Shish barak are little, ravioli-like dumplings filled with seasoned lamb, onions, and pine nuts that are boiled, baked, or fried and served in a warm yogurt sauce with melted butter, mint, sumac, and toasted pine nuts. They are made in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine, and are very similar to manti, the lamb-filled dumplings eaten in Turkey.
I do make a couple of tweaks that tip my shish barak away from tradition. I fill the dumplings with the lamb sausage mixture that we use at my restaurant Porsena in our anelloni. It's based on merguez, a spicy North African lamb sausage, but the flavor, though slightly different from the classic, still works. In traditional recipes, the filling is already cooked, but here, I leave it raw. And to simplify the sauce mixture, I don’t cook the yogurt, which requires all kinds of thickeners and binders to keep it from curdling. I simply whisk in a little of the hot pasta cooking water to thin the yogurt to a sauce-like consistency and warm it slightly. With the heat of the cooked ravioli and the warm melted butter, it stays perfectly warm. —Sara Jenkins
Make the filling by mixing and kneading the ground lamb meat with the rest of the filling ingredients. Mix well to amalgamate and leave refrigerated for at least a couple hours and up to overnight.
For the dough and the dressing:
To make the dough, place the flour in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the salt, olive oil, and water into the well. Using a fork, beat the flour into the dough, switching to kneading with your hands once the dough thickens. Knead the dough on a smooth surface until the dough is very smooth and elastic. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest about 20 minutes.
To make the dumplings, roll 1/4 of the dough out on a flat surface. Roll out to about 1/16-inch thin, then cut into circles using a ravioli stamp or biscuit cutter. Place a small ball of lamb filling in the center of the dough and fold into a crescent moon shape pinching hard all around the edge to seal. Pinch together the two tips and place on a lightly-floured sheet tray or flat plate.
To cook: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. In a nearby skillet, melt the butter with the dried mint and Aleppo pepper, if using. When the water boils, fill a large serving bowl with a ladleful of the cooking water to warm the bowl. Swish the water around and dump all but about 1/4 cup. Whisk the yogurt in the water, thinning it out and warming it. Boil the dumplings in the water; once they float to the top, let them bob for 3 to 4 minutes (check one for doneness), then place them in the warm bowl with the yogurt. Swirl to coat and then drizzle the butter all over and sprinkle the pine nuts on top. Serve and eat immediately