Tag Archives: Lamb

Mastava – Uzbek soup

Mastava - Uzbek Soup

Mastava - Uzbek Soup

After our last visit to Chaihana, I’ve been wanting to make this recipe and I was lucky enough to have a recipe handy.  As a matter of fact, I actually have two.  One is from Lynn Visson’s book and one is from a Russian-published book.  This attempt is from the Russian-published version and I don’t know how authentic it is.  Anyone with such knowledge, please let me know if this is even remotely authentic.

Russian Recipe Book

Best Recipes of the Uzbek Kitchen

Russian Mastava Recipe

Russian Mastava Recipe

That’s the book and the page with the recipe. If you can read Russian, please take a close look at it. For those who don’t read Russian, here’s the rundown of issues with this recipe:
1. It’s not clear enough in directions; it refers to “spices” but doesn’t define what it means. Is it like mirepoix, is it something else? I interpreted that as “use whatever you want” and I used freshly ground back pepper and cumin.
2. It doesn’t specify all the quantities (how much water do I need?)
3. It doesn’t specify how long to cook it for, it just says “until done”. Is that 5 minutes or 50? How do I know? I’ve never made this before.

But I just happened to have two carrots and 3 potatoes, the exact quantities the recipe is calling for. I love it when a plan comes together.
And since you already know I’m not good with directions, you should also know I’m really not good with metric values. I know, I could look it up. But I was lazy and didn’t. So here’s what I used.

mastava-ingredients

Mastava ingredients

Ingredients:
1 lb of lamb diced in bite-sized pieces (had it in the freezer since last summer, figured I should use it)
2 medium-large carrots, cut up in bite-sized quarter-moons (the recipe says to cube it, but I’m just not into all that chopping at 8PM)
3 small-medium potatoes (cut the same size as the carrots)
1 large onion, diced
1.5 cups of washed rice (the recipe calls for 300 grams and I don’t have a scale; but 1.5 cups was waaay too much, made it more like a stew; I think 3/4 cups would be better)
6-9 cups of water (I lost track after 6, but I think I used close to 8 or so; the recipe has no quantity specified for water)
1 can of tomatoes (the recipe actually calls for 3 tomatoes, but I didn’t have any and improvised; this gave the soup a much darker and redder look than is typical, I think)
olive oil (the recipe calls for fat, but I assume it’s calling for lamb fat and I didn’t have any, so olive oil it is)
spices: salt, black pepper, coriander, cumin (to taste)
cilantro and scallions (to garnish, optional)

* A note about washing/rinsing rice. I don’t know for sure, but I think it removes some of the starch and quickens cooking time. It somehow makes a difference.

Steps:
Season throughout the cooking process
1. Brown the meat.
2. Add onions and let cook with the meat for a few minutes.
3. Add tomatoes and cook for a few minutes.
4. Add carrots and potatoes and cook for a few minutes (5-10 minutes)
5. Add water (depending on how much you use, but start with 5 cups) and let boil for about 20 minutes.
6. Add rice and cook “until done”; if you rinse the rice, it’s about 10-13 minutes (probably less if you use less rice)

Mastava lamb

Brown lamb

Added tomatoes

Added tomatoes

Added carrots and potatoes mastava

Added carrots and potatoes

Added rice to mastava

Added rice

finished mastava

Enjoy!

Chaihana Continued…

Ok, as promised, now to the food….

Lagman

Lagman

My dad ordered Lagman. I love lagman (pronounced: lah-g-mahn, with emphasis on the last syllable). I subconsciously tried making it when I was adding my own twist on a chili recipe I read on the back of a can of beans. And I’ve made it myself quite a few times and you can check out my version. It has carrots and celery (though I don’t know how authentic the celery is and I never use it) and noodles and red bell peppers and lamb. Dad liked it.  And it had scallions as a garnish.

Mastava - Uzbek soup

Mastava

This time around, I ordered Mastava (I think that’s how that soup is called and spelled and if I’m wrong, please let me know). It was delicious. The lamb was very well prepared, so tender it melted in your mouth as you ate it. No need to chew, really. Just inhale…. It had rice, lamb, carrots and other stuff I forgot about. And specks of emerald cilantro garnished the soup. Really good. Authentic. Notice how my sentences tend to shrink when the food is really fabulous. Probably because that’s all my mind is capable of at that moment and all the other mental powers are reserved to fully experiencing the decadence of the food. Love the flecks of cilantro garnishing most dishes. Just try it…Very yummy. I might have to try to make this at home one of these days. I wonder if I have a recipe somewhere… Hmmm. Oh, and this is a half-portion. Notice the difference between the full portion of Lagman and the half portion here. Not a whole lot of difference.

