Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lagman (Uzbek lamb stew)

I originally started this blog so I could explore Russian food that I don’t know much about—food like plov, lagman and hachepuri. That is, food from the former Soviet republics that’s often made in Russia, but that isn’t Russian (Slavic) at all. Prov and lagman are Uzbek dishes; hachepuri is Georgian. The foods of former USSR satellites such as Georgia, Armenia and Uzbekistan are fascinating and overlooked.

This weekend I made shurpa lagman. Shurpa and lagman are actually two different Uzbek dishes, but both are variations on lamb and vegetable stew or soup, spiced with cumin and coriander. Lagman is typically served with thick, handmade noodles. I studied three different versions of the recipe—one from an Uzbek immigrant, as published in the New York Times, the other from Anya von Bremzen’s Russian/Soviet cookbook Please to the Table, and the third from my Uzbekistan-born friend Anna.

My shurpa lagman wasn’t exactly authentic—I left out some common ingredients, like eggplant and daikon—but it was still a great success. It turned out like a cross between stew and soup, with thick chunks of carrots, peppers and lamb in a spicy, rich broth. I even served it with homemade noodles (although dried pasta like fettuccine would work fine).


Heat some oil in a heavy skillet. Salt, pepper and brown 1 pound boneless lamb, cut into 1-inch chunks, for about 10 minutes. Place in a bowl and put aside. Drain the fat from the skillet; heat some more oil and sauté a large, chopped onion until it’s soft and golden. Add to the lamb; then sauté 2 large chopped bell peppers (I used green and red) and 1 large, diced carrot. Add 1 tsp. each freshly-ground cumin and coriander, ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes, a couple of bay leaves, 1-2 dried, hot chili peppers, and a healthy shake of kosher salt and ground pepper.

Place the lamb and vegetables in a Dutch oven, add 4 cups beef (or chicken) stock and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to a simmer and cook 1-1.5 hours, until the lamb is soft. Toward the end of cooking time, add 1 cup chopped tomatoes, 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas, and ½ tbs. white vinegar. Taste for seasonings (I needed to add a bit of sugar). Add a minced garlic clove and a couple of handfuls chopped parsley and cilantro

Serve with noodles. I decided to make my own on a lark, and they turned out surprisingly well. I’ve never made fresh pasta before, and I half-expected a disaster in which the pasta dough falls apart or tears into useless bits. I used an okay recipe from the Please to the Table book—the noodles were a little bland. Next time I’d go to the experts (like Marcella Hazan’s cookbooks) for instructions on making fresh pasta.

For the noodles, my recipe had you put 1.75 cups flour and ½ tsp. kosher salt in a large bowl. Then you make a well, and add 1 slightly beaten egg, ¼ cup water and 1 tbs. oil. Mix with your hands until the flour and liquids are combined. On a floured surface, knead the dough with the backs of your hands for at least five minutes.

Divide the dough in two rounds. Cover with a moist towel and let rest 30 minutes. Flour a rolling pin and roll out one of the rounds to a 1/8-inch thickness. Carefully roll up the dough like a jellyroll; check to make sure the layers doesn’t stick. With a sharp knife, slice the roll into ¼-inch strips; unravel them; and let dry 10 minutes or so. (I froze the other dough round for future use.) Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the noodles 5 minutes. Serve the lagman over the noodles.


adele said...

I love lamb stew. Now, if I can get hold of some decent lamb (might try the halal markets), I'm giving this a shot.

Rozmin said...

It's funny, for me Slavic foods are the more "exotic" ones. I grew up eating North Indian cuisine, which has (surprisingly) quite a lot in common with Uzbek food. Sure, I'm not saying it's the same, but I had a cabbage roll maybe once growing up, cabbage soup was a rare treat from a restaurant run by an Eastern European Jewish family, and I never ate anything quite like pierozhki. :-)

Anonymous said...

Mmmmmm!!!! That sounds great! I love lamb. I'm going to try it. For the red pepper flakes, I'm going to use Aleppo Pepper. If you haven't tried this yet, you should. You can order it from Penzey's Spices. Aleppo Pepper is mosit, not dry like regular red pepper flakes. It has more of the fruity chile flavor and less heat. And no seeds!


Anonymous said...

This sounds delicious! Thanks for mentioning/linking to my recipe. You know, we really should get together for a cooking party and cook up a huge pot of lagman. Making me hungry and I just made some lamb dishes yesterday. :)

Mrs. M. said...

Adele--Lamb is expensive at the supermarket, but halal markets are a good idea. I don't think we have any in Milwaukee though. I may have to try Chicago.

Rozmin--I read that there's some crossover between Uzbek and Chinese food. Lagman is a version of lo mein.

Kevan--My version wasn't very spicy, but I may buy Alepo pepper at Penzey's.

Anna--Name the time and place, I'll be there! Or maybe a manti party? :)

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