06 December 2009

Shish Barak (Lebanese Meat Dumplings in Yogurt Sauce)

A friend called me yesterday to ask me why I haven't updated the blog? Oh dear, that is bad isn't it? I have a good explanation though- you see, I went to Texas for a lovely Thanksgiving, got home on a hectic Sunday and dumped my smelly jeans and farm boots into the laundry, refilled my suitcase with a couple suits and linen trousers, and headed to the Middle East for a work trip. Work trips being what they are, there was a lot of flying, a lot of meetings, and very little fun time, other than some good food and vodka-mint-lemonades.

But I'm happy to be home and I've had this recipe in my queue, eager to share it here. It's the Lebanese version of meat dumplings, called shish barak. Really, who doesn't like dumplings people? Especially dumplings filled with warm cinnamon and cumin spiced beef and bathed in warm yogurt sauce.

I've eaten shish barak before, but this was my first time making them. As I stirred the beef and onions, the dish just smelled right. Have you ever had that feeling, recreating a dish you've had before, when it just tastes like it should?

Traditionally the dumplings are made with a homemade flour dough and then baked. However, some people fry the dumplings, and I went with the slightly alternative method of steaming the dumplings. It's not as traditional, but I like the lighter texture it yields. Also, I have terrible dumpling forming skills. I need to go to dumpling remedial school. But if you're more talented than me, you can form the dumplings with little woven seams.

I shouldn't have needed any prompting to share this dish here, after all it's pretty tasty, but sometimes we all need a little encouragement.

Shish Barak (Lebanese Meat Dumplings in Yogurt Sauce)
Cheaters tip: if you don't want to make the dough yourself, you can use wonton wrappers instead. If you do use wonton wrappers you cannot bake the dumplings but must steam them.

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup cold water
1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon butter or ghee
1 lb ground beef (or lamb)
1 onion, minced
1/4 teaspoon each cinnamon, allspice, and cumin
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

yogurt sauce:
1 quart plain yogurt (not fat-free, not Greek style)
1 egg white
1 tablespoon cornstarch

1. Combine the dough ingredients in bowl until combined, knead lightly. Let rest 1 hour (while you prepare the filling). Roll out the dough as thinly as possible, then cut into 3" rounds and flatten with a rolling pin.
2. For the filling, heat the butter in a skillet. Add th eonions and saute until translucent. Add the ground beef spices, and cilantro and saute, breaking up the beef, until nicely browned and cooked through.
3. Form dumplings with the dough and filling, run a little water along the edge of the dumpling so you can pinch them closed in whatever manner works for you.
4. Bake dumplings at 350 F for 10-15 minutes, or until dough is firm and lightly golden, or steam them over boiling water for about 10 minutes, until dough is cooked through.
5. For yogurt sauce: Beat together egg white, cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon water until combined. Combine egg white mixture with yogurt in a saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until yogurt mixture is slightly thickened and warm.
6. Combine yogurt mixture and dumplings on a platter. Garnish with chopped cilantro or mint or sauteed pine nuts. Serve immediately.


Gabrielle said...

Do you really mean 1 and 1/2 quarts of yogurt? I looked up the conversion and that is 6 cups of yogurt! is that right??

Dalia said...

One of my absolute favorites! (Can you see a trend here?) I prefer them in home-made dough, cooked in the yogurt sauce as it simmers. I can almost smell the garlic and cilantro from here....

Azita Mehran said...

love the combination of spices and beef in yogurt sauce . delicious dumplings. thanks.

kateza'atar said...

This is hands-down my favorite meal. My dad always made it vegetarian, using pre-fab mushroom tortellini. He would also "sweat" the cilantro and garlic before combining with the yogurt sauce. This looks great laid out on a platter, and is perfect for entertaining.

Anonymous said...

This is a family favorite, while growing up my lebanese grandma, mother and aunt made it but not often enough. I noticed many variations online but the yogurt sauce is the same. My grandmother made the dumplings filled with lamb fresh minced parsley, garlic powder salt and pepper. She didnt cook the filling first, just put the raw filling in center of dough circles closed and shaped it then baked them till lightly brown and added them to the sauce. Craving these and Ill try this variation or stick with the way my grandma made them. thanks

Nadine said...

thanks so much for this recipe, I love shish barak but I was always very afraid about from cooking the yogurt..many thanks!

Anonymous said...

Oh one of my favorite dish. a little tip from my Lebanese mam, add some mashed garlic and dried mint or coriander to the yogurt. thanks for sharing.salamat from Geneva.Maya

Anonymous said...

Your blog is amazing! I can only come here if I'm well fed though, otherwise my mouth starts to water. :) This is one of my favorite Middle Eastern dishes. I remember the women in my family all sitting in a circle and preparing the dumplings together. So delicious. Thanks for sharing.

Annerieke said...

Isn't shish barak originally made with jameed (dried yoghurt)? At least that's how it's done in Palestine as far as I know. Jameed has a very distinctive taste, much different from plain yoghurt. Im sure you would be able to get it in any Middle Eastern store and it is not too difficult to dry the yoghurt yourself although it is a rather time consuming process and most of my Palestinian neighbours buy it from Bedouins around here. :)