Sunday lunch with family. This is what I miss. Everyone gathering around our table, having lunch and staying around the table for hours. This is what I miss. My mother, cooking. This is what I miss, the most.
My mother would wake up early as usual on such a Sunday. We would have a nice breakfast and then the work would begin. It would be one of those regular Sundays – the family would gather together in our place to have a late lunch. If the menu consisted of only these dumplings, “Manti” as in Turkish, it would take a long time to prepare the food. Not because it is a long process to cook it, but because my mother would always cook so many of them that we could easily feed an army.
With her beautiful hands, she would prepare the best of best dumplings. I would always help her to fold the dumpling pieces. When I was a kid, the scrap pieces of dough from each roll she would give to me. I would take a pencil in my hand and imitate her rolling the dough with a giant rolling pin in a mini scale. As years passed, I stopped playing with dough. But it was always fun nonetheless.
The Sunday lunch would always take long long time. Around the table, we would eat, drink, talk, laugh and well, sometimes even get a bit stressed. All the possible feelings would be around that table. We would talk at the same time, everyone in a very high volume, barely listening to each other. For an outsider, it would seem very chaotic and disturbing, and maybe it really was, under normal circumstances. But we understood each other and we also misunderstood each other — the important thing was, we were together.
A few years ago, I guess it was my first holiday in Turkey after I moved to Finland, I was visiting my parents during new year’s eve. I was not yet cooking or baking as I am now, so I asked my mother to make some Manti for just me, her and my father, a small batch just for the three of us. Over the years she did manage to limit the amount of dumplings in a rather rational way, if and when she wanted to. Without a second thought, she agreed to do it, as usual, she was happy to do something I asked. But in the middle of it, she had to stop.
She is 72 years old now. Back then, she was 69. Her body is in a constant fight. While she was rolling the dough, she had an extremely sore back; so bad that she could not stand straight for a few days. I continued preparing the rest of dumplings that day. But it struck me suddenly that my beautiful mother was an old woman…
1 cup / 2.4 dl lukewarm water
1 tsp / 5 ml salt
3 cups / 7.2 dl flour (regular white flour) (you might not need all, or you might need even more, see step 2)
400 gr minced meat (beef)
2 onions, grated
1 tsp / 5 ml salt
1 tsp / 5 ml black pepper
Water and salt (to boil the dumplings)
Yogurt (as much as you like, but be generous)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Aleppo pepper or chilli pepper flakes (as much as you like, the more you put the spicier it gets)
300 gr. walnuts, crushed
50 gr butter, melted
1. First we will prepare the dough. In a medium bowl, pour the water. Add salt and eggs and mix a bit using your hands.
2. Start adding flour, about a handful each time, and mix with your hand, eventually start kneading. The reason why I tell you to add flour gradually is that you may not always use 500 gr dough or you might need a bit more. In the end, you should have a soft, non sticky and easy to roll dough. Once you have it, cover it with a kitchen cloth to rest for half an hour. As you can see in the photos, I spread some flour on the table and continued kneading the dough there, you can do it like that.
3. In the meantime, prepare the filling. In another medium bowl, put the meat. Add onions, salt and pepper and knead it well, until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Put aside and cover with a cloth as you are also waiting for the dough to rest.
4. Take a clean sheet of paper, or a baking paper, or a parchment paper. Dust generously with flour. You will put dumplings ready to be cooked on this paper. The flour prevents them from sticking to the paper. You will need more than one paper as there are many dumplings. You can stack them on top of each other, but if you do, do not forget to also spread flour on the dumplings as well.
5. When the dough rests enough, take it out of the bowl and divide it into smaller pieces. The idea is to have pieces that you can deal with while rolling so look at the size of your rolling pin and decide the size of your dough balls.
6. Flour your work surface. Take 1 ball of dough and roll it. You should have a nice, thin piece of rolled dough (about 1-1.5 mm thick). Be careful, do not put too much flour to help you while rolling. If it gets too dry, then the ends would not stick while folding.
7. Cut this rolled piece in a grid. In my family we like having big size dumplings so each grid is usually around 2x2cm.
8. In the middle of each square, put about 1/2 tsp / 2.5 ml of meat.
9. Fold each piece to create triangular shape, as seen in the photo.
10. Now after that, I could not take the photo but it is simple: just boil 1 litre water in a pan, add some salt. When the water is boiling, put some of the dumplings and boil for about 5 minutes. Do this in batches; if you put all the dumplings at once they might stick to each other. Do not overcook them, they should not get too soft, they should stay a bit firm. Once cooked, take each dumpling out of water and put on a service plate.
11. You can prepare 2 sauces: 1 with yogurt, 1 with crushed walnuts.
12. Yogurt sauce: just pour yogurt over the dumplings! If the yogurt is too thick or creamy, add a bit of water. Then in a small pan, pour vegetable oil, add aleppo pepper (or chilli pepper flakes) and fry the pepper a bit, but do NOT burn it! Once it is done, you can spread this over the dumplings with yogurt.
13. Walnut sauce: Just spread crushed walnuts over the dumplings! Melt butter and spread this over the walnuts as well.
Voila! Your dumplings are ready!