‘Storyteller Soup’ (Lamb and Beefball Soup)

Yuvalama

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    4

Appears in

Anatolia

By David Dale and Somer Sivrioglu

Published 2015

  • About

Because this dish takes a long time, it was traditional in the town of Gaziantep to hire a professional storyteller to keep the cooks entertained while they rolled hundreds of tiny balls of meat and rice. Yuvalama is consumed in vast quantities during the three-day eating festival called Bayram that follows Ramadan.

The word yuvalama means ‘rolled’, and it is said that it takes one person four hours to roll 1 kilo of meatballs. Few restaurants serve yuvalama these days, because their kitchen staff just don’t have the time, but it remains a signature dish at the Gaziantep restaurant Yörem. Hatice Kalan, a rare female restaurateur in this male-dominated town, sits rolling and storytelling through the afternoon with a bunch of friends and employees. The meatballs they make go into her soup (decorated with a yin and yang of mint oil and paprika oil) and also get sold as takeaway to locals who add them to their own soups at home—grateful not to do all that rolling themselves (but missing out on the stories).

Ingredients

  • 95 g ( oz/½ cup) dried chickpeas
  • 440 g (15½ oz/2 cups) medium-grain rice
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 750 g (1 lb 10 oz) plain yoğurt
  • 250 g lean minced (ground) beef
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 165 g ( oz/1 cup) rice flour
  • 2 onions
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 400 g (14 oz) lamb (preferably lamb leg), trimmed and cubed
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint
  • ½ tablespoon chilli flakes

Method

Cover the chickpeas with water and soak overnight. Cover the rice with water, add half the salt, and also soak overnight.

Place the yoğurt on a sheet of muslin (cheesecloth) and tie up the corners. Hang the muslin over a pot for 3 hours to allow the yoğurt to thicken.

Strain and rinse the chickpeas, place in a saucepan with 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) of water and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.

Strain and rinse the rice, then blend in a food processor or blender. Transfer the rice to a mixing bowl and add the beef and white pepper. Knead the mixture with wet hands for at least 5 minutes, or until it becomes a thick paste—almost like a dough.

Spread the rice flour onto a baking tray. Shape the dough into chickpea-size balls, regularly dipping your hands into the rice flour on the tray to keep them dry. You can roll the balls between your palms three or four at a time. Even so, this will take a long time, so enlist other family members to help, or have a storyteller ready. When all the mixture has been made into balls, space them out on the rice flour so they don’t stick together.

Roughly chop the onions. Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add the cubed pieces of meat and brown for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) of water, bring to the boil and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Toss the rice balls lightly in the flour and add them to the lamb. Simmer, covered, for another 15 minutes.

Whisk the yoğurt and egg in a bowl, then whisk in 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) of the lamb cooking liquid. Slowly pour the yoğurt mixture into the pan, whisking constantly. Add the chickpeas. Bring the liquid back to the boil and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.

Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. And the mint and chilli flakes and stir for 2 minutes.

Ladle the soup into four bowls, drizzle the mint and chilli butter over the top and serve.