While my mother favored expedience in the kitchen, there was one notable exception: when she was in an especially good mood or just wanted to spoil us, she’d set aside the demands of her job and spend an afternoon contentedly rolling out pasta for shish barak, tortellini-shaped meat-filled dumplings. She learned how to make this recipe from her best friend, Khadijah, a dumpling pro, who, like her, worked in the field of genetics.
Bathed in a garlic-yogurt sauce, these dumplings deliver a burst of juicy spiced lamb, enrobed in fresh pasta, and brightened with a drizzle of minty oil.
You can scale up and make even more of these to freeze. They’re just as good and easy to dress up with sauce when you feel like a fancy meal. Shish barak are shaped into small rings, like tortellini, except with a delicious lamb filling. We used to call them elephants’ ears because of their shape.
Any or all of the elements of this dish can be madeup to several days ahead to be cooked and assembled just before serving.
- To make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl, combine the flour and salt.
- To mix by hand: Using your hands, drizzle in the oil and incorporate, until the flour forms a fine crumble. Form a well inside the center, pour in the warm water, and slowly incorporate the flour from the inside of the well to bring the dough together. Turn out the dough on a flat work surface, dusted with flour as needed, and knead until the dough forms a smooth, elastic ball, about 5 minutes.
- To mix in a stand mixer: Using the paddle attachment on slow speed, drizzle in the oil until the flour forms a fine crumble. Switch to the dough hook and slowly add the warm water. Drizzle in 1 more teaspoon of water at a time if needed to make the dough come together. Once the dough forms, remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat work surface, dusted with flour as needed, and knead by hand until the dough forms a smooth, elastic ball, about 3 minutes.
- Seal the ball in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- To make the filling: While the dough is resting, in a large bowl combine the meat, onions, spice mix, salt, pepper, molasses, and yogurt and knead the mixture like a dough, until it is thoroughly mixed. Alternatively, you can use a food processor. Set aside.
- To make the mint oil: Prepare a small bowl of ice water and set aside. Submerge the mint in boiling water for 30 seconds, remove from the heat, and plunge it into the ice water to stop the cooking. Remove the mint from the water and pat dry with paper towels.
- In a small food processor or blender at medium speed, blend the mint with the oil until as smooth as possible, about 30 seconds. Set aside.
- On a floured work surface, roll out the dough to ⅟16-inch thickness, flouring the rolling pin and dough liberally, if needed, to prevent sticking. Let the dough relax for 5 minutes or so after rolling. With a dough cutter or the rim of a cup, cut out 3-inch circles. Cover the circles with a dish towel while you roll and cut out the rest of the dough. Set the scraps aside to rest, then knead them into a ball, roll into a sheet, and repeat the cutting process.
- To make the dumplings: Put a tablespoon of the filling in the center of each dough round. Using your finger or a pastry brush, moisten the edges with water. Gently fold the dough in half and press the edges with your fingers to seal, expelling any air bubbles before closing the last portion. Pull the corners of each half-moon around the index finger of one hand and pinch together with your other hand to bind, forming a cupped outer edge and dimpled belly center. Place the dumplings on a lightly floured sheet tray. Repeat the process, shaping all of the dumplings. Refrigerate, uncovered, if not cooking right away.
- To make the yogurt sauce: In a small saucepan, combine the yogurt, garlic, cornstarch, salt, and cold water and whisk to incorporate. Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer over low heat. Use a spatula or wooden spoon and scrape the bottom of the pan to make sure the sauce doesn’t burn. Adjust the salt to taste. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside until the dumplings are cooked.
- When you are ready to cook the dumplings, bring the 12 cups water to a boil in a large pot. Add the dumplings to form a single layer (about twelve at a time). The dumplings should float and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them into the yogurt sauce, gently tilting the pan from side to side to coat the dumplings evenly. Return the pan to low heat to make sure the dumplings are warmed through. If your sauce has gotten too thick, you can drizzle in some of your dumpling water to thin it. Repeat the process until all of the dumplings are cooked and coated in sauce.
- Spoon into shallow bowls to serve and drizzle with the mint oil. Top with the pine nuts, mint, Aleppo pepper, and sumac.
- The dumplings can be stored frozen for up to 6 months. To keep their shape, freeze them first on a parchment-lined tray, then transfer to an airtight container or resealable bag for easy storage.