Pelmeni – Russian version of Tortelini

There is nothing more cozy on a cold December day than a bowl of hot soup. To me, even cozier is a bowl of Pelmeni (or Dushbere in Azerbaijan, except back home we serve it as a soup, with the water). These are pieces of heaven (ok fine, dough) stuffed with a delicious meat mixture, boiled in hot water, served with butta (ha ha), sour cream or yogurt and just a tad of herbs. If you can get past the annoying process of making the dough and stuffing each little circle and wrapping it, then you are in for a delicious meal. Sadly, I cannot get over it so I only make it once in a blue moon. Like today. I should have bene studying for my law school finals, but alas, cooking seemed like a better way to spend my day (don’t you worry, I will pay for this).

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Pelmeni

This recipe makes about 50-70 pelmenis

For the filling:

  • 1-1.5 lbs of ground beef
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Handful of Parsley (you can add Dill also, I didn’t have any)
  • Salt, pepper
  1. Peel and cut the onion into quarters
  2. Peel the garlic
  3. Wash the parsley/dill
  4. Add everything into a food processor or blender and blend until becomes mushy.
  5. Add everything to the ground meat and mix; the mixture should become soft and watery
  6. Set aside

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Herb and onion mixture

ground-meat

Meat mixture ready to go

For the dough:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/2 cup of cold water
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
  1. Add the flour and salt to a food processor and mix
  2. Add the egg and the water and process some more
  3. if the mixture is too watery, add more flour little bit at a time; be careful not to over-flour
  4. Alternatively, dump everything on a board or counter covered with flour and knead until the dough comes together and is soft. Be careful not to add too much flour, the dough will become hard.
  5. Let the dough rest for 20-30 minutes.

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This is what the dough should look like

Assembling Pelmeni:

  1. Divide the dough into 4 parts
  2. Take each part and roll out as much as you can, not too thin, you don’t want the Pelmeni to rip
  3. Take a class or anything else you have at home that can cut out small circles and press it into the rolled out dough over and over again.
  4. Take the circles, roll it out again (just run a rolling pin over it once) and put about a teaspoon or so of meat filling into it.
  5. Now close the circle, pinch the corners very well
  6. You should now end up with a half moon shape; now take the ends and pinch them together.

At the end your Pelmeni should look like this:

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Finished pelmeni

 

Cooking Pelmeni:

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil; salt it, add a little bit of olive oil to it
  2. Slowly submerge Pelmeni into the water.
  3. As soon as they come up to the top of the pot, they are read. If you are hesitant, wait about 5 minutes and take out with a slotted spoon carefully or drain the whole pot.
  4. Once in your plate, top the Pelmeni with butter, sour cream or yogurt and any herbs you wish (dill, parsley, garlic).
  5. As always, enjoy!

pelmeni-with-yogurt

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See how the dough is not too thin or thick, it cooked through and held the meat in. If you made too much and feel that you won’t eat it all in one sitting, don’t boil it all at once. Put it in the freezer and save it for next time. No such luck for me, my husband devours food so I had to play it safe and cook it all -_-

Here is two ways to eat it: with butter and herbs, or butter and yogurt. You can go crazy and do all three: butter, herbs and yogurt. I promise you can’t go wrong!

Yogurt Marinated Chicken Thighs

I have an enormous appreciation for Mediterranean kitchen. Maybe because Azeri food is very similar to Mediterranean cuisine. Maybe because in my heart of hearts I want to travel so badly and I would start with that part of the world 🙂 maybe one day soon I will 😉 who knows.

Anywho…this recipe is super easy and super delicious. The beauty of it is that you can modify however you like. You can add various spices to the marinade, use the whole chicken, just breasts, just thighs or a combination. You can roast it or bake it. Your preference, really.

Yogurt Chicken Thighs

Yogurt Marinated Chicken 

6 chicken thighs (or a whole chicken cut up, adjust to your need/preference)

1/2 cup Greek yogurt (again, I use Fage only)

1/2 cup Plain yogurt (any will do, but I prefer the organic kind)

2 tsp salt

2 tsp pepper

1 tbsp Turmeric

Olive oil for drizzling over the chicken

** i also used 1 tbsp of a Tuscan Seasoning (it’s  a mix of dry garlic, onions, bell peppers, oregano, rosemary, lemon peel, sea salt)**

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Preheat the oven to 375, In a large pan combine everything except chicken. Stir well. Dip every piece of chicken in the yogurt mixture. Use your hands to make sure the yogurt mixture gets all over the pieces. Don’t be afraid to use too much, you want the chicken to be moist.

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Place the chicken into a pan (if you want to bake it, this will make the dish more wet), or on a roasting pan (which is what I did). Once the oven has preheated place the roasting pan into the oven (on a middle rack) and cook for about 30-45 minutes (depending on which part of chicken you are cooking).

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Serve it with potatoes or rice. I made some plain white rice in a rice cooker. I also made a neat little salad that I tried at my favorite Italian restaurant in Manhattan – Da Marino. It so simply delicious that I curse myself for not making it every day:

Take about 3 medium size tomatoes and 1 cucumber. Chop them up into a medium size pieces (closer to small than medium) and place them in a deep place. Pour a little bit of olive oil over the vegetables. Now chop up 2 cloves of garlic and add those to the plate (I would suggest smashing the garlic for more flavor). Now add salt and set aside for about 30 minutes. The juices will run and IT WILL BE DELICIOUS!

