Lithuanian Potato Pancakes, Žemaičių Blynai
Ancestry DNA says I’m Lithuanian so let’s make some Žemaičių blynai !
Samogitian pancakes or Žemaičių blynai, are a warm, hearty meal traditionally made for hungry workers in the harsh Baltic winters. They are my favorite Lithuanian meal. These “pancakes” are similar to potato croquettes, a potato-based dough filled with ground meat and sometimes vegetables. Žemaičių blynai are fried in butter and served with tangy sour cream. Today we will be making a tangy sour cream and dill sauce to accompany the blynai (pancakes). I am always craving an element of freshness whenever I make anything fried. A cucumber salad or a simple dill-sour cream sauce usually does the trick.
Fun Fact: Žemaičių Blynai are named for their region of origin.
Žemaitija or Samogitia is located in the North Western part of Lithuania. Historically Žemaitija was 1/3 of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania’ main nations. The people of Žemaitija are considered a unique ethnic group and have their own dialect of the Lithuanian language. They are closely related to the Curonians, a famous Baltic warrior tribe, considered the most brutal Baltic Tribe in history.
Slavic and Baltic Counties Share Food Haritage
Lithuania, a Baltic country shares a lot of its cultural heritage with its Slavic neighbors like Poland and Ukraine. Baltic and Slavic tribal customs are very similar, particularly when it comes to food.
Personally, I always believed to be of Russian and Ukranian origins. I was born in Novograd Volinsky Ukraine to a Russian mother and Ukrainian father. This week, however, my Ancestry DNA test results revealed something else entirely. The deepest roots of my DNA are actually of Lithuanian origin with a bit of Finnish to boot. Perhaps I’m of Curonian origins, they were considered Baltic Fins or Baltic Vikings.
But I digress.
A Common Love for Potatoes
Many traditional Lithuanian dishes are also part of traditional Ukrainian cuisine. Cold Borsh, Holodets, Picked Herring, Galuptsy, Blini and Kartofilnie Kotleti are all variants of familiar Lithuanian dishes like Žemaičių Blynai. Lithuania and Ukraine also share a mutual love of potatoes.
“Potatoes came to Lithuania relatively recently, in the eighteenth century and soon became popular. Now every farm grows potatoes. Potatoes have become Lithuania’s second bread, an essential starch staple and are eaten throughout the year.”
A Great Use for Left Overs
The Žemaičių Blynai recipe below uses potato dough from freshly boiled potatoes.
However, the recipe is a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes. Additionally, you could use leftover roasted chicken and veggies for the filling if you wanted too. I will include a leftover alternative below.
Make the dough
*If your mashed potatoes are coming straight from the fridge they potatoes will be cold and difficult to work with. I recommend microwaving them in 35-second increments, stirring between each increment, until warm. You want to slightly warm the potatoes so that they will be easy to mix, you don’t want them hot – so don’t nuke them.
Next combine warm potatoes with one whole egg and 1/2 cup of flour +2T potato starch, use your hands to combine thoroughly. The dough will be slightly sticky. Set Aside.
Make Meat Filling.
I’m using ground pork in this recipe because it was on sale, but ground turkey, chicken or lamb would all be great options.
First, gently sweat the onions and grated carrot, until translucent and slightly caramelized. Next, add the ground meat and saute while stirring until fully cooked. Cooking times will vary depending on the type of meat used. Finally season with ketchup, thyme, salt, and pepper.
Shape the Pancakes
Take a heaping spoon full of mashed potatoes dough and flatten into a rectangular-ish shape. Gently lift and flower both sides. Add a heaping spoon full of *meat mixture* in the center of the dough and fold and seal the sides by pinching them together to make an oblong shape. Here’s a short video tutorial.
In a non-stick or cast iron pan over medium-low heat, add butter or oil, with the help of a spatula, carefully move the pancakes to the pan and cook 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown. I recommend cooking 2 pancakes at a time. Make sure you have a paper towel lined sheet tray set up for your cooked batches.
Combine 2 Tablespoons of Sour Cream, 1 Tablespoon of Mayonaise, 1 teaspoon of mustard (dijon or coarse grain), 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and 2 Tablespoons of fresh chopped dill. Mix everything and spoon over prepared Žemaičių blynai.
I hope you guys enjoy this recipe. If you get a chance to try it please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Samogitian pancakes or Žemaičių blynai, are a warm, hearty meal traditionally made for hungry workers in the harsh Baltic winters. They are made with a potato-based dough that’s been filled with ground meat and vegetables. Žemaičių blynai are fried in butter and served with tangy sour cream.
- 2 Lbs Potatoes
- 1 each Egg
- 1/4 C AP Flour
- 2 Tbsp Potato Starch
- 1 tsp Salt
- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 12 oz Ground Pork
- 2 oz Onion minced
- 2 oz Carrot grated
- 1 cl Garlic crushed
- 2 Tbsp Ketchup
- 1 tsp Thyme
- 1 tsp Salt
- Pepper to taste
- 1 Tbsp Potato Starch
Make the Dough
Large dice about 2lb’s of potato and cover with cool water. Bring to a boil and cook until soft, about 15-20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and add to a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low, mix until the potatoes are broken up and resemble mashed potatoes. Allow cooling.
Once the potatoes are cool add flour, potato starch, salt and one egg to the mixer and mix the potato dough on low for 5 minutes. Set Aside
Make the Filling
To a saute pan over medium heat, add 2 Tbsp of oil. Add onions and carrot, cook until translucent and starting to brown, approximately 5 minutes., add crushed garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds. Add ground meat and cook until fully cooked through. Season with 2 Tbsp of ketchup, thyme, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle meat with 1 Tbsp of potato starch and stir to evenly coat. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Make the Pancakes
Prepare your work surface by dusting it with a 1/4 cup of flour. Take a large heaping spoon-full of mashed potato dough and flatten onto your work surface. Shape the dough into a rectangular shape. Gently lift and dredge both sides in flour.
To the center of the dough add a spoon full of filling. Fold over the sides towards the center and pinch them closed. The pancake should resemble an oblong shape. Makes 8 pancakes.
Heat a nonstick or cast iron pan over medium heat and melt 1 tbsp of butter. Working with 2 pancakes at a time, gently brown both sides. About 1-2 minutes per side.
Serve hot with butter and sour cream.
If you are using left over mashed potatoes, start by reheating them slightly so that they are easier to work with. For this recipe you may need to add additional flour. Start by adding 1/4C plus 2 Tbsp of AP flour and kneading it into the dough along with the egg and 2 Tbsp of potato starch.