Dumpling. “A small ball of dough cooked and eaten with soup or meat, or a filling of fruit, meat, or vegetables covered with dough and steamed, baked, or fried. “Cambridge Dictionary
It is an extremely broad definition, however exciting as dumplings are filled with a whole world of endless combinations and possibilities. It is safe to say that most countries have their own versions of the above definition – empanadas in Argentina, dumplings in China, Pierogi in Poland and even Spaetzle in Germany.
The second Imperial Dynasty in China (206BC-220AD) also known as the Han Dynasty, was the period when dumplings were apparently invented. The story of Zhang Zongjian, a renowned Chinese medicine practitioner, developed the dumpling or Jiaozi after seeing the people of his village ailed by frostbite, particularly around their ears.
His magical cure was dumplings the shape of ears, filled with meat, chilli and medicinal herbs. Those inflicted by illness were instructed to have these dumplings in hot soup twice a week which eventually cured them – the dumplings were so delicious that the villagers continued to make them in future winters to come.
The presence of dumplings was prevalent in 13th Century Turkey and were named “Manti”. These Manti were brought to Central Turkey by Mongol horseman. These dumplings were either dried or frozen, making it easy to transport and convenient to boil and eat wherever the horsemen camped on their journey towards Anatolia.
Gnocchi, in the form of a crumbed bread and water dough was first around in the Renaissance period in Italy. This was the first documented evidence of ‘dumplings’ in Europe.
Dumplings were originally a resourceful way to stretch out expensive proteins by bulking it up the with vegetables such as cabbage and potatoes and then wrapping up the filling in a heavy dough resulting in an economical tasty parcel of food for many. Each country around the world has their own take on the humble dumpling.
No matter what country we turn to or what time in history post Han Dynasty, the world has been enjoying and developing their own style of dumplings making each dish unique in cooking technique, ingredients used and various styles. Enjoyed with tea, in soup, in desserts or on their own, there is not one person in this world that could not love at least one type of dumpling.
I have gone back in time to Turkey and created a dish based loosely on the Manti dumpling. Adding my favourite spice – cumin and a Southern Italian flair with the inclusion of raisins and pine nuts. The sauce is usually yoghurt based with chilli oil, however I have added some roasted beetroot for a wonderful touch of colour. It requires some patience to make the dumplings but I guarantee the results will be definitely worth it!
Serves 4-6 people /Preparation time 1hr / Cooking Time 20 minutes
250g plain flour
1 medium egg
2 tsp olive oil
¼ tsp salt
100mls cold water
4g/1 clove garlic
80g Greek yoghurt
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil
1tsp fresh dill
200g minced beef
20g raisings, chopped
15 g toasted pine nuts, chopped
½ tsp salt
¾ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp paprika
1tblsp olive oil
50g red onion, finely chopped
1 tblsp chopped parsley
1 tblsp chopped dill
Black sesame seeds
Thick Greek yoghurt
In an electric mixer with paddle attachment, mix flour, salt, olive oil and egg. Mix until combined and then slowly add in the cold water. Mix until the dough is smooth, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Wrap the whole beetroot, skin and all in aluminium foil and bake in the oven at 180’ for 1 hour or until the beet is cooked through (insert knife to check). Allow to cool, peel the beetroot and roughly chop into 2cm pieces. In boiling water blanch the peeled garlic clove for a few minutes. Blend beetroot, garlic, yoghurt, salt, olive oil and dill then strain the mixture, making sure all lumps are out of the sauce.
For the beef filling, mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, set aside.
When the dough is ready, take out and roll into a 3mm thick rectangle. Using a sharp knife, cut squares about 2cm in length.
Place a small amount of the filling in the centre of the squares. Pinch dough together from the sides to the centre to form a cross shape at the join of the manti. If the dough has trouble sticking together, moisten the edges with a small amount of water. Make sure the joins are completely sealed so the manti doesn’t burst when cooked. Repeat until all the dough and filling has been used. Set in the fridge until ready to cook.
Boil a large pot of salted water. Place in manti carefully, do not overcrowd the saucepan and allow them to float to the top. When they are ready, take the manti out with a slotted spoon and rest on a plate.
Slightly warm the beetroot sauce and place at the bottom of a shallow dish. Place the manti on the sauce and garnish with a few blobs of thick yoghurt, black sesame seeds, dill sprigs and a drizzle of chilli oil.
This dish can be served at room temperature