Chebureki
Thursday, 27 May 2010 22:53

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Chebureki (pronounced cheh-boo-rEh-keeh) are fried turnovers stuffed with ground lamb and herbs. They came to Russia from Crimean Tatars during the Soviet Union era. And though they are not a part of traditional Russian cuisine, every Russian knows them. And trust me, they are well worth knowing.

Imagine a pie with a light crispy and bubbly crust and flavorful herby interior so succulent that when you bite into it the juice will stream down your chin and fingers. If you don’t feel like wasting this delicious broth, hold your cheburek like a bowl and once you start eating eat never put it back on a plate. 

The traditional dough is extremely simple and consists of only flour, salt and water, which are mixed together and then kneaded very well. To my taste, this combination doesn’t yield that lightness of the crust I like, so I fix the situation by adding a bit of oil and vodka. 

You will need:

Dough:

  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3-4 Tbsp oil
  • 2 Tbsp vodka
  • A bit less than a cup of cold water (start with ¾ cup and see how it goes)

Stuffing:

  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 3-4 Tbsp finely chopped herbs, a combination of equal parts of parsley, dill, and cilantro
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • About ¼ cup meat stock, more or less as needed for desired consistency

Oil for frying

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I suggest starting with the stuffing as it needs more time to “mature.” Combine all the ingredients together and mix very well. The stuffing should very soft and easily spreadable, but not water. Refrigerate it for several hours to let the flavors meld together. 

For the dough, stir together flour and salt in a wide bowl and make a well in the center. Put oil, vodka, and water in the well. Stir the liquid ingredients with a fork or your fingers and then start making wider and wider circles to incorporate the flour. Once all the flour gets incorporated transfer the dough to a counter or a board and start kneading. Add more flour if needed, but try to avoid adding extra water. 

It may be hard to knead the dough at first and, perhaps, it will refuse to come together at all. Keep on working it and after 5-7 minutes it will change its mind and will become smooth and springy. Dust it with flour, wrap in plastic wrap and leave on a counter for at least half an hour. During this time, the gluten will relax and it will be easy to roll the dough into thin circles.

When you’re ready to make chebureki, divide the dough into 1.5-1.7 oz (45-50g) pieces and shape each into a ball. Take one dough ball at a time and roll it into a 6 inch circle. Put about 2 tablespoons of the stuffing on one half of the circle and then fold the other one on top to form a turnover. Press the rims with your fingers and then seal by rolling with a rolling pin. The point is to make rims very secure so that not a drop of the inside juice can escape into the frying oil. 

Trim the edge of the seam with a zigzag pasta cutter and put the cheburek on a floured surface. Proceed with making the rest of them and then start heating oil for frying.

Chebureki should be fried in a large amount of oil; almost deep fried. So, make sure that they don’t touch the bottom of a pan, which means that the depth of oil should be no less than 1 ¼ inches. Another important thing to consider is the temperature of oil. Chebureki are stuffed with raw meat, so our task is to let it cook through and at the same time not to burn the exterior. The ideal temperature to achieve this is 350-375 F. 

Put chebureki in hot oil, one or two at a time (they should have plenty of room there, so don’t overcrowd a pan) and fry until golden brown and bubbly on one side and then turn over. Each side will take about a minute and half or so. Take the cooked chebureki out and put on a platter lined with paper towel to absorb the excess of the oil. Don’t use sharp utensils with chebureki: they can pierce the crust and let the juices out. 

When you become an expert in chebureki making, you can start multitasking and save some time by making and frying chebureki at the same time. While one batch is being fried, you can make another one. But this will need some practice. 

Give chebureki a couple of minutes to rest – no longer, though – and bite in. Traditionally, chebureki are served all by themselves. If they are done right, no condiments are needed. But you still can make some spicy sauce to go with them, like spicy tomato salsa and hot pepper sauce.


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