Manti - Uzbek food

Manti

Then we ordered manti. I’ve been wanting to try them here and so we did. There are several kinds on the menu, but we got the ones with lamb. Notice how huge these are; they were about the size of my fist, not like the ones we typically make. Also, notice that they’re served with sour cream and vinegar (the bottle behind the dish). You typically don’t mix the vinegar and sour cream, it’s either or. These were so right. I can’t say that about many places, but not many places claim to have Uzbek food. But these were sooooo good! And huge… The dough was a tad thick, but barely noticeable, and the meat was all good. The spices, meat to fat ratio, and all other aspects of manti were nearly perfect. I’d definitely recommend that dish to anyone.

Liver Shashlik - shish-kebab

Liver Shashlik - shish-kebab

We also ordered liver shashlik (shish-kebab). I think this specific type is called “djigar”, but I could be wrong. Someone correct me on this please. I don’t understand why it was served with the veggies. But ok. The onion is the authentic part of how it’s typically served. None of us liked this dish. It was too dry.

Liver Shashlik - shish-kebab

Liver Shashlik - shish-kebab

See in the picture how dry it was? It should be a lot more pink in the middle. It was like rubber; a workout for our knives and teeth. I hope they improve this. When it’s right, it melts in your mouth and has a very nice mouth feel, like pate. When it’s right even a baby/toddler could eat it.

Shashlik - shish-kebab

Shashlik - shish-kebab

Next, we tried “regular” shashlik. I must say that this is made from beef and not lamb, that’s why it’s in quotes. It’s as “regular” as you can have there. This is a hit or miss dish. The first time I had it I didn’t like because it had some weird spices. The server must have heard me describe that and had the kitchen leave it off this time so it was actually pretty good this time. It was seasoned and marinated properly and was very soft. Each skewer had plenty of meat and a serving is more than plenty.

Samsa - Uzbek dish

Samsa - Uzbek dish

The first time I was at this restaurant I also tried samsa. It was pretty good, but not how I remember, but then again, it’s been more than 20 years since I’ve had an authentic samsa. And this one was also very huge. These portions are very filling.
So let’s start at the beginning.

Samsa - inside view

Samsa - inside view

A samsa is a minced meat, fat, spices, and onion mixture that’s wrapped in dough and baked in a tandoori oven (tandyr). There are several kinds: rounds ones made from regular dough and triangular ones made of layered dough and not quite as tall as this one though they do puff up. This sucker was the size of my head! Not quite, but nearly. It also had more than onions for veggies but I couldn’t discern what all comprised the mixture. Still, it was very good. When made in a tandyr, the crust that forms on the bottom is very crunchy and the top is soft and when you bite into it, the juices run down your chin and the steam that escapes is like a sigh of contentment. I actually have a recipe that I’ve been thinking of trying for this.

Plov - Uzbek dish

Plov

And finally, what I always crave. Plov! This is definitely not for the weight-watching crowd. This thing is packed with most delicious calories. You got beef, fat, oil, rice, carrots, and other yummies. Don’t get me wrong, plov is worth it! This is my “holy grail”, something I really want to learn to make; I don’t have the correct pot for this (it’s cooked in a “kazan“, a cast-iron pot much like a dutch oven that’s not enameled). So if you know where I can get my hands on a kazan, PLEASE LET ME KNOW!
This dish alone is worth the trip (because I can’t make it home at the moment, not because it’s legendarily good). It’s the only consistently good dish I’ve had here (but I’ve only been here twice…) and I would go there just for it again, even if the meat was just a tad dry.  That they use beef instead of lamb is not authentic but that substitution is made often enough. It’s good, but don’t get me wrong, any competent home cook can make something far better. My grandma’s plov is hands-down a thousand times better; it’s legendarily good.  And I can’t even learn it (no kazan)!  Grrrr!  I tried a few times in an enameled cast iron pot, but everything sticks, so there’s burned rice on the bottom affecting the taste of everything else. But it was still edible.

Note: if you’re familiar with Indian cuisine, some things might look/taste familiar (like the use of lamb, rice, and spices).  Uzbek food is delicately spiced, but not spicy-hot; it’s heavy on the meat and very filling. (With all that we ordered, we had a lot of leftovers.)

Bring an empty stomach and an open mind if you’ve never tried these dishes before.

