I disappeared again. You must be used to this terrible behavior of mine. Please forgive me. I was around fighting this crazy cold I got from who knows where which I finally defeated. Thank you for all your emails asking me about my whereabouts. I really appreciate it. You guys are great!
I can’t wait to share one special recipe with you today. Shami is the name of the great dish and it hails from one of the best culinary destinations in Azerbaijan, the region of Lenkeran in the southeast. Lenkeran is home to the best chay (black tea) that comes from vast tea plantations tucked along the region, exotic delicacies loved in every corner of Azerbaijan, hospitable and friendly people, and many more. The recipe was given to me by my buddy Sevda, one of the sweetest Lenkeranis I’ve met.
So, what is shami and what is so special about it. Shami is a lamb patty. But not your regular lamb patty made of ground raw meat. Shami is a patty made of cooked ground lamb and this is how the process goes. First, the lamb is boiled in water along with whole onions until tender. Then the meat is ground together with the onions, the eggs is added, the ingredients are blended together and the mixture is shaped into patties. The patties are then fried on both sides until golden. Boiling the lamb in the first stage removes its heavy taste and smell as well as mellows its taste. Precooking the lamb also allows for short frying times in the second stage and the patties do not absorb as much oil as their counterparts made of raw meat. Shami has a beautiful golden crust on the outside and is super soft and flavorful inside. It is absolutely delicious. Next time, I am going to try making shami with beef. If you try it before me, please let me know how it turns out. Nush Olsun!
Lamb Patties from Lenkeran (Shami)
Makes 18-20 patties
2 pounds (1 kg) boneless lamb with no fat, cut into medium size pieces
2 medium onions, peeled
salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup vegetable oil, for frying
Put the meat and peeled whole onions in a medium saucepan. Fill the pan with enough water to cover the ingredients completely. Add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cook, maintaining a gentle boil, for about 30 minutes, or until the meat is cooked. It should be tender and should not be pink inside). Strain on a fine-mesh sieve (reserve the strained broth for other uses, such as for dushbere).
Pass the meat and the onions together through a meat grinder (the traditional way). Or, grind in a food processor. Put the mixture in a mixing bowl. Add the eggs. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Knead thoroughly with your hand until well blended.
Shape the mixture into 18-20 oval or round patties (I made round), about 3/8-inch (0.9 cm) thick (you can make them thicker if you want to. They should be somewhat “chubby” and not too thin).
Heat the oil over medium heat in a medium frying pan. Brown the patties on one side, for 3-5 minutes, then turn to cook the other side. Do not turn until one side is ready. These patties are fragile and may easily break if you keep turning them. Remove from the heat and serve immediately with rice pilaf or bread (traditionally shami is served as an accompaniment to rice, but I like it with bread too).