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Yum yum!

Buglama – a classic

Ok, so it would seem that Azeri people love their stews. I never though of it that way, but it would seem that we do! Buglama is another version of a “stew”. It is more formal (if food can be formal) and is usually served at weddings or other gatherings. To tell you the truth, I do not remember one occasion where my grandma made buglama at home.

Another beauty of Azeri kitchen is that dishes can be versatile. Buglama for example can be made with fish, chicken, lamb or beef (or I suppose tofu if you are a vegetarian). I have made this dish twice now, first time using swordfish. Was not a success. According to my husband it was too bland. Since traditionally it is made with lamb (like so many Azeri dishes), I opted for beef (because my husband does not like lamb all that much). All the while I worried about the flavor. See, the dish is just meat and vegetables and if no flavor is infused into it, it will taste…well like meat and vegetables. So I decided to remedy that by frying up the meat first. I chose some oxtail and ribs (the thick kind). After frying up the meat, I fried some onions. Then I layered the dish with vegetables and left it to stew for about an hour. I was not disappointed with the result this time.

Buglama

1 – 2 LB oxtail and beef ribs (or you can use lamb ribs)

2 tsp salt (or to taste)

2 tsp coriander

2 tsp pepper

2 cloves of garlic, diced

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

3 tbs butter or olive oil

2 green peppers, julienned

1 large tomato sliced

1/2 cup water

 

Melt the butter in the dutch oven (or any deep pan). Wait for butter to really heat up, then add the meat and quickly fry on all sides. Remove the meat to a plate. Chop up the onion and add to the pan, fry for a few minutes or until the onion softens and becomes clear. Add salt and pepper. Place the meat back into the pan, mix up with the onions. Add salt, pepper, diced garlic and coriander. Layer the rest of the vegetables on top (pepper and tomato). Add half a cup of water and let it boil/stew for about an hour or until the meat is softened up. Serve with white rice and garnish with dill!

Buglama

Chilled Yogurt Soup: Dogramach or Ovdukh

I have a love/hate relationship with herbs. I dislike them in soups and stews. I love them fresh. I know they add tons of flavor to food and are a staple in Azeri kitchen, but I shy away from them. The dislike for cooked herbs started when I was a child, and continued into adulthood for me. I have however started warming up to it slowly…I actually like sebzi gourma (it’s a type of plov where meat is cooked with tons of herbs) and dovga (a cooked yogurt and herb soup).

This brings me to yesterday: the weather in my part of the state has been horrendous. It’s been extremely humid, rainy and wet. My hair does not appreciate this weather. Nor does my body. Needless to say, I did not feel like standing in front of the stove and cooking yesterday, so I opted out for something quick and cold. I remembered I had a tub of yogurt I bought from the Russian store  that was soon to be expired. I thought of making dovga, but that again would require me to actually stand and mix for good 20 minutes on the hot stove. Then I remembered: DOGRAMACH! It’s pretty much the same thing as Dovga, with a few exceptions, one major one being that it requires NO COOKING, just some chopping.

This dish is very refreshing, it has aromatic herbs, chilled yogurt and cucumbers. You can’t get any more summery than this dish. It’s a Gazpacho of Azerbaijan cuisine 😀 The only negative about this dish is that herbs are harder to chop, especially when wet. Well, for me anyhow. I struggled with it yesterday, herbs sticking and spreading everywhere, but eventually managed to get them where they needed to go! Oh and an extra added bonus, my kitchen smelled divine!

NOTE: Buy your yogurt at a Russian/Turkish or Persian stores. We buy ours from both, and I am not sure where it is made, but it comes from a Turkish company in NJ. Your best bet for better tasting yogurt is to buy them from an ethnic store. 

Mint

Mint

 

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Basil

Basil

Dill goes in

Dill goes in

Chilled Yogurt Soup: Dogramach or Ovdukh

4 cups plain yogurt

2 cups water

2 cucumbers, medium sized

1 bunch dill

1 bunch scallions

a handful of basil (to taste)

a handful of mint (to taste)

salt

pepper

dried cumin

2 garlic cloves

 

Pour yogurt and water into a pan, mix well until combined. If you want your soup thicker= add less water, thinned out = add more. Wash all the herbs and set aside. Start chopping. It really does not matter in what order you go, it all goes into the same pan anyways, but it’s easier to get the cucumber out of the way.Peel and chop up cucumbers, add to the yogurt mixture. Chop up the scallions. Next chop up mint and basil. Last but not least chop up the dill. Crush two garlic cloves and add them to the soup. Add salt, pepper, cumin (to taste), mix well. Set in the refrigerator if not eating right away. The soup will be chilled because the yogurt will be cold. Serve with bread, rye bread is your best bet!

Dogramach

Dogramach

NOTE: You can also add radish, or any other herbs you like. Traditionally boiled eggs go into this as well, if you prefer, you can hard boil, chill, chop and add them to the soup. This can also be made with ground or cubed beef. I would suggest cooking the meat first (sauteing or frying) and then adding it to the soup.