Day 5: Gutab – Azeri meat stuffed flatbread

Here is a popular Azeri dish that we sampled several times, with both a meat filling and a spinach filling, during our visit to Azerbaijan. This recipe came from the AZ Cookbook blog and you can see photos of the process there.  These can be an appetizer or light lunch or dinner. 

 
Meat Stuffed Flatbreads (Et Gutabi) 
Makes 12 (serves about 6)
For the Dough:
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups water, at room temperature
For the Filling:
1 pound ground beef or lamb, or a combination
2 medium onions, peeled and passed through a meat grinder (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon sour fruit paste (you can obtain it from sour fruit leather – soften it with water) or ½ cup fresh pomegranate arils (you can adjust these amounts to taste)
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

Filling Variation

In the northwest, particularly in the region of Balaken, a pinch of dill seeds (they add a FANTASTIC new dimension to the filling), some crushed garlic and sometimes chopped fresh cilantro is added to the filling too. Sometimes, sour paste slightly diluted with water is spread in a thin layer on a cooked buttered gutab for a piquant tart taste.
Also needed:
Unsalted butter stick, to brush (if using method 1 to cook)
Vegetable oil, to fry (only using method 2 to cook!)
Powdered sumac, to garnish
Prepare the dough: Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the salt and stir to mix. Make a well in the center. Gradually adding the water, stir with your hand, until a rough ball forms. Sprinkle a large working surface (you can use large round wooden board) with some flour. Scrape the dough the floured surface. Knead the dough until smooth and not tight, adding more flour if it sticks to your hands, about 10 minutes. Do not be tempted to add too much flour, or the dough will be tight and difficult to roll out. You will add more flour to the dough while rolling it. Divide into 12 equal parts and shape each part into a ball. Work with one ball at a time, keeping the rest covered with a kitchen cloth.
Prepare the filling: In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for the filling and mix well. If using pomegranate arils instead of sour paste, mix the mixture gently so as not to smash the arils. (You can also sprinkle the pomegranate arils over the meat filling before sealing the bread in a half moon.)
Roll out the dough: Transfer one ball onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle the dough with some flour. Slightly pat on top with your hand to flatten then begin rolling with a thin rolling pin, rotating the dough with each rolling, until it is about 5 inches in diameter. Now, sprinkle the circle with some flour and spread it evenly with to cover the entire surface of the circle (this will prevent the dough from sticking to the rolling pin and tearing and will also make it easier to roll). Begin wrapping the circle around the rolling pin at a slight angle from you. Wrap till the very end, then turn the dough so that the rolling pin is parallel to you, and unwrap the dough swiftly. Continue in this manner, sprinkling the dough before each wrapping and thinning process. Continue rolling until you obtain a thin 10-inch circle.
Fill the dough: Spreading half of the dough circle with a thin but dense layer of the meat stuffing. Then cook, following either of the methods below:
Method 1: Cook on a preheated saj or a griddle, or  a non-stick frying pan, first one one side, until slightly brown blisters appear, then turn to cook the other side. Remove from the pan and transfer onto a plate. Brush the top with butter while still hot. Continue cooking the flatbreads in the same manner, stacking the cooked gutabs on top of each other and brushing their tops only. Sprinkle with sumac and serve immediately.
Method 2: Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan, large enough to hold one or two gutabs. Cook the gutab until light golden, turning once to cook on both sides. Add more oil to the pan if needed for each new batch. Transfer the cooked gutabs onto paper towels to drain (do not brush with butter in this method). Sprinkle with powdered sumac and serve immediately.
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