Monday, September 2, 2013

Syrian Meat Rolls

So I've been trying to recreate various Middle Eastern dishes lately (a taste first deeply cultivated on my journey to Israel...the exposure to a rich sampling of various culinary traditions being one of many, many reasons to recommend such a trip). I should mention right now Tori Avey's remarkable blog, The Shiksa, is a great place to find some of these recipes, with exceptional illustration. Her cheese bourekas and Israeli sofrito are particularly amazing. What follows, however, is my more more humble attempt to illustrate making Syrian style meat rolls. And when I say "illustrate", I more mean explain, because I forgot to take pictures until I was half way through the process. :)

Meat Rolls

1 3/4 cups flour
1 stick butter (8 tablespoons), softened
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/3 cup plain yogurt
sprinkle of salt

Place ingredients in a bowl, mix and then knead. If necessary, add a sprinkle more flour so that dough is smooth. Set aside.

1 lb lean hamburger or ground mutton (note: if you are using extra lean meat, include 1 tablespoon of melted butter)
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ground tumeric
sprinkle of salt

Egg wash:
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons water
Sesame seeds (optional)

Mix meat, pressed garlic and spices thoroughly. Knead until a paste forms. Set aside. Combine egg and water, beating well, for egg wash. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet.

Divide dough into equal portions. Roll each portion into strips about 4" wide and roughly 12" long. Divide meat filling, and form two long "tubes", with a diameter of about 1". You may not get two full foot-long tubes of meat depending on the density of your hamburger; this is fine. After you get one 12" long tube with a 1" diameter, make a similar tube of whatever length is possible. Place these on the centers of the respective dough rectangles. Roll closed, forming seam at bottom. Cut 1" slices from the roll, place these on the baking sheet. They expand a little, but not much, so you can cook them fairly close together as long as they are not touching and have some room for expansion. Brush with egg yolk mixture and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until crust is firmish to the touch and meat is cooked. Note that this crust does not substantially change color; a good test for "doneness" is feel. It will no longer "move" easily with pressure, and will have a firm/almost crisp feel when it's cooked.
Yield: 18-24

Despite being rather lengthy, this is actually a pretty simple recipe. The dough (which I forgot to grab a shot of :) ) comes together well, ideally having an easy-to-work-with texture. Do be careful not to add too much liquid, though, or it will become hard to manage. There's no need to overknead it, so once it gets to a workable point set it aside for later use.

The meat mixture, likewise, is pretty straightforward. Knead well, both to mix the spices thoroughly as well as to arrive at the pasty texture needed. When that's done, you're ready to make your meat tube. You might want to work in sections (that's what I did) because that tends to be easier than getting it all done at once.  Even and smooth it out (still in progress, below), then wrap the dough up to make a seam.

The seam should be on the bottom. Cut 1" strips and place on your baking sheet.


Brush with egg mixture and sprinkle with seeds if desired. Bake until the dough is cooked through and firm. Don't overcook, as your meat mixture will dry out.

Served with cucumber yogurt dip

Notice that the cooked dough is somewhat darker but does not substantially change in color. Serve hot. Cool leftovers completely before refrigerating to preserve the crispness of the dough. I like to pair these with a light, not overly seasoned salad, or a cool, refreshing cucumber dip. Enjoy!

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