I’ve got a fun Sunday project!
You could do this on any day of the week really, but these dumplings are a multi-step process that to me, sounds like an ideal way to spend a lazy Sunday, making each component in an unhurried way, slowly working your way to a pre-Monday supper.
What we’ve got here are pelmeni, those little Russian dumplings that can be filled with either meat or vegetables, or even sweet cheese for a dessert. The surprising information I have to admit is that before I made these, I’d never actually eaten pelmeni! I’ve only read about them, my mouth watering at the very idea of them, and imagining taking my dumpling obsession beyond dim sum to Siberia.
Thanks to that obsession, I put the Kachka cookbook on my wish list last year, and my friend Ginny bought it for my birthday. I immediately bought myself a pelmenista, or pelmeni shaper, but then both sat unused for over a year. That’s the way it tends to go in my kitchen. I’m always meaning to get to a certain project, but it can take time, as I balance my desire to cook everything with the limitations of only having to feed one person. But then I realized, um, these are perfectly freezable, so what was I waiting for? I wouldn’t have to eat over 100 dumplings in one go!
You might be wondering why I can’t just feed these to my friends? I would, but unfortunately the two friends who live closest to me, and are therefore available for a last-minute dumpling party, both have an aversion to lamb dumplings brought on by a truly horrific encounter with lamb dim sum a few years ago. I haven’t been able to convince them to give ground lamb another try since.
And I really, really wanted to make lamb for these! Because the other dumpling obsession I’ve been nurturing is Turkish manti, teeny, tiny meat-filled dumplings served in a tomato sauce with tons of flavor. I had a version in Sydney that may have been filled with short rib if I’m remembering correctly, but I knew they are traditionally made with lamb, and so in my head, if I was going to make manti, I was going to make them with lamb.
But have I mentioned how tiny manti are? I mean, I’m here trying to convince you to make these already small-ish dumplings, but I’m not sure I can even convince myself to make manti, they are so intricate and baby sized. So I started thinking about a sort of cheater’s version, and I remembered that pelmeni mold collecting dust in my closet.
And ta da! I have the manti flavors I wanted, brought to me by way of Russian innovation and inspiration. The final result is delicious! Rich, lamb-filled dumplings swimming in flavorful butter and yogurt, and topped with a shower of mint to lighten everything up and add a bit of freshness. These dumplings are indulgent, but worth it, in my opinion, and I have a stash in my freezer that will keep giving until I’m ready to try my hand at real, doll-sized manti.
For the dumpling dough:
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbs kosher salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tbs cold water
For the Garlic Yogurt:
1 cup plain yogurt
1 /2 tsp grated garlic
kosher salt, to taste
milk or water, if needed, for thinning
For the Tomato Butter:
4 tbs salted butter
2 tbs tomato sauce
1 tsp smoked paprika
For the lamb filling:
1 lb ground lamb
1/2 large or 1 small onion, grated
slightly less than 1/2 cup cold water (100 ml)
2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tbs dried parsley
Crushed red pepper
Make the dumpling dough: In the bowl of a mixer, add the flour and salt. Using a dough hook, stir the flour and salt together on low speed. Add the egg, and while the mixer is running, slowly add in the water. Stir on low speed until the dough starts to come together, then knead on medium speed for 10 minutes, until the dough consistency is smooth and elastic (if kneading by hand, this will take about double the time). Turn out dough and wrap in plastic, then let rest for at least 1 hour at room temperature.
While dough is resting, prepare everything else. Make the garlic yogurt: combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine. Taste and adjust salt as needed, and thin out with a little milk or water if the yogurt seems especially thick. You don’t want it too thin but you want to be able to drizzle it onto the dumplings instead of plop it.
Make the tomato butter by adding all the ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat, and whisk while the butter melts, until a smooth sauce forms. Set aside, keeping warm on low heat, or transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate until needed. The heat from the cooked dumplings will help warm it.
Make the lamb filling: Place all the filling ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer, this time fitted with the paddle attachment. Stir everything together until it’s all incorporated and the fat from the lamb coats everything. The mixture should feel very sticky. This should only take up to a couple minutes, or slightly longer if mixing by hand.
Form the dumplings: when the dough has rested and everything else is prepared, you are ready to assemble! I used a pelmeni mold, but I’ve included instructions below for forming by hand if you don’t want to buy one. Divide the dough into 8 equal parts and roll into balls. Cover with a dish towel, and take one ball of dough. Dust your countertop and the pelmeni mold with flour, and roll out the first dough ball into a thin round that is slightly larger than the mold. Drape it over the mold and lightly press so you can see the outline of the mold underneath.
Using a teaspoon measure, scoop a teaspoon of filling into each little dimple. Once all are filled, roll out a second sheet of dough. Lightly brush the dough around the filling with a little water, and drape the second sheet of dough over top. With your rolling pin, roll across the top, firmly pressing down on the mold. This will push the filling down into the bottom dough sheet and cut out the little hexagonal dumpling shapes, sealing them in the process. It’s kind of actual magic. Transfer the dumplings to a floured baking sheet and toss a bit to coat in flour and stop them from sticking to each other. Repeat with remaining filling and dough. I was able to get about 112 dumplings, and you will have a bit of dough left over.
Once dumplings are formed, you can freeze them in a single layer on the baking sheet and then transfer to a plastic bag for storage when they are frozen. If you are ready to eat them now, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the dumplings. For the molded dumplings, a generous portion is about 20. Lower the heat a bit to keep everything at a steady but gentle boil and cook for about 5 minutes. If cooking from frozen, add a couple minutes to the cooking time.
For serving, remove the boiled dumplings from the pot with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl. Add a generous amount of garlic yogurt and tomato butter, and toss everything to combine a bit. Sprinkle with chili flakes and some fresh, torn or chopped mint, and serve while piping hot.
If you want to make the dumplings by hand without the mold, it’s no more difficult but a little more time consuming, but similar to forming ravioli or potstickers. Divide dough into 4 pieces instead of 8, and roll out the first piece on a floured surface until very, very thin (think pasta). Cut into rounds with a 2-inch cutter, and fill each circle with about 2 teaspoons of filling. Brush the edges with water, and fold the edges together to form a half circle shape. Pull the edges together and press to seal into a tortellini-like shape. Follow the same instructions for freezing and serving, though you may need to cook a bit longer due to the larger size.