A Taste of the Middle East….Right at Home

Let’s start off with something that I made today.  I am a huge lover of the flavors of the Middle East.  It all began years ago when I ate at a wonderful restaurant in Cambridge called The Helmand.  It’s an Afghani restaurant, owned in fact by the Karzai family — yes, that Karzai family.

I am a devoted fan of the food blog Food52 and they recently featured a recipe for Afghan Dumplings with Lamb Kofta and Yogurt Sauce.  It’s actually called “aushak”.  It’s kind of like a deconstructed ravioli.  Don’t be put off by making dumplings….if you buy Asian wonton wrappers, which are simply pre-cut squares of thin pasta, then making the dumplings is a breeze.  You can find the wrappers in the produce section of your local grocery store.

I made a few substitutions and the result was still delicious, so I am sure it is exponentially better when you follow it exactly.  My grocer did not have ground lamb, so I used ground turkey and I didn’t have coriander, so I used a little bit of cardamom – which probably changed the flavor entirely, but it perfumed my home beautifully.  For the yogurt, I used Fage fat free plain Greek yogurt.

By the way, it’s very easy to make also.

Enjoy!

Afghan Dumplings with Lamb Kofta and Yogurt Sauce
(courtesy of Katie Morford)

Makes 25 dumplings

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground lamb
1 cup tomato sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
3 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound scallions, washed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 package won ton wrappers
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 cup plain, whole milk yogurt
1/2 teaspoon dried, ground garlic
1 tablespoon dried mint

  1. In a large pan, sauté the chopped onion over medium heat in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil until tender and translucent. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Add the lamb and sauté until cooked through, breaking it up like finely minced taco meat. Add the tomato sauce, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, the paprika, coriander and black pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring regularly for 20 minutes. Set aside.
  2. While the meat is cooking, trim the root off the scallions and finely chop, using the entire onion (both white and dark green parts). A food processor is useful here. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat and add the green onions, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and the crushed red pepper. Turn heat to low and sauté until tender, 10 minutes. Set aside.
  3. To assemble the dumplings, fill a small bowl with water and put it at your work station. Set a won ton wrapper on your work surface and dip your finger into the water. Moisten the edges along two connecting sides of the wrapper. The water will serve as glue for the dumpling. Put about a teaspoon of sautéed green onions in the center of the wrapper. Fold the dough in half over the green onion in the shape of a triangle. Use the tip of your finger to firmly press the edges of the dough together to form a tight seal. Next, lift the two longest points of the triangle and press them together, creating a little circle over the dumpling. It will look like a fancy napkin fold.
  4. While you are assembling the dumplings, bring a large pot of water to a gentle boil. Add the vinegar. Once all of the dumplings are done, immerse them in the water and boil according to directions on the won ton package (about 4 minutes).
  5. While the dumplings are boiling ,quickly make the yogurt sauce. Stir together the yogurt with the garlic and the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt.
  6. Gingerly scoop the cooked dumplings out of the water with a slotted spoon, a few at a time, and arrange on a large platter. Spoon the yogurt over the dumplings and the ground meat on top of that. Sprinkle with dried mint and serve immediately.

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