Anissa: Two days ago, it was time for my belly dancer of the month and now it is time for anther brilliant guest post by Charles Perry. It all came about because of this year’s Oxford symposium‘s theme, Wrapped and Stuffed, and when Charles sent me the pictures of the Uzbek mantis you see in this post, not only did I want to have some immediately but I thought the subject would make a great post, so, I asked Charles to send me something about them together with a recipe and here is what he has to say about this delicious looking and sounding breakfast pasta.
Charles: About 15 years ago, I spent a morning in the Nu’mankhojaev household (OK, no more Uzbek surnames from now on) eating mass quantities of potato and pumpkin manti while drinking Georgian and Armenian brandy and watching Caspar, the Friendly Ghost cartoons dubbed in Russian. That’s the sort of breakfast you don’t forget.
True, it did seem a little early in the day to be drinking brandy. On the other hand, in the next room baby sister was whipping out manti by the dozen, so we were very far from drinking on empty stomachs.
The Uzbeks stuff manti with a variety of things – meat, greens (including clover, if you want – this kind is made to celebrate the spring equinox), even fried onions and mashed potatoes, which make a sort of steamed equivalent of Polish potato pierogi. The Uzbeks have various decorative ways of folding the manti, too. They enjoy this luxury because manti don’t have to be as strongly sealed as ravioli. Being steamed, rather than boiled, they don’t get knocked around in cooking.
For instance, they fold manti in kayak shapes (pinched together in the middle for sturdiness), in the clutch purse shape often seen in Chinese dim sum, even in pyramids. (One shape they never seem to use is the miniature canoes of the manti you get in Turkey, which are not steamed but baked in a tray of broth.)
The Nu’mankhojaevs were living in Namangan, in the remote but densely populated Ferghana Valley of northeastern Uzbekistan, and baby sister was using a folding method I’ve never seen before or since. It makes a distinctive and attractive scarab shape.
In season, I prefer Oshkovok Manti, which is filled with a pumpkin or hard winter squash such as acorn or butternut squash, and this is the version shown in the accompanying photos. Serve either kind of manti with sour cream.
Put about 2 tablespoons of filling in the middle of a 4” square of noodle paste and fold two opposite corners over the filling.
Fold the other two opposite corners over the first two. Then, place your index finger vertically next to one of the sides that were folded over in step 2 (if you use one of the sides created by step 3, you’ll just pull the packet apart in the following steps).
Using the index finger and thumb of your other hand, pull one of the packet’s corners around that vertical index finger and hold it there with your middle finger. Then, pull the next corner over your index finger and firmly pinch the two tabs of paste together. Repeat on the other side and tug the packet to give a neat oval shape with distinct holes at the ends as in the top picture.
1 large potato or small pumpkin
1 onion, minced
Oil for frying
¾ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon turmeric
Boil the potato, or cut the squash in half, scrape out the seeds and bake the halves at 350 degrees until soft, 45 minutes to an hour. When cool enough to handle, skin the potato or scrape the flesh from the pumpkin rind with a spoon and mash it.
Fry the onions until golden. Mix with the potato or squash paste and salt, cayenne, cinnamon and turmeric.
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
About 4 cups water
1 stick butter, melted
Put the flour in a large mixing bowl, stir in the salt and break the eggs into the bowl. Add the water and form into a kneadable dough, adding more water or flour if needed. Knead firmly until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Cover the paste with plastic wrap at least ½ hour to rest.
Cut the ball of paste into 8 equal pieces. Remove one to work on and cover the rest with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel to keep them from drying out. Roll the first piece in a pasta machine as for fettuccine (next to finest thickness). Cut into 4 inch squares and make manti as in the photos.
Dip the bottoms of the mantis into melted butter as they’re finished to keep them from sticking to each other or to the steamer, and set on a work surface covered with plastic wrap. Put as many as will conveniently at one time fit into your steamer, probably 3 or 4, and steam over boiling water until the raw dough aroma is replaced by the smell of squash, about 20 minutes. Set aside while working on the rest of the paste and filling.
Serve with sour cream. Manti reheat well in a microwave oven.
Anissa: Thank you Charles. I must now make some. They sound irresistible and I guess they freeze well either pre or post steaming.
Tagged : Charles Perry, decorative ways of folding manti, georgian and armenian brandy, Nu’mankhojaev household, oxford symposium of food and cookery, pasta for breakfast, stuffed and wrapped, uzbek manti 1