce.

2. Onion

Chop onion finely and fry with little oil until it starts turning golden

3. Cooking

Slow-boil mushrooms in the chicken/vegetable stock for about 40 minutes. Add the onion, cook for another 20 minutes. You can use the liquid from soaking mushrooms and add a stock cube if you don't have any stock handy. Be sure to re-fill the pot with fresh water if too much evaporates - it is easy to burn the sauce at this stage.

4. Thickening the sauce

After an hour the liquid should be significantly reduced, dark and very aromatic. Thicken the sauce with some cream and/or a few spoonfuls of flour mixed with cold water. Add extra water if too thick, extra flour if too runny. Season to taste with salt and pepper

Recipe  3.8/5 Stars (4 Votes)

Avoid my mistakes when making kopytka!

kopytkaAs you can see on the pictures, my kopytka ended up looking rather rough and ragged.  This is because I commited two dumpling crimes that should not be repeated:

1.  My dough was too sticky.  I didn't add enough flour - only 220 g to 500 g potatoes.  I knew the dough was too wet but I was too lazy to fix it.  

2.  Wolf-hungry as I was, I jammed ALL of the kopytka I had made into a pot for boiling.  It quickened the preparation process, but it also meant rough treatment of the delicate dumplings.  Properly, no more than one plateful should be cooked at once, unless you're using a really, really large pot.  

More recipes by Tiggered

Updated: 04/08/2013, Tiggered
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Mira on 09/17/2012

I use this potato dough to make plum dumplings. (I should make some soon!:-) I like the idea of a sauce, too. Thank you for sharing!!

chefkeem on 09/16/2012

Aha, I suspected something like that. In America you'd get thrown off a bit by that name, because of the highly-popular Milky Way candy bars here. :)

Tiggered on 09/16/2012

Milky bars or milk bars were restaurants where very cheap, but not too fanciful food was served, aimed mainly at students, alcoholics and people who couldn't afford to eat properly elsewhere. They were big during communism and still exist in some cities, although they moved upmarket and now are visited mainly for sentimental reasons. You could actually eat some pretty good food there :)

chefkeem on 09/16/2012

This is a perfect recipe for me! But - what are Polish "milky bars"?

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