Mantu and Boolawnee (Afghani dumplings and leek pastries).

Mantu are spiced, minced lamb dumplings, fried then steamed like Chinese jioaza, then ‘dabbed’ (not liberally coated) with a tomato sauce, minted yoghurt and some chopped coriander and spring onion. I have made them a few times, they are a crowd pleaser and quite easy. So easy that I cooked both the dumplings and the leek pastries on the fire outside since the weather was so stunning this weekend. Glossary: Baharat is a Lebanese 7 spice blend, perfect with lamb, obviously not Afghani but a good substitute.

The tomato sauce is just a shallot, finely chopped and fried in olive oil with 1/2 clove of garlic until softened. Add 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped and a pinch of baharat. Season with salt and pepper and reduce and cook for 5 minutes. The yoghurt is a sheep milk yoghurt mixed with dried mint to taste.

For the Dumplings you will need: 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 shallots, finely chopped, 1 clove garlic, finely chopped, 500 g lamb mince, 1 tsp baharat, 1 tsp tomato paste, salt and pepper, chilli flakes or freshly chopped birdseye to taste, 1 packet of 30 sheet gow gee wrappers.

For the filling: fry the shallots and garlic in the oil over a medium heat until softened and lightly coloured, turn up the heat and add the lamb. Fry the lamb until browned, add the baharat, tomato paste and chilli then season to taste, stir and cook another minute, reduce any liquid if necessary by cooking further. Cool the mix before filling the dumplings.

To fill: put a heaped teaspoon of the mince on one half of a gow gee wrapper, wet the outside of the half with the filling, fold the other half over the filling and seal by pinching the edges together making a flat bottom as you go. Have a look at this post on for filling and cooking the similar Chinese jioaza.

To cook you will need a fry pan with a lid, some frying oil and a cup of water at the ready: Heat a smear of oil, I used grape seed, and when a dumpling makes a nice frying noise when it hits the oil put in enough dumplings to fill the pan without any touching. Fry a minute until the bottoms of the dumplings are browned then add enough water to come half way up the sides of the dumplings, cover with the lid. When the water is nearly evaporated, take the lid off the pan and reduce the remaining liquid until the dumplings start to fry again. They are ready when they come away from the bottom of the pan easily, which also means they have crisped up from the second frying.

Dot them with the tomato sauce, yoghurt, sliced spring onion and fresh coriander.

For these babies you need: 2 cups of plain flour with 1/2 tsp salt and 2/3 cup cold water, also for the filling: 1 leek, more salt, olive oil and chilli flakes and grape seed oil for frying. Make a well in the flour and salt, add the water, you know the drill, make a dough, knead 5 minutes, rest 1/2 an hour or until you are going to make them. Chop the leek into a small dice, in a bowl mix the leek with 2 teaspoons salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil. With your hand macerate or knead the leek mixture to soften.

Roll the dough into a sausage, cup off 1 cm pieces and roll each into roughly 10cm disks. Fill one half with 1 teaspoon of leek mixture, wet the edge with water and fold the other half of the dough over to cover, pinch or press the edges together with a teaspoon or more traditionally a thimble.

Heat enough grape seed oil in a fry pan to just cover the pastries when 3 or 4 are added depending on the size of your pan. Fry until browned then turn and fry the other side. Serve and eat straight away, they are better when the pastry is hot and crunchy, they soften pretty quickly.


Roast lamb, baby beetroot with truffle honey & balsamic dressing, green lentils.

I was looking through old Gourmet Travellers, ruthlessly ripping out good photos and recipes that I know I will most likely cook and severely culling the pile, and I found baby beetroot with truffle honey. Think about the earthy taste of beetroot, how it needs sweetness and acidity when it is cooked and the earthy taste of truffles. I thought it would work and I built this dish around the idea.Purple carrots (or the more regular orange carrot) are friends with honey and can be cooked the same as beetroot so I bought these and styled the photo to make it look like I grew them.

Beetroot and carrots: Trim stalks and roots, rub with olive oil and season with salt, wrap in groups of about 10 in foil, put on a roasting tray lined with coarse salt ( I used Sel de Geurande) and roast at 180 degrees for 30 mins or until tender. Cool enough to peel the beetroot. Mix 1 tablespoon of truffle honey well with 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Dress beetroot and carrots while still warm.

Lentils with shallots and baby spinach: French green lentils grown in Australia are just the same as the French grown, more affordable, closer to home, and available at Jagger’s. Boil 250 or 300g to feed 2-3 in water or stock or both until cooked and if you can keep an eye on them, judge the liquid to be all absorbed and evaporated just as they are done. A little liquid left is fine. Fry 2 chopped shallots until browned and sweet, add a chopped clove of garlic and soften, add to the lentils. Season the lentils and turn through about 3 handfuls of baby spinach and 2 tablespoon chopped parsley until just wilted.

Lamb: I didn’t want to waste the sea salt so I scraped together the salt and beetroot juices from the pan, made a bed of rosemary and salt, more salt on top of the lamb, and roasted in a really hot oven for 15 minutes. I turned the oven off  and left the lamb inside because I had to take Bob to the vet. I over cooked it a bit for my liking but it was still very good, nothing can really go wrong with this quality of lamb. I got rid of a lot of the salt crust to serve but the saltiness was a really good contrast to the sweet beets and carrots. Bob was caught licking the lamb while I was taking the photo below, he seems fine now.

I sprinkled the flowers I took off the rosemary earlier over the beetroot, partly for the photo and partly to tie the lamb and the beetroot together. It was good.