Oh, yes, my friends. Sometimes the fortune just smiles upon you. And things work out the way you never thought they would. But much better. Hundred times better. We are talking, blog-worthy better. We are talking good pictures, and good recipe at the same time. On the same day. And even your five-year-old volunteering to help around the kitchen can’t get you off track.
Everything started on an ordinary Friday morning, when thinking about dinner, I dug up a reasonable size piece of lamb in the freezer. Pondering about all the meal choices which had to incorporate that lamb piece somehow, I remembered about an oldie but goodie — Chebureki — a kind of meat stuffed fried pie. I don’t make them very often, in fact, I’ve only made them a handful of times in my culinary life. I felt today may have been one of those days when I could spend a couple of hours in the kitchen laboring over the dough, filling, and frying…
No, wait… It’s the frying part that I was against. It’s too hot outside to be deep frying anything. Besides a piece of fried dough dripping with oil didn’t seem attractive enough for some reason. My mind started wondering (read: browsing the internet). I found a few variations of chebureki, where no frying was involved, and one post even suggested an open face baked version. Stop. That sounded pretty good. It was no longer a chebureki, but something quite different altogether.
And so I got to work. The recipe I found called for yeast dough and didn’t have much of a suggestion for the filling, just general ideas. It was completely open to interpretations. I wasn’t in the mood for yeast dough, so I decided to make the kind of dough that’s used for cream puffs — based on cooked flour mixture whisked with eggs and oil. For the filling I let my inner chef run the show and, after spending a few minutes helping my five-year-old daughter help me roll and pinch-pleat the dough, the pies were entrusted to the oven for the rest of the work. Done!
Throw in a fresh seedless cucumber salad, and a few mini asparagus spears, and we got ourselves a splendid, if I may say so myself, Friday meal.
Open Face Lamb Pie
Makes two 9-inch pies, which will easily feed 6 reasonably hungry people
For the dough:
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 tsp salt
- about 3 cups flour, divided
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp oil or melted butter
For the filling:
- 1-1/2 to 2 lbs of lamb, cut into small cubes
- 3 medium onions, coarsely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 4 generous tbsp yoghurt or an equivalent mix of milk and sour cream
- 1/2 tsp Garam Masala (Indian spice mix)
- 1/2 tsp curry spice mix
- 1 tsp crushed dried mint leaves
- 1 tsp salt
- fresh ground black pepper
- pinch of cinnamon
In a sauce pan, bring milk to a boil with salt. Remove from heat, and add 1 cup of flour right away, whisk immediately to prevent lumps forming. Continue stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula until smooth. Let cool until manageable by hand.
Meanwhile, whisk eggs and oil together. Once the cooked dough is easily handled without burning your fingers, work in the egg mixture until uniform. The dough will be quite runny at this point.
Add the rest of the flour in small batches, until bread-like dough forms. The dough may still be a bit sticky, but it will be smooth and elastic. It’s possible that you may need a bit less or a bit more flour than specified. Let the dough rest, covered with a towel, for at least 30 minutes.
Prepare the filling: mince the meat, onions and garlic in a processor. In a large bowl combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly until uniform in texture and sort of feathery and fluffy. It should feel like thick whipped cream when stirred. If it’s too stiff, add a bit more yoghurt. Take care not to make it too runny.
Heat the oven to 450°F.
Divide the dough in half. Roll each piece of dough on a well floured surface into a 15″ round. Transfer the round of dough onto a baking sheet (no greasing is necessary). Put half of the filling in the middle of the dough and spread evenly to form about 9-10″ inch circle. Fold the dough over the filling all the way around without covering the filling completely, lightly pinch-pleating it as shown on the photo.
Bake the pies at 450°F for about 15 minutes, or until the pie is nicely golden on top. Reduce the heat to 400°F and bake for another 30 minutes or so, until juice in the filling is almost completely reduced and the pie is nicely browned. You may need to swap the pies from lower to upper rack a few times to ensure even browning.
Remove from the oven while some of the liquid is still in the filling. It will set in a few minutes. At this point, you can garnish the pies with fresh basil or mint leaves.
Cover the hot pies with foil for a few minutes to keep the dough from becoming stiff.
Cut like a pizza pie, into 6 slices and serve.