During the winter, I go into hibernation mode. As soon as the temperature starts getting colder and the nights grow longer, the urge to curl into a ball on the sofa with a good book and a plate of warm comfort food becomes almost irresistible. On a cold, blustery night last December, I made my way into an Afghan restaurant near my house, half-frozen and already tired of winter. I ordered the vegetarian aushak, mostly because it was being described as a type of ravioli and I was craving the comfort of pasta. Never having eaten Afghan food before, I was entirely unprepared for the wall of flavor that hit me on the first bite. Rich, warm and, yes, pasta-like, I was totally hooked the moment I tasted these lovely little dumplings.
This recipe was inspired by the meal that I had that night at Ariana Restaurant. Here, leek dumplings are layered over a ginger-laden split yellow pea sauce, the sweetness of the sauce tempered by the creamy sourness of the Greek yogurt. It’s warm and very filling, the ultimate comfort food for a cold and rainy day.
For the split yellow pea sauce
dried split yellow peas
finely sliced leeks
1 1/2 teaspoons
freshly grated ginger
nutmeg (freshly grated, if possible)
Salt to taste
For the leek dumplings
3 1/2 cups
finely sliced leeks
plain greek yogurt
fresh mint leaves
Salt to taste
In This Recipe
Rinse and sort the split yellow peas, making sure to discard any stones. In a large pot, add the split peas, vegetable broth, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil and cook, covered, for approximately 20-35 minutes until the peas are soft.
Meanwhile, take the larger quantity of leeks (this will be for the dumplings), and thinly slice them, then dice them into smaller pieces. Saute in a large pan until they are tender and just starting to turn golden brown. Season with salt to taste.
Take a wonton wrapper and place a teaspoonful of the leeks into the center of the square. Wet two consecutive edges of the wrapper with a little water, then fold the opposite side over so that it forms a triangle. Press the edges down, making sure to get rid of any air bubbles. Repeat for the remaining leeks and wonton wrappers.
Peel the carrots and slice into thin rounds. Chop the rounds into smaller pieces. Add the carrots to the split peas, then cook until they are tender. If you need to, top up the split pea mixture with some water so that it has enough moisture to cook the carrots.
In a large pan, saute the smaller portion of leeks in a large pan with 1 tbs. olive oil (this will be for the sauce) until they are tender and starting to brown. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook for another 2-3 minutes over medium-low heat.
Add the split peas and carrots, then add the coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom, stirring until well incorporated.
In a small bowl, whisk together the tomato paste with the sugar and a little broth or water. Add to the split peas.
Let the split peas simmer over medium-low heat for about 15-20 minutes. This will allow the richness of the spices and flavors to develop. Salt to taste.
Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Cook the leek dumplings until al dente, about 2-4 minutes. Drain and toss with a little olive oil to prevent sticking.
Whisk together the milk and Greek yogurt until fully mixed. Cut the mint into thin strips to make a chiffonade
Spoon the split pea sauce onto the plates, then layer the dumplings on top. Spoon a little more sauce over the dumplings, then drizzle the yogurt sauce on top. Garnish with the mint chiffonade.
My one party trick is that I have a photographic memory when it comes to food. I can not only remember almost every meal that I have eaten in a restaurant ever, down to each individual ingredient and the way it was presented, but I can do the same thing for everyone else who was eating with me. Totally weird, but fun!
Much to my mother's chagrin, my passion for cooking started early. At the age of 5, I was reading a picture book that described (in basic terms) how to make custard - just eggs, milk, and sugar! I waited until my mother went downstairs to put the laundry in the dryer, then promptly dumped an entire gallon of milk into a bowl and cracked two eggs into it. As I was staring into the bowl, contemplating the raw, runny yolks staring balefully back up at me, I was busted by my mother. Instead of going ballistic (ok, she went a little ballistic), she sighed and said "ok, let's use this to make tapioca," thus teaching me an important lesson in salvaging botched food experiments.