This spicy ground beef turnovers recipe for mini chebureki makes a spicier, smaller, hand-pie sized version of chebureki, crispy fried pastries filled with cumin-spiced minced beef and onions, traditionally so large you need two hands to hold them. A Crimean Tatar pastry, chebureki (чебуреки) are a popular street food snack in Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, and the Crimean Tartar diaspora.
If you cooked and enjoyed my traditional chebureki recipe, which makes the crunchy fried pastries stuffed with savoury minced beef and onions that are so big you need to hold them in two hands, then you’re going to love this spicy ground beef turnovers recipe for mini chebureki.
A beloved Black Sea beach holiday snack of Crimean Tatar cuisine, traditional chebureki (чебуреки) became an incredibly popular street food staple in Russia, Ukraine, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia, as well as in the Crimean Tartar diaspora, where you’ll find specialist shops and fast food joints selling little else but chebureki.
If you haven’t tried the traditional cumin-driven chebureki, but you’re a fan of filled fried pastries such as samosas and empanadas then trust me, you are going to adore my mini chebureki recipe, along with other spices of Tatar cuisine and Central Asian countries of the Silk Road along which chebureki would have travelled.
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Now let me tell you about this mini chebureki recipe for spicy fried pastries filled with cumin spiced ground beef.
Spicy Ground Beef Turnovers Recipe for Mini Chebureki, Cumin Spiced Fried Minced Beef Pastries
When I cook this spicy ground beef turnovers recipe for mini chebureki, it not only takes me on a trip down memory lane, when we’d sit around my grandparents’ dining table, feasting on my baboushka’s wonderful food, listening to them recollect distant memories, both bittersweet and tragic, it takes me on my own journey.
We’ve done very little travelling since the pandemic started, for obvious reasons. While we do miss spending time in places we know and love, and also miss the excitement of exploring new places for the first time, we’re fortunate to have travelled the world and have countless memories to treasure.
As young backpackers, then as expat academics, then full-time guidebook authors and travel and food writers, we were lucky to get to experience some 70-something countries (I stopped counting long ago) and were privileged to get to dig deep when we did, often spending weeks and months in places as we were working.
Cooking the food of the places we’ve travelled and loved, as well as the cuisines of our culinary heritage has not only got us through the pandemic (so far, touch wood, as it’s not over yet!) and has sustained us in so many ways, it’s kept us connected to our former lives as travel writers, as much as it’s reconnected us to our ancestors and cultural heritage.
I, for one, would have loved to have nibbled on a cherubek the size of my face as a kid, as my grandmother did as a child on family summer holidays on the Crimea. By cooking the food of my family, and food I’m yet to taste – I’ve not yet visited family in Uzbekistan, but hope to one day – I’ve been able to travel in ways I could not have imagined when I could actually travel.
In some ways, it’s been far more satisfying than reading a Lonely Planet from cover to cover before that first big trip overseas. Remember those days?!
Tips to Making this Spicy Ground Beef Turnovers Recipe for Mini Chebureki
If you made the traditional chebureki recipe for the big chebureki that are so large they need to be held in two hands, then you can scroll down to my spicy ground beef turnovers recipe, as I’m sure you’ll do just fine.
The main differences between this spicy ground beef turnovers recipe for mini chebureki and the larger more traditional chebureki is the size – these pastries are smaller, obviously – and the level of spice.
Traditional chebureki are cumin-driven and more gently spiced. I’ve bumped up the spices considerably on these. Cumin is still the main spice, as I didn’t want the pastries to lose their identity.
However, I’ve added smaller measures of spices used in Crimean-Tatar cuisine and the cuisines of Central Asia where the Tatar people are found to create a spicier pastry.
The other tips for this spicy ground beef turnovers recipe are the same as the traditional chebureki recipe.
Add the water to the flour in stages, because if it’s a little too dry you can gradually add more water to the flour, however, if it’s too wet you can’t take the water away, so you need to add more flour, which means you may end up with excess dough.
I try to use the same flour every time but, as Terence also finds with his sourdough baking, the flours we like aren’t always available, and the flour/water measures are always a little different with different flours.
