Tatar burak, My Way (Video)
Tatar burak, which essentially revolves around small pastry parcels filled with meat and covered in a blanket of yoghurt sauce, is one of many dishes that remind me of my mother and Ramadan table spreads. By the age of 15, I became the queen of tatar burak and shish burak just from watching my mom cook these in the kitchen for Iftar in Ramadan. I must have made thousands of them throughout my teenage years. For some reason during Ramadan this dish along with others, such as meat Kibbeh or kibbeh for vegetarians with lentil soup and fattoush make their way to the Iftar table too often. This dish is a staple in the Damascene Iftar cuisine and, Ramadan or not, a staple in our household. Many dishes in the Levant can be traced back to the Ottoman/Turkish cuisine with slight variations. In Turkish, burak means a filled pastry; but why tatar? I have no clue. It might have originated from Tatarstan, as Caucasus, Central Asia and Islamic China all share the same dish with slight variations. This dish is named manti in Kazakh, Armenian and Turkish, mantu in Tatar, and pashtu and Persian
Tatar burak is an easy simple dish to make yet indulging to eat. Yoghurt is incorporated in many Levantine summer dishes. It is nutritious, healthy, and soothing, rich is calcium and vitamin D, and packed with probiotics which strengthen the immunity system and improves digestion. In Syria, it is put to use as a soothing agent from sun burns and chicken pox; I remember when I was a kid my mother smothering my sun burnt skin with yogurt to sooth the pain.
Traditionally, the meat filling of tatar burak is simply browned meat and onions and salt and black pepper. However, I prepare this dish slightly different by adding ginger and other spices to elevate the flavours and give it that bombastic touch that marries perfectly well with the soothing yogurt.
As these freeze well, I recommend you make a big batch ahead of Ramadan and freeze them. Scan though my tips in order to get the dish to the table with minimal hassle.
Yield: 25 pieces
For the dough:
2 cups flour
1 cup water
For the filling:
1/3 cup onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons minced ginger
400 grams minced beef
1 chili, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons seven spice
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander, powder
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Salt, to taste
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
For the yogurt sauce:
2 cups yogurt
1/2 clove garlic, minced
Salt, to taste
Handful pine nuts, fried
Sprinkle of paprika
In a bowl, mix the flour and water. Once it has formed a ball turn it on the work counter and knead it for 8 minutes until soft and pliable. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.
In a skillet, heat the oil over medium high temperature and fry the onions and ginger until soft.
Add the meat, spices and salt and keep tossing around until cooked and liquid free. Adjust the salt and seasoning to your liking and set aside to cool.
Portion the pastry into 3 or 4 balls. Roll the on a floured surface to a thickness of 1/4 cm then, using a 7cm round cookie cutter, stamp out rounds. Remove the excess pastry and leave aside covered.
Put 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center of each round and fold over to form a semi-circle and press the sides gently with your thumb and index finger to seal. Place on a floured tray and repeat the same steps until the balls of dough are finished.
Use the excess pastry to form a new ball, roll out and repeat the same process.
To make the yogurt sauce, mix the salt and garlic in with the yoghurt and whisk until creamy and smooth. If the yogurt is too thick add some water to thin it.
Bring a pot of water to a boil and drop in the pastries and cook for 10 minutes.
Drain then shallow fry in some oil just to get some color (this step is optional).
Line up the burak in serving platter, top with the yogurt sauce and finish with some fried pine nuts and a sprinkle of paprika. Serve hot or cold.
To freeze, simply them individually on a tray and freeze. Once hardened put them in a zip lock bag. These can be cooked from frozen.
For a vegetarian Tatar burak I recommend using 200 g crushed walnuts instead of the meat and two addition onions.
You can prepare ahead by boiling them and just shallow frying them last minute.
Per Serving: 1286 Calories; 18g Fat (12.6% calories from fat); 43g Protein; 239g Carbohydrate; 22g Dietary Fiber; 43mg Cholesterol; 1354mg Sodium.