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Karasam

serves 6-8

Recipe from Ilya Pinhasov

In Italy they are called tortellini, in Russia pelmemi and in Central Asia, karasam.  It's the sauces which vary and set the dishes apart. 

Bukhara is a historic town in Uzbekistan in Central Asia, but this is the name all Central Asian Jews give to their community, wherever they are from. Ilya Pinhasov is from the Uzbek capital Tashkent, so he naturally describes himself as being "Bukharan". 

His wife Marta makes the dough for the Karasam, and then the whole family pitches in to fill the dumplings, making light work of a big job. It looks like a factory!

"Child labour," one of Ilya's grandsons jokes as he expertly fills and twists the little packets of dough into the right shape. 

To turn out the delicacies she is known for, Marta has 2 main pieces of kitchen equipment. Both are made of wood.

One is a rolling pin and the other is a curtain rod. The The rolling pin is to being the process and the curtain rod to finish it, as it lets her create a wide thin dough.

INGREDIENTS

FILLING

  • 500 g minced meat. Marta prefers equal amounts each of beef and chicken, 250 g of each
  • salt and pepper

Mix the meet with the salt and pepper. You can add parsley, or coriander, and some green onion, though it is also fine plain. The taste comes from the next stage,  the sauce. Set aside while you make the dough. 

SAUCE 

  •  2 cups cooked chickpeas - tinned will do, but if you have time it is better to soak them overnight, say the day before, and then boil them till they are soft. 
  • Tomato and chilli sauce. You can also buy this, or prepare your own.
  • 2 bunches fresh coriander, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon or lime. 

DOUGH

  • 1 kilo flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 cups water, 450 ml

METHOD

1. Mix dough quickly by hand. Divide into 2 balls.  Roll and fold and roll again! First with the rolling pin, and then when it's as wide as you can get with that, bring in the curtain rod. It gives you a wide, thin, perfect pasta dough, about 1/8 inch thick. 

2. Fold the dough on top of itself in layers so you can then cut into small squares. First cut the dough into long rectangles two inches/ 5 cm wide. Then slice along the rectangle, every 2 inches, so you produce squares that are 2 inches/5cm wide, with the least possible knife strokes. This saves time you will need for filling and shaping your dumplings. 

3. Clear a wide space on your kitchen table and lay out your pasta squares. Put a small amount of meat, say a teaspoon full, in the centre of each square. fold over and pinch shut. You should be looking at an envelope full of meat half the size it was before. Join the 2 ends in a circle. Repeat! If you have many helpers, like Marta, then she is the one who puts the meat on the dough, and they do the folding to save more time. 

4. When they are ready, cover with a kitchen towel and boil a large pot full of water. You want it to be large enough for them all to fit comfortably. Throw the karasam into the pot. They're ready when they rise to the top, after 3-5 minutes. This part of the story doesn't take long.

5. Lift out with a slotted spoon, onto a decorative plate. Top with 1 or 2 spoons of the liquid from the pot, then add the chickpeas and the coriander. Squeeze a lemon over the top and serve with spicy tomato sauce. 

The most singular thing about a morning cooking at the Pinhasovs is how joyous everyone is, and how involved as a family in the cooking. The result is delicious, the process even more so!