Grandpa’s Mashkurda (Машхурда)

After a long but unintentional absence from the blog, I have a recipe to make up for the absence.  I don’t know if this recipe is “authentic Uzbeck”, but this is how my grandpa does it, so that’s how I made it.  Having been making this for ages and ages, he wasn’t really clear on all the quantities and such, so I had to improvise a little and guess at times as well.

Ingredients:
1.5-2 lb of lamb (diced into large-ish pieces since the meat will shrink during cooking)
1 large onion
2 medium carrots (cut thinly into half or quarter moons)
1.5 cups of mung bean
3/4 cup of rice
1-2 TBSP of each: ground cumin, ground corriander, corriander, cumin (yes, I used both ground and whole)
Salt, pepper to taste.
6.5-7 cups of water (depending on how well done you like the beans and rice and how “liquidy” you like the dish)
Olive oil

Lamb pieces cut up

Lamb pieces cut up

Lamb pieces

Lamb pieces

Steps:
1. In a dutch oven, brown the meat and cook for about 5 minutes.
2. Add the onions and cook till they’re translucent. Reduce heat to medium or medium-low.
3. Add water, carrots, and mung. When adding the water, I added it about a cup or so at a time. Mainly so I would know how much I’d need since I didn’t get a measurement for it from grandpa. So just keep adding water to keep things pretty moist, so things don’t dry out and stick to the pan. Cook this until the mung starts to “split” or get really soft. For me, it took about 5-6 cups of water.
4. Add rice. You might need to add more water at this point, so the rice can cook.
5. Place a lid and reduce to low. Cook for about 10-20 minutes. Depending on how “wet” or “soft” you want the final dish. I think I cooked it just a few minutes too long when I set it to 20 minutes. But hey, this is my first attempt.

Lamb, Mung, Carrots

Lamb, Mung, Carrots

Lamb, Mung, Carrots, Rice

Lamb, Mung, Carrots, Rice

Nearly done

Nearly done

Done!

Done!

*IMPORTANT NOTES*
1. When I got the meat home, I salted it before sticking into the fridge. I think it makes it much more tender and flavorful when cooking.
2. Season the meat after cutting it up and let it sit for a bit and absorb the cumin and corriander.
3. Season the dish as you go along. I add spices, salt, pepper throughout the cooking process.

Shashlik (shish-kabob/ шашлык) – authentic Uzbek dish

I have to admit something.  I am a bit of a purist when it comes to certain things and Uzbek food happens to be one of them.  See, some of my friends try to tell me that they make great kabobs and then they go into great detail telling me how they marinate it in vinegar (eek!) and that they use pork (oy!).  I grit my teeth and smile and since “sounds nice”.  But to me, that’s just meat on a stick.  Actually, anything that deviates from the shashlik I grew up with is just meat on a stick.  The recipe that follows is a little unusual, but trust me, if you make it this way, you’ll never call anything else “shish-kabob”. Actually, my friends who have tasted this divine food, are still talking about it longingly, nine years later. We don’t do this often because as you can see, it’s very labor intensive. But it’s SO GOOD AND SO WORTH IT!

But first things first.  The ingredients.  Shish-kabob (shashlik) is made mostly from lamb and sometimes from calf liver.  I can’t remember ever eating chicken shish-kabobs, but I’m sure there are some varieties.  Also, meat can be ground and then shaped around the skewer, but it has a different name then (I forgot what it is).  Then you need spices (salt, cumin, coriander) and seltzer water.

1. You start with a leg of lamb in a quantity that depends on how many people you’ll feed (I’d recommend at least a pound per person).  Cut up the meat and the fat into bite-sized pieces.  Don’t forget the fat.  It’s delicious.  Trust me.

2. Marinate the meat and the fat with the spices and a bottle of seltzer water.  Never use anything sour like vinegar or wine when marinating lamb (at lest for shish-kabobs) since it will make the meat tough.  Be sure to turn the meat all around to make sure it’s evenly marinated.  It’s best to marinate at least 8 hours, but a full 24 hours is better.

3. You need a special grill called mangal (mahn-gahl).  You can use your regular charcoal grill, but it will take longer because a regular grill isn’t as large.  Cook till it’s done.

4. Serve with a tomato salad or with vinegared onions (soak onions in vinegar for a few hours and sprinkle with some paprika).

Skewers

Skewers

Close-up of shashlik.  See that fat?  YUM!

Close-up of shashlik. See that fat? YUM!