Don’t leave the dough to rest for longer than an hour as it can become too supple, yet, by the same token, don’t try to knead it and roll it out sooner than that as it won’t be as elastic as you want it.
My chebureki recipe calls for the onion to be fried first until translucent. Most traditional recipes don’t. As much as I like the crunch and bite of raw onion, I know many of you don’t, and it makes for a more delicious filling if you fry the onion until soft.
Don’t over-stuff the pastries. A teaspoon of filling is plenty. If you over-fill it with the minced meat mixture, the pastry will not only be unbalanced, but it won’t hold shape or maintain its crunchiness.
The chebureki will also lose their crispiness the longer they sit around after frying, so don’t make these ahead. Prepare them when you plan on eating them and serve them immediately so they are crunchy and piping hot. They’re so good, you’ll get why after you taste them!
Spicy Ground Beef Turnovers Recipe for Mini Chebureki
- 2 cups plain flour
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ cup water
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 300 g brown onion finely diced
- 300 g fatty ground beef
- 1 tsp quality sea salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp white pepper
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp ground fennel
- ½ ground thyme
- ½ tsp ground paprika
- ¼ tsp chilli powder
- 4 tsp garlic powder
- ½ cup fresh dill roughly chopped
- Oil for frying
- In a large mixing bowl, use a clean wet hand to combine the flour, salt, water, and one tablespoon of vegetable oil until you have a ball of dough.
- Sprinkle your work surface with flour and knead for a few minutes until you have a smooth ball of dough; if the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour, or if too dry, add a little more water, but it should be just right. Return the dough to the bowl, cover, and leave to rest for an hour.
- Meanwhile, begin to make the spicy ground beef filling by frying the chopped onion pieces in a tablespoon of vegetable oil until soft and translucent, then transfer to a cold dish and set aside to cool down.
- Once the onion pieces are cool, transfer them to a clean mixing bowl, and combine well with the fatty ground beef, salt, peppers, spices, garlic powder, and fresh dill, to ensure all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
- When the dough is ready – it should be very smooth, soft and stretchy – sprinkle your work surface liberally with flour, rub a rolling pin with flour, then use the rolling pin to roll out the ball of dough quite thinly into one large sheet. If you don’t have much room, first separate the ball of dough into two balls, keep one covered in the bowl and roll out the other ball of dough.
- Use a pastry ring or rim of a glass that’s around 10cm/4in in diameter to cut circles in the dough, as close to eachother as possible, then use a teaspoon to scoop the spicy ground beef mixture into the centre of the circle, and carefully fold one side over the minced meat to form a half-moon shape, but before pressing the edges to seal.
- Press the edges down with your fingers until completely sealed. You shouldn’t need water to seal due to the texture of the dough, but if you find you do, just add a little water to a small dish and dip a finger in and rub it along the rim on one side of the circle only.
- Once sealed, press a fork onto the rim of the cheburek to form a continuous pattern, but take care not to press too hard so as not to create holes in the pastries.
- In a medium-sized frying pan or skillet large enough to hold a few pastries and turn them over with ease, pour in about 1cm-deep vegetable oil to shallow-fry your pastries. Heat the oil until hot – test it by dropping a tiny ball of dough into the oil; if it starts to spit and take on a golden colour, it’s ready – then fry the chebureki in batches for a few minutes or so, lifting one slightly to check the colour, then when golden turning it over to fry the other side for a minute or two. The second side cooks faster.
- Remove the chebureki and transfer them to a rack covered with absorbent kitchen paper, taking the pan off the heat at the same time so the oil doesn’t smoke and burn. If needed, turn the heat down a little, then fry the next batch of chebureki and repeat until they’re all done. Note: if you need to add more oil to the frying pan, ensure it gets hot before sliding the chebureki in, otherwise your pastries will absorb the oil and be greasy.
- When the last batch of chebureki is done, serve immediately while piping hot, garnished with a little fresh fragrant dill, and a dish of sour cream on the side.
Please do let us know if you make this spicy ground beef turnovers recipe for mini chebureki in the comments below, as we’d love to know how they turn out for you.