Monday, April 30, 2012

Shish Barak

Lebanese meat stuffed dumplings stewed in yogurt sauce!

     Lebanese Shish Barak is a traditional springtime entree.  Spring is the season of newborn goats and it is the season of fresh goats milk.  Along with the spring season's goats milk harvest comes the making of fresh goats milk yogurt!
     Goats milk yogurt is very healthy and it is fat free.  The flavor is tangy and interesting tasting like French fresh Chevre goats milk cheese.  I do specify goats milk recipes in most of my middle eastern recipes and there is a reason why.  Cows milk yogurt has a different flavor profile.  The tangy flavor of goats milk yogurt is much more refreshing!
     The meat stuffing can be made with lamb or beef.  Many chefs think that every Arabic or Persian meat recipe is only made with lamb for some unknown reason.  Maybe it is just a stereotype that comes from watching too much television.  I never watch television, because I like to experience and learn from real life.
     Beef is the choice meat in most middle eastern cuisine.  A very classy Las Vegas fine dining restaurant named Habib's Persian Cuisine features filet mignon and beef tenderloin in nearly all of their meat entrees.  I posted a review of Habib's Persian Cuisine a few months ago and I described the beefy Persian menu!  Only a few lamb entrees were on the menu at Habib's.  That is really how the cuisine is in the middle east.  Lamb plays second fiddle to beef!
     By the way, spring lamb season starts in June.  June?  Yes, I know that sounds strange, but that is the truth.  Any lamb that you purchase at northern hemisphere markets was either frozen since last year, or it came from southern hemisphere sheep farm regions like Australia or New Zealand.  The rules of what really is true lamb are very strict in the northern hemisphere and it is best to do some research and be informed, before making a lamb purchase.  The more you know, the better lamb purchase will be!
     Note:  This recipe makes one portion of 12 dumplings.  When making the stewing sauce for this recipe, it is important to cook the sauce at a low temperature.  Even though the stewing sauce has a thickening agent, too high of a heat will cause the sauce to separate and break!

     Shish Barak Meat Stuffing Recipe:
     Lamb or beef can be used for the dumpling stuffing!
     Heat a saute pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 2 tablespoon of finely chopped onion.
     Add 2 minced garlic cloves.
     Saute till the onions just start to turn a clear color.
     Add 3 1/2 ounces of lean ground beef.  (Lamb is optional.)
     Saute and break up any clumps of ground beef.
     Add sea salt.
     Note:  The following list of spices in this recipe is known as Lebanese 7 Spice mix!
     Add 1 pinch of black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of ground clove.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Add 1 pinch of allspice.
     Add 1 pinch of cinnamon.
     Add 1 1/2 pinches of coriander.
     Cook the stuffing mixture, till the ground beef is fully cooked and till it is lightly browned.
     Set the beef stuffing aside.

     Shish Barak Unleavened Dumpling Dough Recipe:
     Place 1 cup of plain bread flour into a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt.
     Add 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 tablespoon of water at a time, while stirring, till the dough starts to rice and form pea size dough shapes.
     Start kneading with fingertips and add a few drops of water at a time, till a medium soft dough texture is formed.
     Roll the dough into a ball shape and gently knead by hand, till it becomes pliable and smooth.
     Press the dough between the hands, to flatten the dough into a flat circular shape.
     Place the flattened dough on a lightly floured counter top.
     Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a round 3/16" thick sheet.
     Use a 2 1/4" to 2 1/2" wide ring mold to cut several dough circles.
     Re-roll the dough and finish cutting dough circles, till a total of 12 are made.

     Shish Barak Dumplings Recipe:
     Stuff each dumpling one at a time!  The dumplings should not look like they were factory made.  They should each look like they were hand made and each one should have character!
     Gently stretch each dumpling dough circle just about 1/4 inch wider with fingertips.
     Hold the flat stretched dough circle in the palm of the hand.
     Place about 1 teaspoon to 1 1/2 teaspoons of the meat stuffing on the center of the dough circle.
     Pull the dough over top of the meat and pinch the dough shut, like a miniature coin bag.  Completely seal each dumpling.
     Brush a baking pan with olive oil.
     Place the 12 dumplings on the baking pan.
     Drizzle 2 to 3 drops of olive oil over each dumpling.
     Bake the dumpling in a 250 degree oven, till the dough dries slightly, and till light golden highlights appear.
     Shish Barak Recipe:
     Heat a sauce pot over low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of virgin olive oil.
     Add 3 minced garlic cloves.
     Gently saute, till the garlic becomes soft and fragrant.
     Add 6 ounces of goats milk yogurt.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Whisk the sauce as it heats, till the ingredients combine.
     Mix 1/2 tablespoon of corn starch with 1 tablespoon of cold water,
     Add the cornstarch slurry to the sauce while stirring.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced cilantro leaves.
     Add 3 pinches of coriander.
     Check the consistency of the sauce.  The sauce should be a thin soupy cream sauce consistency.  Add water if necessary.
     Place the 12 stuffed dumplings in the sauce.
     Simmer till the dumpling dough becomes tender.  (About 5 minutes)
     Stir the sauce occasionally, so it does not separate!
     Use a spoon to arrange the dumplings in a wide shallow soup bowl.
     Pour the thin yogurt stewing sauce over the dumplings.
     Garnish with a cilantro sprig.

     Beyond delicious!  The yogurt broth is soothing and healthy tasting.  When the spiced meat filling of a dumpling is bitten into, a great flavor sensation takes center stage!  The dumpling flavor is superb tasting with the thin coriander cilantro flavored yogurt broth.  This is a great Lebanese entree!  Yum!  ...  Shawna     

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