Mangal emty

Mangal emty

Shish-kabobs on Mangal

Shish-kabobs on Mangal

Served with onions

Served with onions

So, unless your shish-kabobs are like these, though tasty it might be, it’s just meat on a stick to me. 😉

Shurpa

Shurpa

Shurpa

When I say we cooked yesterday, I mean we really cooked. In addition to Nora’s Salad and Damlyama, we also made Shurpa. Shurpa is a rich and brothy lamb soup that warms your soul. There are many variations, mainly having to do with vegetables and garbanzo beans. My dad likes garbanzo beans in shurpa and that’s how we made it back home, so that’s how we made it here too, though many people leave out the garbanzo beans. The main thing to keep in mind is that you want the broth to be clear and free of color. Take a look at the picture at the bottom of this post. That is why the vegetables are generally whole or halved. But here is our version. Nora, please correct me where/if I missed anything.

Veggies in Shurpa

Veggies in Shurpa. See the carrots, onion, greens, and pepper chunks? See the floating tomato half?

Ingredients:
2 whole carrots
1 small onion whole
1 tomato (we used Roma) cut in half
1/2 red pepper (cut 2 sides off)
2 lbs of garbanzo beans (we used 2 1-lb cans drained)
1/2 large onion cut into half moons
2 lbs of lamb (get soup bones, not just the fleshy bits)
1.5 – 2 LB of potatoes
Salt, black pepper (whole, not ground!), cumin (all to taste)
parsley and dill (about 10 stems or so whole, if they’re kinda full)
parsley and dill for garnish (put into each plate, about a teaspoon each plate)
Water

Steps:
1. Salt the meat and put into a large pot (a stock pot would work). Cover with water and let come to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat but keep it at a low boil. When the meat is cooking, you will see a grayish film bubble up (I’m sure there is a name for it, I just don’t know what it is in English), but be sure to skim it off; nobody wants to eat that.
2. Add the carrots, small whole onion, 2 halves of the tomato, pepper pieces, and parsley.
3. Cook for about a half hour and then add the garbanzo beans. Season.
4. About a half hour before the soup is done, add the potatoes which have been cut into bite size pieces.
5. Cook for about 4 hours total, on a low boil.

Potatoes in Shurpa

Potatoes in Shurpa

Brothy Shurpa

Brothy Shurpa

Damlyama (Uzbek dish)

Damlyama

Damlyama

I’ve never eaten an Uzbek dish that isn’t tasty. They just don’t exist. This is also a layered dish. I guess we had a subconscious theme today with this dish and Nora’s Salad. So, here’s another finger-licking goodness and this one packs a TON of veggies.

 
 
Ingredients:
1-2 lbs of lamb
2 zucchinis
2 yellow zucchinis (summer squash)
2 large onions
4 or more tomatoes
2 large carrots
2 red bell peppers
1/2 – 1 eggplant
1 head of cabbage (remove core)
Spices (salt, cumin, freshly ground black pepper)

Steps:
1. Cut all vegetables into rounds about 1/4 inch thick. Cut the eggplant a little thicker otherwise it gets too soggy.
2. Cut the meat into 1 inch pieces. Salt & pepper the meat. Sear it over high heat, especially if the lamb has fat, put the fat side down so it can melt & brown-up what’s left. If the lamb doens’t have enough fat, add some oil while browning.
3. Layer the ingredients as follows:

  • Lamb
  • Zucchini
  • Summer Squash
  • Onion
  • Tomato
  • Carrots
  • Bell Pepper
  • Eggplant
  • Cabbage

The main thing here is that the meat is on the bottom and that the cabbage covers everything. I don’t know if it matters what order the veggies are between the meat and cabbage layer.

Season each layer.

Cover with a heavy lid and cook on a low heat for about 1 and a half to 2 hours. If you like your veggies crisper, cook less, but make sure the meat is cooked.

As you can see in the picture, my dutch oven is a tad too small, so we had to improvise since the dish basically steams. So we put a serving platter on top and covered with the lid. In order to capture the steam, we put 2 clean kitchen towels around the rim.

Layer of Veggies

Layer of Veggies

Layer of Veggies

Layer of Veggies

Layer of Veggies

Layer of Veggies

 
 
 
 
 
 

I need a bigger dutch oven.

