Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Shish Barak

     Lebanese Meat Stuffed Dumplings en Yogurt Sauce!
     Spring is the season of newborn goats and it is the traditional season of harvesting fresh goat milk.  This means there is plenty of yogurt to be made this time of year.  Goat milk yogurt is healthy and it is fat free.  The tangy flavor of this yogurt is quite refreshing!  Goat milk yogurt is usually marketed as "Greek Style Yogurt" in mainstream grocery stores, so it is relatively easy to find.
     Lebanese Shish Barak is a traditional springtime entrée that is also served as a soup.  The thin broth is made with goat milk yogurt, so Shish Barak is a traditional spring and early summer recipe.  The Lebanese style miniature dumplings are quite clever and they are relatively easy to make.  The meat stuffing can be made with either lamb or beef.  Many people in the western world 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.  Beef actually is the top choice meat in most Middle Eastern cuisines.  The spring lamb harvest season starts in June, so lamb can be featured as the Shish Barak meat filling in late spring.  Cattle are harvested year round, so beef is a good choice for the meat stuffing any time of year.
     By selecting seasonal meats and vegetables, there will be far more opportunities to learn how to make traditional recipes that may be many centuries old.  Preserving tradition also helps to promote sustainability, by reducing demand for items that are out of season.
     When purchasing lamb in the month of February, the lamb has actually been frozen since the June lamb harvest.  The big electric bill from running a freezer does figure into the high price.  Featuring traditional seasonal food also reduces reliance on importing food items from the southern hemisphere, which in turn increases sustainability.  The power, fuel and ships that are needed for importing lamb from Australia or New Zealand also is reflected in a higher market prices.  As one can see, sticking with traditional seasonal food not only promotes sustainability, it also reduces cost.

     Lebanese 7 Spice Mix (Baharat):
     This recipe yields almost 3 tablespoons.  (Enough for several recipes.)
     Basically, the word Baharat means "a blend of spices that create an exotic flavor."  The selection of spices can vary with whichever spices are the freshest at the market.  The proportion of each spice can also be adjusted to create flavors that best suit specific food items.  
     Usually paprika or allspice are optional ingredients.  If cumin is preferred, then substitute the cumin for allspice in today's recipe to create an older traditional flavor profile.  Paprika can be substituted for white pepper to create yet another interesting variation.              
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/2 teaspoons of coriander in a container.
     Add 1 teaspoon of black pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of white pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of ground clove.
     Add 1 teaspoon of allspice.
     Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.  (Chinese Cinnamon)
     Add 1 teaspoon of cardamom.
     Add 1 teaspoon of nutmeg.
     Step 2:  Mix the spices together.
     Seal the container and save it for when the Lebanese 7 Spice Blend is needed.      

     Meat Stuffing:
     This recipe yields a little less than 1/2 cup.  (Enough for 12 miniature dumplings.)
     Lamb or beef can be used for the dumpling stuffing.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 2 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Briefly sauté till the onions just start to turn a clear color.
     Step 2:  Add 3 1/2 ounces of lean ground beef.  (Ground Lamb is optional.)
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 1 teaspoon of the Lebanese 7 Spice Mixture.
     Break up any clumps of ground beef.
     Sauté till the ground beef is fully cooked and it is lightly browned.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Set the beef stuffing aside and let it cool.
     Drain off any excess grease.
     Place the spiced beef in a container and chill till it is needed.

     Meat Stuffed Dumplings:
     This recipe yields 12 miniature dumplings.  (1 portion)
     Step 1:  Place 1 cup of bread flour in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Add 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil.
     Step 2:  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.
     Step 3:  Roll the dough into a ball shape and gently knead by hand, till it becomes pliable and smooth.
     Step 4:  Press the dough between the hands, to flatten the dough into a flat round shape.
     Place the flattened dough on a lightly floured counter top.
     Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a round sheet that is 3/16" thick.
     Step 5:  Select a 2 1/4" to 2 1/2" diameter stainless steel ring mold.
     Use the steel ring mold to cut several dough circles.
     Set the small round pieces of dough aside on a lightly floured surface.
     Step 6:  Combine the dough scraps.
     Re-roll the dough into a thin sheets and cut more dough circles.  A total of 12 will be needed.
     Step 7:  *For the next step, 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!
     Hold a flat round dough portion in the palm of the hand.
     Place about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the meat stuffing on the center of the dough.
     Pull the dough over top of the meat and pinch the dough shut, like a miniature coin bag.  Completely seal each dumpling.
     Step 8:  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.
     Place the pan in a 275ºF oven.
     Bake till the dough slightly dries and till light golden highlights appear.
     Remove the pan of miniature dumplings from the oven and set it aside.
     Shish Barak:
     This recipe yields 1 soup entrée.
     It is important to cook the yogurt sauce at a low temperature.  Even though the stewing sauce is thickened with a slurry.  Too high of a temperature will cause the yogurt sauce to separate and break!
     Either cornstarch or flour can be used to make the slurry.  
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low/low heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of virgin olive oil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Gently sauté till the garlic becomes soft and aromatic.
     Step 2:  Add 3/4 cup of goat milk yogurt.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced cilantro leaves.
     Add 3 pinches of coriander.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Whisk the sauce as it heats, till the ingredients combine.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer.
     Step 3:  Mix 1/2 tablespoon of corn starch with 1 tablespoon of cold water.
     Add the cornstarch slurry to the sauce while stirring.
     Step 4:  Place the 12 prepared stuffed dumplings in the sauce.
     Gently simmer till the dumpling dough becomes tender and the stuffing is hot.  (About 5 minutes.)
     Stir the sauce occasionally, so it does not separate!
     Step 5:  Remove the sauce pot from the heat.
     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 meat filling of a dumpling is bitten into, the Lebanese 7 Spice flavor takes center stage!  This is a great tasting Lebanese entrée!

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