Shish Barak is a traditional Lebanese dish, perhaps of Turkish/Ottoman origins (hence the name), which is basically made of tiny meat dumplings cooked in a plain yogurt stew. Shish Barak belongs to the “Tabeekh” traditional Lebanese category, ie, home stews, and is not usually served by main stream Lebanese restaurants. However if you frequent Afghan restaurants you’ll be surprised to find that the “Mantu” dish is a cousin of Shish Barak.
Shish Barak packs an intriguing taste stemming from the intense flavor of cooked yogurt, and then crowned with subtle aromas from the mint, cilantro and garlic. Spring is usually the time when local goat milk becomes plenty in Lebanon, and preparing this dish in goat plain yogurt yields a much richer and intense flavor than if cooked with regular cow plain yogurt. And both are lovely.
How to Prepare Shish Barak
The process of cooking Shish Barak involves the following steps: 1) preparing the meat stuffing, 2) rolling the dumplings and 3) cooking the dumplings in the yogurt sauce. The parts that are most time consuming are steps 1 and 2. For that reason, mama uses the opportunity to prepare several meals of dumplings in one sitting. She then splits and packs them in ziplog bags and stores them in the freezer for a few months. That way anytime we feel like Shish Barak she pulls a pack of dumplings from the freezer and within half an hour the meal is ready.
Rolling the Shish Barak Dumplings
After the meat stuffing has been cooked with 7-spices and pine nuts, flatten a plain dough to a thickness of about 2 dimes (1/8th of an inch), and that’s very thin. Then with the lid of an oil bottle (or any equivalent mini-cookie cutter) cut the dough into small disks. Then place about 1/3 to 1/2 of a teaspoon of meat on each piece of dough, fold the sides and close the dough on the fillings, then pull the edges around, and clamp them together to form what mom calls “a hat” which resembles ravioli. The diameter of the dumpling should be small, and not exceed that of a quarter.
Freezing the Dumplings
Dust a tray with some flour, then place the freshly made dumplings on it and freeze for a couple of hours. Once frozen, pack each 7-8 oz of dumplings together in small ziplog bags, close tightly while squeezing as much air out as possible, mark them with the date and put back in freezer for future use. They can last a few months, if the bag is tightly sealed, and each one of those bags is enough for a meal of 4 servings.
Cooking the Shish Barak
Traditionally, Shish Barak is cooked with plain yogurt (Greek yogurt). Yogurt is added to a cooking pot with a bit of water, then slowly brought to a boil on very low heat, and while constantly stirring (very important so it doesn’t break apart). Once it boils, then salt, dried mint powder, crushed garlic, and cilantro leaves are added along with the Shish Barak dumplings and it’s then simmered with occasional stirring for about 20 minutes or so, or until the dumplings are well cooked.
Alternatively, you can also cook Shish Barak with “Labneh” which is strained yogurt, and this is our favorite method. It yields a more intense taste than regular plain yogurt. If using Labneh, stirr 1 lb of Labneh with water until it’s all homogeneous and then bring to a boil slowly following the same steps as in the method using yogurt.
And now to the recipe, we hope you enjoy it and we’d love to hear your feedback.
Summary: Shish Barak is a mouth watering food experience. You should try it at least once.
Shish Barak Dough Ingredients (20 servings)
- 5 cups of multipurpose flour
- 1 and 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 and 1/4 cups of water
- 1/4 teaspoon yeast
- 1/2 cup of warm water (to melt the yeast)
- 1/8 teaspoon of sugar (to melt with yeast)
Meat Stuffing Ingredients (20 servings)
- 1 lb of lean ground beef
- 1 teaspoon of Lebanese 7-spices
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt (to taste)
- 2 small red onions finely chopped
- 1/4 cup of pine nuts
- Some Olive Oil
Shish Barak Stew Ingredients (4 servings)
- 1 lb of Labneh
- 6 cups of water
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 heaping teaspoon of dried mint powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of dried cilantro leaves
- 1 lemon (juiced)
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
- Note: If using Greek yogurt instead of Labneh, then use 5 cups of yogurt and 1 cup of water
Meat Stuffing Preparation Method (20 mins)
- Sautee the onions with a bit of olive oil until they start turning pinkish (10 mins)
- Add the ground beef, 7-spices, salt, mix well and then sautee until the beef is cooked (10 minutes)
- Add the pine nuts in the last 5 minutes. The meat stuffing is now ready.
Dough Preparation Method (20 mins)
- Mix the dough ingredients in a food processor (or knead with hands) and let rest for a few minutes.
- When ready, place dough on kitchen counter that’s been dusted with flour, and flatten into a large disk the thickness of 2 dimes (1/8th of an inch).
- Using a bottle lid (or small cookie cutter), cut the dough into disks the size of a quarter (3/4th of an inch in diameter)
- Place cut dough on a plate that’s been dusted with flour
- Place 1/3 to 1/2 teaspoon of meat stuffing in the center of each dough piece, fold edges in and close them on the meat, then pull edges around and fold them on one another, then flatten the sides to make it all look like a “hat” or ravioli.
- Line up all the dumplings on a flour dusted plate
- If you’re making extra dumplings for future use, lay dumplings on a flour dusted tray in the freezer for a couple of hours, and then pack them in small ziplog bags (about 7 – 8 oz each) and store back in freezer for a few months. Each bag (or 7 – 8 oz) of ready dumplings can make 4 servings.
Shish Barak Cooking Method 1, With Labneh: (40 minutes)
- Pour 6 cups of water and 1 lb of labneh in a pot, mix well until all Labneh is dissolved, then place on stove over medium-low heat and keep on stirring gently until it reaches a boil, at which time you turn the heat to low.
- Add 2 crushed cloves of garlic
- Add the dried mint powder and cilantro leaves
- Add 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of salt (to taste)
- Add juice from 1 freshly squeezed lemon. If you’re using goat yogurt you can skip this step.
- Add the Shish Barak dumplings, bring the stew to a boil again, and then stir gently on low heat for 15-20 minutes until the shish barak dumplings are cooked.
- Serve hot as a soup
Cooking Method 2, With Greek Yogurt: (50 minutes)
- Pour 5 cups of plain yogurt (Greek yogurt) and 1 cup of water in a pot and stir continuously on low heat until it reaches a boil. It is very important that heat is very low and stirring is constant otherwise the yogurt may break apart and can’t be salvaged
- Follow steps 2-7 above
Preparation time: 1 hour(s)
Cooking time: 40 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 4
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