Saturday, 7 January 2012

Lamb, Feta and Sumac Piroshki

Piroshki is a blanket term for little Russian pies that come with various fillings and can be baked, fried or poached. My filling is inauthentic, I've gone for Middle-Eastern flavours, but the pastry is traditional. I've justified the feta and sumac with some stretches of geography, Georgia borders Russia, Georgian food has influences from the Middle East... but really, they taste so good, so that should be reason enough to make them.

I first came across the idea for these pastries in Meat by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, as a way to use up leftover roast lamb, it does make a change from the usual shepherd's pie. When I came to make them this time, I only had about 1/2 the amount of suggested meat, so made up the remaining weight with crumbled feta. That inspired the use of sumac, a tart red spice that is favoured in Turkey and the Middle East.

For the pastry:
225g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
a little beaten egg, to glaze
For the filling:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds, ground
1 tsp coriander seeds, ground
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
100 grams leftover roast lamb, finely chopped
a little liquid- stock, wine or water
1 tsp sumac
pinch chilli powder
100 grams feta, crumbled
Start by making the pastry: sift the flour, salt and baking powder together into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre. Whisk together the oil and eggs, then pour into the well. Gradually draw in the dry ingredients to the liquid with a wooden spoon, then beat until smooth. You are looking for a soft but not sticky dough, add a little cold water if you need it. On a lightly floured surface, knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, covered, and leave for around an hour while you get on with the filling.

Heat the olive oil over  medium heat, and add the spices. Cook for about 1 minute, then add the onion and garlic. Let them cook gently until they are softened. The turn up the heat and add the lamb. Let it brown slightly, then turn the heat down, and add your chosen liquid, jut enough to lubricate it, not so much as to drown it. Let it cook for another 3 minutes over a low heat, then remove. Stir in the sumac and chilli powder and season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool, then mix in the crumbled feta.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking tray Roll out the dough on a floured surface, and cut out 8cm rounds with a cutter. Put a spoonful of filling onto each round, slightly off-centre. Moisten the edges with a little water and a pastry brush, and fold the dough over to meet the other side, pressing down to seal. Using your hands, shape them into a crescent. Transfer to the baking sheet, and brush with beaten egg. Bake for 10-15 minute until the piroshki are nicely browned, and serve warm.

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