Dolma Shurpa, Uzbek Stuffed Vegetable Broth

I’ve previously posted a pepper dolma recipe from Azerbaijan, but today’s dish hails from Uzbekistan and is prepared fairly differently. Shurpa means soup or broth in Uzbek, and the stuffed vegetables here are served in a flavorful broth. My recipe is loosely adapted from Hakim Ganiev‘s Oriental Feast, but I’ve made many changes, such as the use of my beloved pressure cooker.

Uzbek Cuisine - Dolma Shurpa

You can choose any combination of summer vegetables you like: large, ripe tomatoes and peppers of various colors work great, as do round heirloom eggplants and zucchini. The exact amount of meat stuffing will of course depend on the size of the vegetables. Speaking of the stuffing, you’ll notice that it doesn’t contain any rice, just some of the vegetable flesh sautéed with onions in olive oil.

The stock that serves as base for the broth needs to be extremely flavorful. I recommend preparing a batch of lamb stock in a pressure cooker, using the bones from the leg or shoulder. If you have the patience, you can even make a “double” stock: make a first batch of stock using water, then make a second batch from scratch (don’t reuse the bones and vegetables, obviously!) using the first stock as your cooking liquid. When cooking the dolma, I add some yellow and orange carrots to the stock — carrots are everywhere in Uzbekistan, and yellow carrots are particularly favored in Tashkent.

As is often the case with Uzbek cuisine, this rustic dish will taste even better with fresh bread. The bread in question, called non in Uzbek and lepyoshka in Russian, is a leavened round loaf flattened in the center, and baked in a tandoor. My non recipe is inspired quite generally by Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. It may not follow traditions to a tee, but a) it doesn’t require a tandoor oven that you and I don’t have, and b) it tastes, smells, and looks great. In any case I’d much prefer a slightly unconventional but freshly baked non to a cold (or worse, stale) bread made with the most traditional recipe. I realize that covering your countertops with flour and blasting your oven to a burning 550 F right before serving dinner may not be your idea of entertainment, but believe me, it is well worth the effort.

Tashkent - National Food Restaurant - Dolma Shurpa

Dolma Shurpa with Braised Lamb, at National Food Restaurant in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Vegetable fabrication
Yields 8 servings

4 peppers of various colors
2 beefsteak tomatoes
2 round-shaped eggplants
salt

  • Cut and discard the tops of the peppers, remove the cores and cut off the white membranes. Rinse the insides under cold water to remove all the seeds.
  • Cut and reserve the tops of the tomatoes. Carve out the tomato flesh with a melon baller. Discard the seeds as much as possible (you don’t have to do a perfect job), and reserve the flesh.
  • Cut and discard the tops of the eggplants. If the eggplants are oval rather than round, cut away the tops to achieve a form factor similar to the peppers and tomatoes. Carve out the eggplant flesh with a melon baller and reserve.
  • Season the insides of all the vegetables with salt.

Vegetable mixture
Yields 8 servings

8 oz peeled onion, small dice
3 oz olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz eggplant flesh, small dice
8 oz seedless tomato flesh, small dice
salt
1/4 tsp Urfa pepper

  • In a pan over high heat, sauté the onion in half of the olive oil until soft. Add the garlic, the eggplant flesh, and the rest of the olive oil, and stir for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato flesh, and season with salt and Urfa pepper. Cook over high heat for 15 minutes, stirring regularly. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook for another 5-10 minutes, stirring constantly, until browned (but not burnt!).
  • Drain on paper towel and let cool. Finely chop the mixture, then transfer to a plastic container and refrigerate.

Dolma
Yields 8 servings

about 0.7 oz salt (see below)
28 oz cleaned lamb leg or shoulder meat (without bone or silverskin)
7 oz lamb fat
black pepper, ground
vegetable mixture
8 basil leaves, minced
hollowed peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants

  • Measure 2% of the total meat and fat weight in salt.
  • Cut about 1/4 of the lamb meat into 1/4″ cubes and reserve.
  • Cut the rest of the lamb meat and the lamb fat into large dice. Season with the salt and black pepper, then process in a meat grinder using the large die.
  • In a bowl, mix the meat cubes, ground meat, vegetable mixture, and basil until homogeneous.
  • Fill the hollowed peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants with the stuffing, and reserve. You can prepare these vegetable dolma one day in advance and wrap them individually in plastic film.

Uzbek Cuisine - Dolma Shurpa

Dolma shurpa
Yields 8 servings

1 oz olive oil
dolma
20 oz peeled yellow and orange carrots
salt
24 oz flavorful lamb stock (“double” stock even better)

  • Heat the olive oil in a pressure cooker over medium heat. Arrange the dolma in a single layer on the bottom. Cut the carrots into large chunks, and add to the pressure cooker. Sauté for about 2 minutes, season with salt, then add the lamb stock, cover the cooker, and bring to pressure over medium heat.
  • Lower the heat, and cook under pressure for 30 minutes. Let cool for another 30 minutes, and serve.

Non
Yields 6 nons

2 tsp (1 packet) active dry yeast
20 oz water, lukewarm
27.5 oz unbleached white flour (plus some extra for kneading)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil
egg wash made with 1 egg yolk mixed with 2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp cumin seeds

  • Sprinkle the yeast over 1/4 of the water, stir, and let rest for 5 minutes.
  • Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment, and add the rest of the water. Add half of the flour, then mix over medium speed for 1 minute.
  • With the mixer still on, mix in the salt and the rest of the flour in two additions.
  • Transfer to a lightly floured surface, and knead for about 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Transfer to a bowl brushed with olive oil, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 2 to 3 hours. The dough should double or triple in volume.
  • Punch the dough down, and divide into 6 balls. On a lightly floured surface, flatten each ball into an 8″ disc (proceed in batches if you prefer). Using a fork, poke the inner 6″ of each disc abundantly — traditionally, the center is completely flat and only the edge is leavened. Let rise in a warm place for 15-20 minutes. (If you’re lucky enough to have 2 ovens, you can place the breads in a 100 F oven.) You can even spray a little bit of water to create a moist atmosphere.
  • Place a pizza stone on the center rack of your oven, and preheat to 550 F.
  • Brush each bread with egg wash, sprinkle a few cumin seeds in the center, and bake 6 to 8 minutes, or until golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven, and let cool for a couple minutes. Eat immediately!

Uzbek Cuisine - Non / Lepyoshka

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