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Saturday, 8 March 2014

How to make Shishbarak (The Arabic version of Tortellini), A Step-by-Step Tutorial

Nothing beats fresh home-made Shishbarak

"I hope that I may always desire more than I can accomplish"   - Michelangelo

I woke up very early this morning... loving how quiet the house is. I figured to get this post going before everyone wakes up and the rest of the weekend continues :)
A recipe post since it's been a while, and coming back with more adventure soon.

Shishbarak is a Levantine cuisine preparation, that is believed to have originated in Syria. However many people believe that it's real origin is Turkish. As with most Middle Eastern food the origins are very tricky to confirm, but whichever origin Shishbarak stems from, it is delightfully delicious and making it, to me, is very therapeutic.

Making Shishbarak is very similar to making pasta. It is essentially a dough casing, that is filled with a classic meat filling. It is very similar to the Italian Tortellini, in concept and final shape. Once the dough is rolled filled and shaped, it is then slightly baked in prepare it for freezing. Or cooked straight away if having it fresh. Making the Shishbarak is the first step, then using this Shishbarak in the making of a vriety of stews is the final product (check out the Shishbarak & Kubbeh Stew 'Kubbeh o Shishbarak Bilaban' on this link).

Making Shishbarak is very similar to making Pasta

The dough used for making Shishbarak is a basic and very simple dough. Consisting only of water, flour and salt. No leavening agent, no improvers... no additions. The idea is to achieve a slightly sticky dough, that will encase the filling. The dough does not need to rise, and in fact it has to be somewhat thin as to not overwhelm the flavour of the meat filling. Shishbarak is easy to make however could be slightly time consuming. But hey... if you are relaxed in your kitchen, and listening to your favourite tunes, clearing your mind and producing delicious fresh food, then I'd say this time was well spent.

Yalla let's get rolling...

I prefer to roll dough on a 100% cotton cloth
Check the tip for rolling

The size of the Shishbarak is optional. Some like it big, others prefer it small. I always go for smaller sizes, I find them to be more elegant and easier to present... for that, I use the standard 3 inch round cookie cutter.

You Need
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4- 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
Salt to taste

1 recipe Arabic Meat Filling (meat filling recipe on this link).

Start by making the dough. here is a quick tip:

Tip 1 The moistness of dough is highly dependent on environmental conditions. If the weather is humid, you will find that you need less water. If the weather is dry, you might need more water. All you need to do is add the water gradually and mix until you achieve a slightly sticky dough. If the dough is too sticky add more flour, if the dough is dry, add a little bit more water and so on.

Gradually add the water until you achieve a dough slightly sticky in consistency. Do not over work the dough or
it will toughen up

Place meat filling in a sieve over
a bowl to get rid of excess liquids
Place the flour in a large wide bowl, or on a clean work surface. Gradually add the water and mix using your finger tips. Once the flour and water start binding start gathering and pressing them down in a knead-like motion as in picture 2 above. Continue to add water and knead until a slightly sticky dough is achieved as in picture 3 above. Where the dough will stick slightly to your fingers, but not enough to cover them.

Cut the dough into 2 portions, roll into a ball and place into a bowl. Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes as in the last picture above (numbered 3 by mistake lol).

Meanwhile make the Arabic Meat Filling. Once the filling is finished, place in a sieve over a small bowl in order to get rid of any excess liquids. The liquids are not desirable here because they will affect the consistency of the Shishbarak dough. Placing the meat on the sieve is also good to cool it down, which makes it easier o handle.

Now you are ready to start rolling the dough. Rolling Shishbarak dough is best done using a pasta roller. It facilitates rolling dough into very thin sheets, which is what we are looking to achieve. You can use a traditional Italian Pasta Roller, or you can buy the Pasta rolling attachment for your stand mixer (Kitchen aid and Kenwood both have pasta rolling attachments). Set your pasta roller firmly on the table or hook the attachment to your kitchen machine. Set the roller on size 4 and sprinkle the tops - where the rollers are - slightly with flour.

Tip 2   I usually like to roll pasta, sticky doughs, cookie doughs most doughs really on a clean 100% cotton cloth instead of a work surface. I find this to give me the best results as it does not require the addition of a lot of flour to avoid stickiness, which eventually makes the dough dry. The cotton is stick-free :)

Rolling the dough for making Shishbarak
Cut each one of the 2 dough balls into 4 balls. Place the balls under a 100% cotton cloth - as in picture 1 above - to keep them from drying. Work with 1 ball at a time. Slightly roll the ball with a rolling pin as in picture 2. Take the disk of dough to the pasta roller and roll it as in picture 3. The dough will come out of the other end in the desired thickness as in picture 4 and 5. Super easy.

Cut out 3 inch rounds from the thin sough sheet using a cookie cutter
Once the dough sheet is rolled, place on slightly floured surface, and cut rounds using a cookie cutter as in picture 2 above. Place all the cut out dough circles under the cotton cloth to prevent drying out. Now you are ready to fill the dough.

Shaping the Shishbarak is what most find difficult. It is like shaping a ravioli
follow the instructions fully and you will have no problem at all
Place the dough cutout on a slightly floured surface. Top one half of the round with meat filling as in picture 1 above. Stay away from the edges or the dough will open up after cooking and that is the worst thing to happen! Fold the empty half of dough over the filling as in picture 2 and pinch the centre to seal the 2 dough sides together. Pinch all around the edge to seal the dough making sure no openings remain. The case would look like a crescent as in picture 3. Hold the crescent from either end and fold the right side over the left side and pinch the dough to hold the shape as in picture 4. Place the dough on the work surface and slightly press the top to flatten ever so little, as in picture 5. Place the finished Shishbarak piece on a floured tray, and keep uncovered to slightly dry. Continue the same process untill all dough and filling are consumed. :))

Once done and having placed all Shishbaraks on the tray, sprinkle the tops with a little more flour. Let stand for 15 minutes.

If going to freeze the Shishbarak, bake in 400F oven for 10-15 minutes to firm up and prepare for the freezer. If you freeze the dough without baking slightly, they will become soggy when thawed and might break up during cooking. Once baked, cool completely. Place in freezer safe containers, separated by wax or parchment paper. Otherwise you can just use them fresh for cooking.