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Belyashi - Fried Pies with Meat

Friday, February 24, 2012

These small meat pies come from Tajik cuisine, but were traditionally cooked in Russia. In the Soviet era they used to sell hot belyashi from big pots right on the corners of busy streets, where hungry students immediately formed a line to buy a hot pie for about 15 kopecks each. It was not as good as homemade, but still a very popular food on-the-go.  Mama's belyashi, usually prepared on weekends, were superb, they were tasty even when cold. After the first round of eating them toasty hot just off the frying pan, we continued the next day at  forest picnics.

What you need:
The dough:
2 eggs
1.5 cups milk
2 Tbsp + 1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
6 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp dry yeast
3.5-4 cups flour, sifted + flour for dusting

The filling:
1 lb ground beef (I used bison meat)
1 lb ground pork
1 big onion, finely grated
1/4 tsp salt
Black pepper

A pot, better enameled, for mixing the dough
10" frying pan with about 3" high sides
A plastic bag
Yields 40 pies
Total time: about 4 hours

1.Warm up milk in a pot until lukewarm. Mix yeast in 1/4 cup of this lukewarm milk, add 1/2 tsp sugar and put aside to rise and foam.
2. Beat eggs, add to the milk.
3. Add oil, salt, sugar, and yeast mixture when it is foamy.
4. If the milk-egg mixture cooled down, warm it up on low heat stirring constantly. The mixture should be lukewarm.
5. Add 3 cups of flour, mix with wooden spoon until incorporated. Transfer to the table/board dusted with flour and knead with your hands, turning and pressing, until you get a ball that doesn't stick to your hands.

6.Toss the dough into the plastic bag, tie loosely,  and put in the fridge for 30 minutes. This procedure gives the dough a shock that makes it grow fast when you take it out to room temperature.
Meat filling should be soft and tender
7. Prepare the filling. Mix meats with grated onion, salt and pepper. The mixture should be soft, but not runny. If you feel it is too tough, add some milk or water and mix well again. Cover the filling and let it stand at room temperature.

8. Take the dough out of the fridge. Cut small pieces of dough (about 30-40g each), spread them on floured surface. Work in batches of 5-10 pieces. Form dough balls between your palms, put them on floured surface to rise (leave enough space between them - about the size of 1 or even 2 balls).

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until balls double in size. It will take different time depending on the quality of yeast, flour, and the temperature in the room. Ideal temperature in the room for working with yeast dough is about 80 F.

9. When dough balls double in size and feel tender to the touch, form rounds, about 4" each, using a roller or fingers. Put about 1.5-2 Tbsp filling in the middle of each round and pinch together the sides. I prefer not to leave a hole in the middle, because the juices will escape during frying and make a mess in your frying pan and on the range.

10. Place pinched belyashi on floured surface and let them rise again, about 30 minutes or when you feel that the dough is puffy and tender to the touch.
11. Heat the frying pan on medium heat, add oil. Ideally you need so much oil that belyashi are half deep in it, then you don't have to put them on the sides to fry all over. Place a few belyashi in the pan leaving some space between them. Fry on one side until golden, flip over and finish the other side. Fry on the sides if necessary. It's easy to burn fingers with hot oil, so use tongs to turn belyashi.

12. Stack ready belyashi in a dish layered with paper towels.

Serve warm with broth, tea or milk (Jewish people will kill me for meat and milk together, but that's how mama served belyashi, and it was really, really good!)

Tear the crusty shell to reveal juicy flavorful meat inside, devour, and don't feel guilty once again. As many tasty things, it's not your everyday food,  but  so-o-o satisfying.

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