Friday, April 8, 2011

Mediterranean Dumplings with Yogurt & Mint Sauce

This is a dish that you will never find in a Middle Eastern restaurant. It's very special, and very rare to find in recipe form. My Teta ("Grandma" in arabic) didn't make it all that often, so it was a real treat when she did. This is one of those recipes that has been handed down from generation to generation, lost in translation somewhere between my Lebanese Grandmother and American mother, altered between greasy index card to greasy computer print out (wait, is that what that's called?)...tested by me, added to my iPad recipe app...and now to you! And you will probably never make this because it takes a bajillion hours. BUT I promise it will be one of your favorite things you will ever eat. I can just imagine how my Teta felt when I told her this was my favorite thing to eat, and that I wanted to come home to it for every break from college. I love you! (Even though you don't speak English or read this blog, or know what a blog is). 

I will provide you with as many shortcuts as possible along the way. And I recommend making these with a best friend, a bottle of wine and your favorite tunes playing softly in the background. I, however, made these alone, in my kitchen, listening to Fresh Air, but of course with a bottle of wine.

What is your favorite meal your Teta makes?

I used a Turkish coffee cup to make these two-inch circles. You can use a cookie cutter, or espresso cup. Making all of these tiny circles is tiring, I won't lie. I've also substituted wonton wrappers for this step and they turned out well, but nothing is quite as tasty as homemade dough.
Here's a step-by-step to assembling these babies. You cut the circle, flatten with your fingers, stuff, fold and pinch. Then you make an adorable little hat. Although I have never seen anyone wear a hat like this.
Brush lightly with olive oil.
And set them free in a warm bath of yogurt, mint and garlic.


3 cups of flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mahlab (finely ground cherry kernels from Middle Eastern market)
1 cup water
Stir together all dry ingredients: flour, salt and mahlab first and then add enough water (approx. 1 cup) to form dough.  Stir and then knead until dough is smooth.  Cover with a towel and set aside approximately 1/2 hour.  Then roll out dough on very lightly floured board and cut into 2 inch round circles (use a small cup or Arabic coffee cup as you would use a "cookie" cutter.  During the half hour that the dough is setting on the side cook the meat mixture.
Meat filling (I recommend making a day ahead and refrigerating)
1 large onion or several small ones chopped & sliced very fine)
approximately 1/2 - 1 pound ground lamb or ground sirloin
a handful of pine nuts
salt (to taste, approx. 1/2 - 1 teaspoon)
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
clarified butter (couple tablespoons at most) 
Lightly brown pine nuts in clarified butter.  Remove from pan into a small bowl, set aside.  Dice 1 large onion very small and fine and saut√© in the pan/butter that you browned the pine nuts in but do not brown onions.  Add meat and stir until browned, chop meat into small pieces as you brown it.  Add salt, pepper, allspice, and a little cinnamon to taste.  Mix well.  Drain meat in a bowl with paper towel if necessary.  Add pine nuts. Taste for spices. Let cool. *I usually make the meat the day before and keep in the fridge until I assemble the dumplings. 
Cut dough into small 2 inch circles, flatten each a little with fingers. Fill center with a spoonful of meat/pine nut mixture.  Fold over 1/2 circle of dough and pinch edge to seal.  Join corners to form shape of a hat.  Fry or bake in oven.
To fry: place in hot Mazola oil for a few minutes until lightly browned and then drains them on paper towel. To bake: brush them with Canola oil or olive oil and bake at 400 degrees until lightly browned (about 15-20 minutes). Let cool. You can freeze them as is in freezer bags until ready to make warm Yogurt sauce and eat.
Yogurt sauce 2-3 cups plain yogurt
1 cup water
1 teaspoon dry mint
2 cloves garlic, smashed

Heat approximately 2-3 cups plain yogurt in a pan with 1 cup of water and bring to a slight boil.  Drop dumplings in and simmer on medium-low heat. Fry 2 smashed pieces of fresh garlic in a little bit of clarified butter, add approximately 1 teaspoon dry mint and stir well. Add to hot yogurt sauce/dumplings and cook for 2 more minutes. 
**The dumplings freeze well, so you can make them, save them and just prepare the yogurt sauce the day of. Enjoy!


tasteofbeirut said...


I am so impressed with your shish barak! Beautiful! I made some as well and posted the recipe, over a year ago while in Beirut with a good friend.
I am so happy that you are perpetuating your family's traditions!
All the best, Joumana

Nicole said...

Thank you! I just entered it in the Food52 dumpling contest this week. I'm in the middle of making some vegetarian grapeleaves (with swiss chard). Will post this weekend. Your blog is so inspiring to me!

Kristi Redman said...

Mediterranean Dumplings... I didn't even know this existed... I just want to spend the afternoon watching you prepare this meal. And your pictures are beautiful!!

Mater said...

Sounds like you have now mastered your favorite meal that your Tata made you all those years while growing up my sweet! She and I are so proud of YOU! Keep it up and pass it along to your little ones someday. Ahhhh, the memories are wonderful and God bless our family traditions!