aushak (afghan dumplings with meat sauce and yogurt)

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I’ve been on a bit of an Afghan kick.

Truth is, when I made kaddo bourani last week, what I really wanted was aushak, Afghan dumplings filled with scallions and leeks, served with a tomato-based meat sauce and garlic yogurt. I love both dishes and they’re both quite similar, but a hankering for dumplings just doesn’t go away. Living in a small college town without a car is its own kind of food desert, like why can’t I find any broccoli this week? Why is this small jar of tahini $10? And why oh why can’t I find wonton wrappers so I can make aushak? I was almost desperate enough to make the wrappers myself. It took some searching, but we did find an Asian market and stocked up on a variety of things, including wonton wrappers. To the kitchen we go!

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They’re dumplings, so the assembly is time consuming. I used to buy tiny wonton wrappers and it’d take over an hour to assemble them all. Audiobooks and kitchen helpers are welcome companions when reaching this step, but I’ve taken to buying larger wonton wrappers (4″ by 4″) to reduce preparation time. Also, although it’s not traditional I like to slip in some spinach into the dumplings. Never hurts to add some greens, right?

Confession time: I took these photos about three years ago, just before starting a job that involved a four hour commute. Soon after, I stopped blogging for wayyy too long, but I’ve wanted to share this recipe ever since and I still like these photos!

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Aushak (Afghan dumplings with meat sauce and yogurt)
Adapted from Khyber Pass Cafe

For the meat:
– 1 pound ground beef or lamb (I like using a mixture of both)
– 1 yellow onion, chopped
– 4 tablespoons tomato paste
– 4 cloves garlic, diced
– 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, diced
– 1 teaspoon ground coriander
– cayenne pepper, to taste
– salt & pepper to taste
– 1 cup water

For the dumplings:
– wonton wrappers, the amount you need depends on the size of your wrappers. 18-24 wrappers are needed if you’re using 4″ by 4″ wrappers.
– 1 bunch scallions, diced
– 3 leeks, diced
– 12 ounces baby spinach
– salt & pepper, to taste

For the yogurt sauce:
– 1 cup plain yogurt
– 2 cloves garlic, diced
– 1 teaspoon dried mint
– salt & pepper, to taste

For serving:
– garnish with fresh or dried mint or cilantro
warm naan

Prepare the yogurt:
Add garlic to a large bowl, mix in garlic, dried mint, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside unrefrigerated until the aushak is ready to serve.

Prepare the meat:
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the onions and cook until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, stir for another 30 seconds or so. Add the ground meat, stirring frequently. When most traces of pink are gone, add coriander, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Add the tomato paste and water. Let simmer on low heat and stir occasionally until the dumplings are ready.

Prepare the dumplings:
Heat oil in another skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the scallions and leeks. Stir frequently and let them cook down for a few minutes. Add the spinach and let it cook down, about a minute or so. Add some salt and pepper, to taste.

Heat a pot of water over medium heat, and get ready to assemble your wrappers.

Set up your workstation. My set up is: cutting board directly in front of me, bowl of water next to the cutting board, skillet (containing the scallions and leeks) and wonton wrappers at my sides, and a floured baking sheet in front of the cutting board to place the assembled dumplings. Dollop a small amount of the fixins onto the center of the wrapper. Dip your fingers into the bowl of water (or use a pastry brush) and line the edges of your wrapper with water. If using round wrappers, fold them in half and seal them tightly with your fingers. If using square wrappers, fold them diagonally. Don’t fuss too much about folding them a certain way, just make sure they’re properly sealed.

By the time your dumplings are assembled, the water should be boiling. Working in batches (3-5, depending on the size of your pot), boil the dumplings for about 3 minutes. I usually put a colander into the pot, as this prevents the dumplings to getting stuck on the bottom of the pan. Drain, and add to a plate. Serve with yogurt, meat sauce, and a side of warm naan to clean every last morsel off your plate. Garnish with dried or fresh mint or cilantro.

Serves 4-6

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