I need a bigger dutch oven. And a bigger kitchen

Finished Damlyama

Finished Damlyama

Manti – an authentic Uzbek dish (манты)

Manti on a platter

Manti on a platter

I (and my family) have been craving this staple of Uzbek cooking for more than a decade, maybe even as long as 15 years. You see, this isn’t a dish you make every day or even every weekend.  This is a dish for special occasions.  It requires absolutely the freshest lamb, from a butcher shop, not a grocery store, and a specific steamer (мантышница).  Since there are no Uzbek restaurants where I live, not even a decent middle-eastern or central-asian restaurant, so we couldn’t even go out and get this dish. The dish is juicy, flavorful, scrumptious, recognizable by the “number 8” design on top, and completely depends on fresh ingredients. It does take about 4 hours to make, from starting the dough until you taste your first deliciously luscious manta (manti is plural of manta). Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.

So we were very excited when a new friend offered to show me how to make these delicious morsels.  How could I pass up such an offer, especially from someone who would show me the authentic way to do this (yes, she is an Uzbek, from Uzbekistan).  Doesn’t get better than that when it comes to authenticity of food.  She made everything from scratch, and I helped chop some things.  Since I don’t have the exact amounts of what we did, I do have a recipe that explains the basics of the mechanics.

But first, a few tips.
Tip 1. No, there is no substitute for the fat. If you’re uncomfortable with it, just don’t make the dish.
Tip 2. DON’T drink anything cold WHILE eating it or AFTER. You can get serious stomach issues.
Tip 3. Drink hot green tea during or after the meal. Skip the soda. Seriously.
Tip 4. Some people like to dunk manti into vinegar, so it’s an option.

Ingredients for filling:
Lamb – 500grams
Lamb fat – 50 grams (DON’T SKIP THIS!)
Onions – 4-6 medium
Salt, freshly ground black pepper, cumin – to taste

Ingredients for dough:
All purpose white flour – 400 g
Water – 1/2 cup
Salt

Steps for the Dough:
1. Salt the water to be saltier than what you think is salty enough. Add the salted water to the flour and mix until the dough comes together. Since the last time I made dough I was about 15 and I don’t really remember any nuances about making dough. When talking to Nora, the friend who was making these scrumptious packets, she said that dough can be finicky and the amount of water depends on the how dry the flour is and such things.
2. When the dough comes together, separate it into 2 equal parts and let rest for about half an hour.
3. Kneed the dough until until it’s all soft and no more lumps are visible.
4. Roll it out to be very thin (not too thin, but thin enough to steam the meat mixture that will go inside, about 1/4 of an inch, or slightly less).
5. Cut the dough into about 3 inch squares. If the squares aren’t exact, that’s OK.

Lumpy dough

Lumpy dough

Lumpy dough resting

Lumpy dough resting

Rested dough, ready to roll

Rested dough, ready to roll

 

 

 

 

 

Steps for the meat:
When we got the lamb from the butcher, we got it in sections about 1-2 pounds in weight and still on the bone.

1. Our first task was to dice the meat into very small pieces, about 1/16th inch in size. Dice/Mince the fat too.  None of that ground meat some recipes call for.  This isn’t “pel’meni” (Russian style tortellini).
2. Dice/mince the onion to be in very small pieces, but don’t use the grater or a food processor. You want pieces of onion, not just onion juice and pulp.
3. Season with salt, pepper, and cumin.
4. Mix all together. Though the ingredients state that there should be about 10% of fat to lamb ratio, but Nora suggests more like 30%. So that’s what we did. The fat gives the juice/moisture/flavor when the packets are steamed.

Small dice of lamb

Small dice of lamb

Another view of lamb diced

Another view of lamb diced

 

 

 

 

 
Steps for assembling:
1. Spoon the meat mixture into the center of the dough square.
2. Fold 2 opposite sides of the dough so they meet above the meat mixture.
3. Fold the other 2 sides just like in Step 2. Now you should have all sides folded up above the meat mixture and you have 4 corners.
4. Put your finger to one of the side and fold 2 corners so they meet.
5. Do the same Step 4 on the opposite side. The top should look like it has a an “8” on the top.

Filling on Dough - Step 1

Filling on Dough - Step 1

Folded Manta - Step 3

Folded Manta - Step 3

Folded sides - Step 4

Folded sides - Step 4

Finished Manta

Finished Manta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To cook, place these assembled manti into a special steamer (мантышница). Mine has 4 tiers, a main pot for the water to boil in, and a lid. Fill the main pot with about 8-10 cups of water and boil. Let it boil for about 45 minutes, and manti should be all ready. I’ll update the post once I have a picture of the steamer.

Here I’m sacrificing a few manti to show you the inside. Please keep in mind that these are picked up by hand and if you can put the whole thing in your mouth, do. You don’t want any of the juice escaping. 🙂

 

 

Open manti

Open manti

Close-up of an open manta

Close-up of an open manta

Juicy manti

Juicy manti