Natasha, my daughter-in-law’s mother, prepared an unforgettable dish called Belyashi just before she left for Mother Russia. The recipe for Belyashi, a fried meat pie, originally came from Belarus, an area northwest of Moscow. My husband said it reminded him of food he had eaten at his maternal grandmother’s home when he was a boy—in fact Natasha herself reminded him of his Russian grandmother.
This little meat pie is made with a crust that’s pretty much like pizza dough. So I’m sharing my pizza dough recipe. If you want to use your own pastry dough or buy it at your friendly grocery, that’s fine.
1. Pastry: First, in a small mixing bowl combine ¼ cup tepid water, 2 teaspoons yeast, and a pinch of sugar. Stir and set aside. Go on to next step
2. In medium mixing bowl combine 4 cups of unbleached flour with 1 teaspoon salt. Spread the dry flour mixture up the sides of the bowl to form a hollow in the center.
3. Pour 1 cup warm water, yeast mixture, and ¼ cup olive oil into center of flour mixture. Use fork to pull flour into liquid to form stiff dough. Remove dough from bowl to floured bread board and knead for about 10 minutes or until dough is no longer sticky. Oil the surface of dough and place in clean large bowl. Allow to rise in warm place until double in bulk, about an hour.
4. Filling: While dough rises prepare the meat. Combine ½ pound ground pork, ½ lb. ground beef, 1 teaspoon salt, a pinch of ground black pepper, ½ medium minced onion, and ½ teaspoon crushed garlic. Add a small amount of water to mixture to make filling the consistency of oatmeal.
5. Forming Belyashi: After dough is kneaded pinch into pastry balls the size of biscuits. Role each ball into circles about four inches in diameter. Place a heaping tablespoon of meat mixture on dough. Pull the dough up around the meat to form into a pie with a small circle of filling showing in center. Pinch sides together.
6. Pour about ½ inch of oil in a large skillet and heat to medium temperature. Carefully place pies, two or three at a time, meat side down in the skillet. Fry until golden brown then turn over and complete cooking on other side. Place pies on paper towels to drain fat. Serve Belyashi while hot for a stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal.
Natasha recommends it with a cup of tea or coffee on a snowy day.