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The Original Shish Barak

Shish barak is a middle eastern dish of meat-stuffed dumplings in a cream or yogurt sauce. It has been part of Arab cuisine for centuries, even appearing in a culinary book as far back as the 1400s. Its true origins before that are not quite known, being present in pre-Islamic Persia by the name of josh para (boil a bit) or gosh e-barreh (lamb's ear), and also resembling the Chinese dumplings and Russian pelmeni. Some people write that it comes from the Turkish/Ottoman Empire sufi dancers because when the dancers twirled their dresses resembled the dumpling shape.

In the Levant [Read: Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine] this traditional dish is made of dumpling-shaped dough stuffed with beef or lamb that is seasoned with onion, pine nuts and spices. The dumplings are then cooked in a yogurt or sour cream sauce seasoned with garlic and sauteed cilantro. This has been my favorite dish as a teen and adult, but due to its extremely time-consuming components and multiple steps, it was rarely made for me, and as an adult, I'm completely unwilling to do the work required to make it happen. So here, I'll give you the original version: laborious, tedious version with a million steps. You can try it if you are an #adventurouscook and so daring as to tackle a recipe so detailed yet devoured so fast... But you can also try my simplified, #healthified #highprotein version, shishbarak deconstructed.

For the dough:

  • 1 cup flour

  • 1 cup semolina flour

  • 1 egg

  • 1/3-1/2 cup water

  • pinch of salt

  • Instead of making the dough, you can also buy puff pastry sheets, roll them a little thinner and form your dumplings from those. The taste and texture of the dough is noticeably different for me.

  1. Sift flour and semolina together. Add salt and mix well.

  2. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, slowly add 1/3 cup water and egg, mixing as you add.

  3. Add up to 1/2 cup water total if dough is still firm and difficult to mix.

  4. Roll out on a counter to 1/8 inch thickness, careful to add more semolina flour to prevent dough from sticking.

  5. Cut small circles around 1-1.5 inches round out of the dough to make dumplings. The top of an espresso cup is the perfect diameter for cutting these dumpling shapes.

  6. Fill the dough circles with the meat mixture below.

  7. Brush the edges with egg white or water, and fold in half and press to seal in a half-moon shape.

  8. bring the pointed corners together with water and press again to make them stick together.

Same dough, different shapes!

For the meat filling:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 onion, finely diced

  • 1 lb ground beef or lamb

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp seven spice mix

Start with sautéing the onions in 1 tbsp olive oil, stirring every 2-3 minutes so they caramelize but don't burn.

  1. Meanwhile, mix together all ingredients for the dough.

  2. After the onions are translucent and beginning to brown, add the ground meat and sauté.

For the Yogurt Sauce:

  • 2 cups yogurt

  • 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped, stems discarded or saved for another use (like for a desi chutney)

  • 1 tablespoon salted butter

  • salt

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 1 tbsp corn starch

  • black pepper

  1. With butter in a nonstick pan, fry on medium heat the chopped cilantro until wilted and dark green, about 10 minutes.

  2. Turn the heat to low, adding yogurt slowly and mixing to incorporate. Do not overheat yogurt as it will curdle and separate.

  3. Mix together water and corn starch, and add this to the yogurt mixture. Stir continuously for 5 minutes until combined and yogurt is beginning to thicken. Never let the yogurt bubble.

  4. Turn off the heat and gently mix the dumplings into the sauce with a wooden spoon. While still hot and with the heat off, cover the pot of yogurt and dumplings and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve this piping hot, and watch your guests completely devour it in 20 minutes or less.


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