Home RecipesMeat Zur Belish, Tatar Meat and Potato Pie

Zur Belish, Tatar Meat and Potato Pie

by Florian
Zur Belish, Tatar Meat Pie

About three years ago, I found a little cookbook called Bayram: Bashkir and Tatar Cuisine, with plenty of inspiring recipes and attractive pictures, which I promptly used to create my Lamb Shanks Ufa. The book kind of got buried in my shelves since then, so I thought it was time to unearth it for another take on Tatar gastronomy.

In many aspects, Tatar food is a cross between Central Asian and Russian cuisines — plov and shurpa meet pirozhki and cutlets. Onions, carrot, horseradish, turnips, pumpkins, beets, and potatoes are the most popular vegetables, and meat is typically beef, mutton, goose, or duck, all for their generous fat content. Pastries, both savory and sweet, feature prominently, and Bayram dedicates an entire chapter to them. Belish (or bäleş when using the Tatar spelling with the appropriate diacritical marks), in particular, is a savory pie filled with pieces of any of the above-mentioned fatty meats, mixed with grains or potatoes.  Traditionally made for special occasions, it took the shape of a low truncated cone, the small opening on top being covered by another piece of dough used as a lid.

A belish can be made small (vak belish) or large (zur belish). Today’s recipe makes a large one, and one duck yields the perfect amount of meat for one pie. I doubt that many Tatars prepare their ducks with as much complexity as I do, but I like the variety of textures that the confit and ground meat bring to the filling; this is the same idea as what I did in my Venison and Root Vegetable Tourtière. I gleaned all the other flavors from various recipes in the Bayram cookbook: horseradish, star anise, parsley, and olives (I was a bit surprised by this last one, as Russia is only a marginal producer and consumer of olives). Finally, in lieu of a sauce I added a dollop of hollandaise to bring a touch of acidity, color, and science — while more traditional recipes require skill and practice, this water bath + siphon approach, courtesy of Chef Steps, is fool-proof.

Zur Belish, Tatar Meat Pie

Duck fabrication
Yields 8 servings

1 whole duck, about 2600 g

  • Separate the wings, legs, and breasts from the carcass. Cut the wings at the first joint.
  • Reserve the legs (drumsticks and thighs) and wing first joints with their skin on for the confit (in my case, they weighed a total of 730 g).
  • Skin the breasts, and reserve for the forcemeat (about 400 g).
  • Cut the carcass into a few pieces, and reserve together with the wing tips for the duck stock (about 750 g).
  • Reserve the liver for the zur belish sauce.
  • We’ll use some of the fat (which includes the skin) in several steps below, but the typical farmed American duck yields way more fat than needed.

Duck stock
Yields about 1200 g stock

25 g canola oil
duck carcass and wing tips (about 750 g)
250 g peeled onions, large dice
125 g peeled carrots, large dice
125 g peeled celery, large dice
black pepper, ground
1 bay leaf
5 g parsley
250 g red wine
1000 g water

  • In a pressure cooker, heat the oil over high heat. Add the carcass and wing tips, and sauté until brown, stirring regularly.
  • Add the onions, carrots, and celery, and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper, then add the bay leaf, parsley, and red wine. Bring to a simmer, and reduce for another couple minutes.
  • Add the water, cover the cooker with its lid, and bring to pressure. Cook for 1 hour, and let rest until the pressure goes down.
  • Strain the stock through a chinois, let cool, and refrigerate.
  • Once cold, discard the layer of fat from the top.

Duck confit
Yields 8 servings

duck legs and wing first joints (about 730 g)
18.3 g salt (2.5 % of the weight of the above duck parts)
120 g duck skin / fat

  • Season the legs and wing joints with salt, then place into a sous-vide pouch with the skin. Vacuum-seal, and cook in a 74 C / 165 F water bath for 16 hours. Let cool, and reserve.

Zur Belish, Tatar Meat Pie

Duck forcemeat
Yields 8 servings

duck breasts, skin removed (about 400 g)
100 g duck skin / fat
7 g salt
1 g curing salt
0.5 g ground black pepper
1 g ground star anise

  • Cut the duck breasts and skin into large dice. Transfer to a bowl, and mix with the salt, curing salt, pepper, and star anise.
  • Pass the mixture through the coarse die of a meat grinder. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

Pie crust
Yields 1 pie (8 servings)

150 g milk
2 eggs (about 100 g)
110 g butter, melted
15 g sugar
7 g salt
560 g flour, sifted

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment, mix the milk and eggs on low speed. With the mixer still running, add the melted butter, sugar, and salt, then add the flour progressively, and mix until homogenous.
  • Knead the dough by hand for about 30 seconds, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 30 minutes.

Zur Belish, Tatar Meat Pie

Zur belish
Yields 1 pie (8 servings)

500 g peeled Yukon Gold potatoes, large dice
duck forcemeat
40 g canola oil
200 g peeled cipollini onions, sliced
black pepper, ground
0.8 g star anise, ground
pie crust
duck confit
50 g butter
duck stock
40 g duck liver

  • Cook the potatoes in boiling water (without salt) for 10 minutes. They won’t be completely cooked, but that’s OK. Reserve.
  • In a pan over high heat, sauté the duck forcemeat in 1/3 of the oil until brown, stirring regularly. Reserve.
  • In the same pan, over medium heat, sauté the onions in the rest of the oil until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper, add the star anise, and cook for another minute, stirring constantly. Reserve.
  • Take about 3/4 of the pie crust, and roll to a 35 cm diameter disc. Transfer to a greased 21 cm diameter, 5 cm high, fluted tart pan with a removable bottom.
  • In a bowl, mix the potatoes, duck forcemeat, duck confit, and onions. Transfer the mixture to the pie, then dice the butter on top. Fold the edges of the crust inward, over the filling.
  • Roll the rest of the pie crust to a 18 cm disc, and place on top of the pie. Seal the top crust by pinching it to the bottom crust flaps, and carve a chimney in the center. Bake in 175 C  / 350 F oven for 1 hour.
  • Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, reduce the duck stock to about 175 g. Transfer to a blender, and process with the duck liver.
  • Take the pie out of the oven, pour the stock into the chimney, and then cook for another 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven, and let rest for about 15 minutes.

Hollandaise sauce
Yields over 8 servings

40 g Champagne vinegar
25 g shallots, minced
150 g butter, large dice
85 g egg yolk (about 5 yolks)
60 g water
20 g lemon juice
5 g salt

  • Combine the vinegar and shallots in a small saucepan, and reduce by half over high heat.
  • Strain the vinegar reduction, and transfer to a sous-vide pouch with the butter, egg yolks, water, lemon juice, and salt. Cook in a 75 C / 167 F water bath for 30 minutes.
  • Transfer the contents of the pouch to a 1 liter siphon, and charge with two cartridges of N2O. Shake several times, then reserve in a  65 C / 150 F water bath until serving.

Yields 8 servings

zur belish
hollandaise sauce
16 Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
about 20 g peeled fresh horseradish
parsley, finely chopped

  • Separate the top crust from the pie (you can serve it on the side if you like), then cut the pie into 8 slices.
  • Place one slice on each plate, garnish with 4 olive halves, then cover with some hollandaise sauce. Grate some horseradish on top using a Microplane grater, and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Zur Belish, Tatar Meat Pie

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