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Monday, March 7, 2011

Lamb Purses with Garlic Sauce and Zchug

Sometimes, recipes are complex and only applicable to themselves. Other times, a recipe uses some basic techniques which can be applied and re-worked into many different recipes.

This recipe is one from the latter category. It combines a simple pastry dough with a savory ground lamb filling, a combination which can be re-worked time and time again. The original version of this dish is based on a recipe from the Elizabethan era in England, and can be found in various styles throughout the ages. It's similar to a meat pie, and indeed I am using a pie dough recipe for the pastry in this version.

The filling is seasoned in a middle-eastern style, with parsley, rosemary, hot paprika, sumac, salt, and pepper. It's chilled and the flavors are allowed to mingle overnight. Small portions are then wrapped in the pastry, egg washed, then baked until brown, delicious, and cooked through.

I served these delightful little pastries with a thick Garlic Sauce and the eternally popular Zchug.

12 oz (340 g) flour

8 oz (227 g) butter, chilled
2 oz (57 g) ice-cold water
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) salt

Lamb Filling
8 oz. (227 g) ground lamb
2 tbsp (30 ml) parsley, chopped
1 tbsp (15 ml) rosemary, ground

1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) hot paprika 
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) sumac 
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) salt
freshly ground black pepper

Egg Wash
1-2 eggs, beaten
a splash of milk

1. Mix all ingredients for lamb filling together, and refrigerate overnight, or at least six hours.
2. Place flour and butter in a bowl, and rub together with your fingers (not your palms, they're too warm) until the mixture looks somewhere between coarse cornmeal and peas.
3. Add the salt and water and mix just until the dough comes together. Do not over-mix the dough at this stage, or it will create gluten and become tough. You're aiming for flaky.
4. Shape the dough into a disk and refrigerate at least 15 minutes.
5. Roll out dough 1/8" thick on a floured surface. Cut 3 inch/7.5 cm diameter circles. Place about 1 oz/28 g by weight of the filling on each circle. Paint edges lightly with egg wash. Fold in half, and pinch edges to seal. Place on a baking sheet with parchment. Brush with egg wash.
6. Bake 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Garlic Sauce

This recipe is so simple it shouldn't be legal. It came to me via searching for a way to replicate that garlic paste you get at some Middle Eastern restaurants—pungent, thick, creamy, it's almost like butter, if the butter were made out of garlic instead of cream. I figured it had to be simple, but I never realized quite how simple it was, or could be.

The recipe goes like this:

1 part Olive Oil, Extra Virgin
1 part Vegetable Oil
1 part Fresh-Squeezed Lemon Juice
1 part Garlic, or to taste, roughly chopped
Salt to taste
1 part Mashed Potatoes

This isn't a matter of exactitude, so much as the rough idea. The method is as follows:

1. Place oils, lemon juice, salt, and garlic in a container. Purée (with immersion blender or regular blender) until homogeneous. Taste, and add additional garlic cloves as necessary to reach desired pungency.
2. Add cooked mashed potatoes by portions until the sauce reaches the desired consistency. Taste, adjust seasonings, add more garlic if necessary.

I aim to make mine like smooth, spreadable whipped cream. Slightly tougher than the stuff you get out of a can, but not so thick a spoon stands up in it. The way I make it, nobody should want to talk to you for a week.


  1. Garlic sauce is TOTALLY worth not talking to people for a week!

  2. This entirely reminds me of a Yooper pasty. The pasty originally being a Cornish dish of a crust filled with beef, potato, rutabaga, and onion, then baked.

    Now the interesting bit of history here is that the pasty was brought to the UP by Cornish miners around 1860. This wave was followed almost immediately by a wave of Finnish miners who adopted the dish. The miner's wives would cook up a pasty hot in the morning, wrap it in paper, and then the miners would carry this in their breast pocket, keeping them warm until lunch time where they would heat it on the blade of their shovel over a flame. Shortly, the Finnish miners far outnumbered the Cornish miners and the dish has had a strong association with the strong Finnish culture of the UP ever since.

    Today, you'll see all kinds of variants in the UP from chicken, venison, or whatever else we've shot this weekend, to swapping out regular potatoes for sweet potatoes, a great variety of onion, ect, but many purists (read grandparents) still only accept the original combination of ingredients as legitimate.

    Ultimately, the greatest question of the pasty is how it is dressed. There are those who insist that gravy is necessary, those who love to use ketchup, and those who prefer it plain. This point of contention is actually rather amusing because people in the UP are very die hard about how the "proper" way is dress the pasty. Personally, I prefer ketchup because it's what I grew up with, but I'm cool with other options as well.


Your opinions and comments always are welcomed, but do be civil... this isn't a kitchen, after all.