Typical Romanian cabbage pies or placinte cu varza, filled with cabbage, lots of dill and served with smetana or sour cream.
This kind of pies have a long tradition in Romania and the Republic of Moldova. I am not entirely satisfied with the English translation of “pie”, I feel that the word is not really suitable for this kind of small, yeasty “cake” or even flatbread, traditionally filled with cheese or with cabbage for a fasting time (vegan) version. However, in absence of a better word, I must go with pie.
The Romanian word for it “placinta” comes from the Latin word “placenta” which was the word used by Cato the Elder, a Roman senator who lived about 200 years BC to describe a kind of cake consisting of several layers of dough, cheese and honey.
Romanian cheese pies nowadays can be savory or sweet. The savory cheese pies or placinte cu branza come in the form of a small flatbread, thinly rolled, filled with a cheese and herb mixture and fried in a little oil in the pan.
Today’s Romanian cabbage pie or placinte cu varza are the fasting time version of those cheese-filled pies.
How to make?
- They are easier to make as you might think. Especially, if you decide to make the yeast dough in a food processor/stand mixer, which will knead the dough for you.
- If not, it is still easy, you just have to have the patience to knead the dough for about 10 minutes by hand.
- This version is strictly vegan, but if you like you can add a small handful of crumbled feta cheese in the cooled cabbage filling.
- The result is a gloriously satisfying pie, savory yet slightly sweet due to the stewed cabbage, something you can eat either warm or cool.
How to form?
- After the yeast dough has risen knead it again very shortly.
- Divide it into 10 parts and form 10 balls.
- Roll each ball into a thin circle. Only sprinkle the working surface and rolling pin with a little flour if necessary.
- Place some filling in the middle of the circle and form a pocket by bringing together all the sides of the circle and pressing lightly to seal the pocket.
- Roll again with the rolling pin to obtain a flat pie.
- Place the pies on a piece of baking paper and let rest for 10 minutes.
How to serve?
- Serve these placinte warm as a main dish with tomato and onion salad, for instance.
- If you don’t want to keep the meal vegan, serve the cabbage pies generously topped with smetana, sour cream or crème fraiche. Smetana is an Eastern European dairy product similar to crème fraiche and sour cream.
- You can pack it as well and take it to a picnic or even make it your work lunch the next day.
More savory pies
Romanian Cabbage Pies – Placinte cu varza
- 500 g all-purpose flour 4 cups + 2 tablespoons, Note 1
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons instant dry yeast Note 2
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 250 ml lukewarm water 1 cup
- 500 g white cabbage 1 lb
- a smallish bunch of dill
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt and pepper
- 4 tablespoons oil for frying
- Mix and knead: In a large bowl, mix the flour, instant dry yeast, sugar, and salt. Then, slowly start adding the lukewarm water, mixing with a spoon until the flour is incorporated. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes or until it stops sticking too much to the bowl, flouring your hands from time to time, if necessary.
- Let rise: Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size. Alternatively, you can prepare your yeast dough in a food processor/stand mixer using the appropriate kneading accessories and kneading for about 4-5 minutes.
- Prepare cabbage: In the meanwhile, prepare the stewed cabbage. Grate the cabbage roughly or process it in the food processor to obtain a similar result to grating it manually. Add some salt (be generous) and pepper and leave for about 15 minutes.
- Stew cabbage: Heat the oil in a large non-stick pot or Dutch oven and stew the cabbage until soft, about 15-20 minutes. Adjust the taste, generously, with salt and pepper, and stir in the finely chopped dill. Leave to cool slightly until you prepare the rest.
Form the pies:
- Roll dough: Knead the risen dough shortly to bring it in shape again. Divide it into 10 parts and form 10 balls. Roll each ball into a thin circle. I did not require extra flour for rolling but sprinkle the working surface and the rolling pin lightly with flour if the dough sticks.
- Form pies: Place some filling in the middle of the circle and form a pocket by bringing together all the sides of the circle and pressing lightly to seal the pocket. Roll the pocket again to make it flat. See the pictures above!
- Rest: Place the pies on baking paper and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Fry: Heat 1 tablespoon oil a large non-stick pan. Fry the pies about 2-3 minutes on each side. You will have to work in two or three batches. Add some more oil between the batches, if necessary.
- Keep the pies warm in the lightly heated oven. Serve immediately with tomato and onion salad or eat cold as a snack.
- Use a digital kitchen scale to measure the ingredients when baking; it guarantees for best results.
- You can use active dry yeast instead. Sprinkle it in 5 tablespoons of the lukewarm water you’ve measured already and let it stand for 5 minutes until foamy. Mix with the rest of the ingredients and proceed with the recipe.