Dumplings, in their many forms, have helped feed communities around the world affordably for almost as long as people have been eating. Created as a filling, economical means of using up all kinds of leftover scraps of meat and vegetables, often bound and stretched with inexpensive starches like wheat, rice and potatoes, they also happen to be ultimate comfort food – soft pillows that have been poached, steamed or fried, simmered in broth or even baked in the oven, depending on your definition of a dumpling.
Imagining a dumpling may bring to mind t he image of a little package, filled and pinched shut, like a gyoza, potsticker or perogy. But then there are solidly doughy dumplings, like gnocchi and gnudi, and those that are dropped by the spoonful and steamed atop bubbling stew or fruit. If filling isn’t a defining characteristic, perhaps it’s texture – though I love to fry boiled perogies in butter or bacon drippings until they’re golden and crisp, I envision a dumpling as something that has been boiled, steamed or simmered; when water is used as the heat conduit, they stay soft.
Here are two classics: Turkish manti are a lesser-known dumpling, but in essence very similar to Eastern European perogies, filled with lamb or beef instead of potatoes. Blueberry grunt is a classic eastern Canadian dessert, named for the sound the dumplings make as they cook on top of a pot of simmering berries. To make the dumplings golden and crunchy, you could bake it in the oven instead.
Click here for Julie’s Berry Grunt recipe.
Manti with Garlicky Yogurt and Tomatoes
These lamb manti fit the bill as a perfect example of a dumpling: they’re small and soft, made with a flour-egg-water dough, simmered in water perogy- style. Adapted from several sources, including Feast: Food of the Islamic World, by Anissa Helou, Saveur magazine, and advice from the family at Anatolia Turkish Cuisine in downtown Calgary and the Crossroads Market. I love to ‘melt’ tomatoes that are becoming overripe, or which I’ve tossed directly into the freezer before they do — they go perfectly with the dumplings and garlicky yogurt.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1 large egg
- 1/2-1 lb ground lamb or beef
- 1 small onion, coarsely grated
- 1 tsp baharat
- 1/2 tsp salt
- fresh ground black pepper
- 1 cup plain full-fat yogurt
- 1 garlic clove, finely crushed
- pinch salt
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil or butter (or both)
- 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- pinch Aleppo pepper or dried chili flakes
- sumac (optional)
- To make the dough, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl, stir in the water and egg and stir until you have a soft dough. Knead it for a few minutes, until smooth. Cover with a tea towel and let rest while you prepare the filling.
- In a medium bowl, blend the lamb, onion, baharat, salt and pepper with your hands until well combined. Stir the garlic and salt into the yogurt and set aside or stash in the refrigerator.
- To fill the manti, divide the dough into four pieces, and working with one at a time (keep the others covered with a tea towel), roll the dough out thin and cut into strips 1 1/2" wide, and again across, making 1 1/2-inch squares. (Or go 2-inch if they're too small to handle.)
- Place a tiny amount of filling on each square and gather up the corners to meet in the middle, pinching down the seams to seal. (These can be filled in advance and frozen, or kept covered in the refrigerator until you're ready for them.
- To cook the manti, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and drop them in; boil for 6-8 minutes, until tender. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet set over medium-high heat and cook the tomatoes along with the pepper and a big pinch of salt until they break down and become thick and jammy. Divide the yogurt between 4 shallow bowls and top with thee manti, tomatoes and a pinch of sumac, if you like.