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Food by VICE

Qurutob Recipe

Skip the terrifying cab drivers of Dushanbe by making Tajikistan's national meat-and-bread dish at home.

by Florian Pinel
Jan 9 2014, 3:00pm

Photos by Florian Pinel.

"Enjoy this with the near-certainty that you won't have to rush to the ER the next day."

Servings: 4

Ingredients

for the Fatir: (yields 1 flatbread)

1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 small egg

2 tablespoon butter, room temperature

2 tablespoons rendered lamb fat (or just more butter), room temperature

1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds

for the "Quick" qurut: (yields 4 qurut balls of about 1 ounce each)

1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

for the roasted lamb shank: (yields 4 servings)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon chili pepper

1 lamb shank (about 22 ounces)

1/2 ounce olive oil

16 ounces tomatoes, quartered

for the Qurutob:

7 ounces onions, very finely sliced

1 ounce olive oil

kosher salt

"quick" qurut

roasted lamb shank (meat, tomatoes, and cooking liquid)

1/2 fatir

2 teaspoons parsley, chiffonade

2 teaspoons basil, chiffonade

Directions

1. For the fatir: Place the flour and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment. While mixing on medium speed, add 1/4 cup of water, then the egg, and mix for 1 minute. Shape the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest 30 minutes.

2. Place a baking dish full of water in an oven set to 450°F.

3. On a floured surface, roll the dough to a 6"x12" rectangle. Cut it lengthwise into two long strips.

4. Mix the butter and lamb fat in a bowl, and spread on the dough. Roll the first strip into a cylinder, then place it on the second strip and roll the whole into a thicker cylinder. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

5. Place the unwrapped cylinder of dough vertically on a floured surface. Using the palm of your hand, flatten the dough progressively to a 1/2"-thick, 7"-diameter disc. While doing this, sprinkle the top generously with flour, and flip the dough frequently — otherwise your dough will be stuck to the counter in a puddle of grease!

6. Prick the flatbread with a fork to create a decorative pattern, then sprinkle the sesame seeds on top and gently press with the palm of your hand to encrust the seeds in the dough.

7. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack, and reserve. (Note: Don't be surprised if the flatbread turns out stodgy and a bit dry—that's what it's supposed to be like! It will taste much better when it soaks up the yogurt sauce.)

8. For the qurut: Pour the yogurt into a baking dish and cook in a 300°F oven for 1 1/2 hours without disturbing it.

9. Pass the yogurt through a chinois, gently pressing with a spatula to extract more whey. Discard the liquid. Mix the solids with the salt, return to the baking dish, and cook for another 30 minutes.

10. Remove the yogurt solids from the dish. If you're a purist, divide the solids into 4 parts, and squeeze each one in your fist to make balls—this is the shape of the qurut sold in Central Asian markets. However, since we're going to break down the balls to make the sauce in a minute, you can just reserve the solids in a container instead, without shaping them.

11. For the lamb shank: The meat is entirely optional. If you want to make a vegetarian qurutob, skip this section, or simply bake some tomatoes with olive oil in the oven.

12. Mix the salt, cumin, coriander, and chili pepper in a container. Season the lamb shank with the spice mixture on all sides.

13. In an oven-proof pan over high heat, sauté the meat in the oil until brown on all sides.

14. Add the tomatoes, cover with a lid, and cook in a 300 F oven for 2 ½ hours.

15. Remove the lid, and cook for another 30 minutes, flipping the shank halfway through. Take out of the oven, and let rest 10 minutes.

16. Pick the meat from the bones, trying to keep it in large chunks. Remove the skin from the tomatoes. Transfer the cooking liquid to a plastic container. Reserve.

17. To assemble the qurutob: In a pan over medium heat, sauté the onions with the olive oil. Season with salt, and cook until golden brown, stirring regularly.

18. Crumble the qurut balls into the pan, add the lamb cooking liquid and about 2 ounces of water, then simmer for a couple minutes, stirring constantly. The amount of water you need to add may depend on the texture of your sauce. You want a sauce that's pretty thick and lumpy, but still liquid.

19. Tear the fatir into small pieces (1" to 1.5" squares), and toss into the pan.

20. Transfer to a ceramic dish, and arrange the meat and tomatoes on top. If necessary, reheat in a 300°F oven for 5 minutes.

21. Top with the parsley and basil. Serve the dish in the middle of the table and eat with your fingers.

From I Ate Dinner in a Tajik Hellhole