How to make Aushak, Afghan leek dumplings with a meaty sauce

Aushak (Afghan leek dumplings with yoghurt and meat sauce)

Active time:1 hour

Total time:2 hours

Servings:6

Active time:1 hour

Total time:2 hours

Servings:6

This recipe starts with a gift card for an online grocery delivery website, kindly provided by my employer. Deciding on a restaurant to order to was a no-brainer. I’ve had Helmand, a local restaurant specializing in Afghan cuisine, on my list since I moved to Baltimore about a year ago.

Choosing what to order? For that, I relied on The Post’s 2003 review of the restaurant to narrow down my options. I figured anything still on their menu after almost 20 years was tried and tested.

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Luckily, I was nudged to try aushak, a dish the restaurant describes as “leek-stuffed ravioli, served on yogurt and topped with ground beef and mint.” It was sublime.

I am an absolute leek fanatic. I think you are too and may not know it yet. When I sauté onions at the beginning of countless recipes, the most common comment I get is “Wow, that smells delicious” from someone close to my kitchen.

Aushak could be your route to realizing your affinity for Allium.

The Gardener’s Guide to Allium

Restraint – a trait I’m not exactly familiar with – is the key to this recipe.

My instinct was to unleash the full arsenal of spices on this classic dish. My partner wisely advised me to steady my hand. This is typical of our relationship as most of the time I’m the one asking questions and my taste buds provide most of the answers. I often overcomplicate what I’m tasting while somehow being able to distill a flavor down to its core elements. “I think the filling is seasoned with salt and just makes the leek shine,” he says. I agree, less is more here.

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Experimenting with the dumpling wrappers proved to be the hardest part of recreating this dish. After a few false starts, I reverted to a dough-making technique where a food processor does most of the work. But I recommend making it even easier for yourself: just buy frozen dumplings.

The rest of the recipe follows in relatively quick steps. A sauté of scallions and leeks softens their bite and brings out their natural sweetness, resulting in a filling that’s perfect for these tender little wraps.

Top the boiled dumplings with a coriander and paprika-infused meat sauce and a refreshing and tangy spiced yogurt, and you have a deeply complex, unexpected crowd pleaser.

Grilled aubergines Afghan style with tomato sauce, yoghurt and herbs

Well I know what you’re thinking – that sounds like a lot of work. So here’s my advice: read the recipe from start to finish and see what you can break down into smaller chunks. Both the filling and the meat sauce here can be made a day in advance and refrigerated overnight.

However, I recommend trying to clear your calendar for the afternoon and dive in. You’ll be surprised how meditative it can be to hand-stuff dozens of dumplings.

Aushak (Afghan leek dumplings with yoghurt and meat sauce)

Prepare: The yoghurt and meat sauces can be prepared up to 3 days in advance.

Storage Instructions: Store in the fridge for up to 3 days. To freeze, place the uncooked dumplings on a baking sheet, making sure they are not touching, and freeze. Then place them in airtight containers and freeze them for up to 3 months.

Where to Buy: Frozen dumpling wraps are available at well-stocked grocery stores and Asian markets. The dumplings can be made with round or square wraps

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  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 large leeks (about 2 pounds total) trimmed, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch spring onions (about 8), thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt or more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • flour, for dusting
  • 36 dumpling sheets, defrosted
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion (about 8 ounces), chopped
  • 3 to 4 cloves of garlic, grated or chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef (80 percent)
  • 2 teaspoons of peppers
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 cup plain, full-fat yogurt
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped or finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint
  • Fine salt, to taste

Make the dumplings: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the leeks and spring onions and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and crushed red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, for a further 5 minutes until most of the moisture has evaporated. Taste and add more salt if needed. Remove from the stove and let cool completely.

Fill a small bowl with water. Dust a large rimmed baking sheet generously with flour.

Place a dumpling shell on the countertop and place about 1 tablespoon of the leek mixture in the center of the shell. Dip your index finger in the water and wet the edges of the wrapper. Cut in half diagonally to form half a triangle (or half circle if wraps are round), pinch edges to seal, making sure to push out any air pockets in the dumpling.

Place the formed dumplings on the prepared baking sheet; cover with a kitchen towel until ready to use. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and fillings until you run out of one or the other.

Make the Meat Sauce: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant but not browned, about 1 minute. Add the meat and use a wooden spoon to break it up as much as possible. Season with paprika, coriander, salt and black pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the tomato sauce, bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until meat is cooked through and flavors meld, about 20 minutes. Makes about 3 cups.

Prepare yogurt sauce: In a small bowl, stir together yogurt, garlic, dried mint, and salt. Taste and adjust the seasonings if desired. Makes about 1 cup.

When ready to serve, fill a 3-quart saucepan three-quarters full with salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Gently add 6 dumplings and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until dumplings float to the top and appear translucent, about 5 minutes. Using a spreader or slotted spoon, transfer the dumplings to a serving platter. Repeat with the remaining dumplings.

Top with meat sauce and garnish with yogurt sauce and serve family style.

Per serving (6 dumplings, with 1/2 cup meat sauce and 2 tablespoons yogurt sauce)

Calories: 557; total fat: 27 g; Saturated fat: 8 g; cholesterol: 57 mg; Sodium: 535 mg; carbohydrates: 60 g; fiber: 6 g; sugar: 12 g; Egg white: 22 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a nutritionist or nutritionist.

By food writer Christian Vazquez.

Tested by Alexis Sargent; email questions insatiable@washpost.com.

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