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Kofta July 7, 2012

Filed under: Afghanistan — Emily @ 12:20 am

Like just about every country in Europe and the Middle East, Afghanistan has a meatball dish. Meatballs are an easy thing to make and are especially delicious with a creamy sauce. Since we are in the Middle East, we went with yogurt.

This recipe is adapted from the same cookbook as the other Afghan recipes, Afghan Food and Cookery by Helen Saberi.

The gist is, take some ground meat (we used turkey but lamb is more authentic) and mix it with a chopped onion, cilantro, ground coriander, cumin, ground cloves and cinnamon. Just a tiny bit of those spices. Add an egg for a binder and shape into balls or lil loaves.

The sauce was 2 chopped onions browned in oil with a Tbs. of tomato sauce. Brown the meatballs in the pan on all sides and then add some water to thicken the sauce and cook on low for about 30 min or until your meat is cooked through.

I will confess, I used the rice cooker. I’m sorry, nothing beats that for convenience. And since we had asparagus, I had to saute that in butter and add some lemon juice.

This was my last Afghan meal and John’s favorite. All the meals I made really revolved around meat and bread and I was hoping for more vegetables. With the future countries I’d like to try some veggie recipes and perhaps some dessert ones since I’m a huge dessert person. It was interesting to see the different influences on Afghan food.

One last tidbit about Afghanistan. The country has definitely had a tumultuous history having been invaded many times. Recently I watched that horrible history of Alexander the Great with Angelina Jolie in it as his mother. At any rate, Alexander was one of the many who invaded Afghanistan. Next came a Samanid invasion that converted the majority of the population to Islam. Afghanistan was also invaded by Genghis Khan, the Turks, the British and the Soviet Union. We are the latest in a long line of conquerors of this battered country.

This website has some beautiful photos of the country.

Next  up: Albania!

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Kebabs and Chalow June 19, 2012

Filed under: Afghanistan — Emily @ 12:16 am

Lamb kebabs are a popular street food in Afghanistan. Chicken is a little more our speed so I decided to prepare a chicken kebab tonight. John’s mother gave us her grill several months back and since then we’ve been trying to get some good use out of it. Neither of us have done tons of grilling in our life and in fact this was my first time making kebabs. Luckily, I have watched a number of Alton Brown’s Good Eats shows on grilling!

I got up this morning and started to break down the chicken to marinate all day. It is always hilarious to see John’s reaction to a little raw chicken. The blood freaks him out and I think he gets nervous when I start swinging around that sharp knife. Luckily for me, Sheldon, was VERY interested in watching me butcher the chicken.

Chicken marinated in the fridge today with half an onion, half a lemon’s worth of lemon juice, 1 diced habanero, ground coriander, oil/s&p. I don’t think habanero is the traditional pepper for the dish but our grocery store was out of Thai. It took a little playing with our grill when I got home but we grilled up skewers of breast and thigh meat as well as the drumsticks and wings until they were crunchy. It was 92 degrees outside today so grilling was a “fun” affair.

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I made chalow to go with the kebabs which is just basically just steamed basmati rice. I have a rice cooker but decided to make it the way described in the cookbook. Parboil for 2-3 min., then add oil, cumin, salt, cover and reduce heat to low for 40 min. The result was a non-sticky rice with a crunchy golden crust. Top it all with cilantro, yum!

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Overall, it was tasty! I think I might serve some sort of yogurt sauce to make it a little less dry. The rice was tasty but not quite to the amazing quality of the rice we get at our local Indian restaurant. I loved the golden crunch. The habanero in the marinade made the chicken deliciously spicy.

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I finished reading the Kite Runner today. It was a fantastic book about redemption. Awful things happen to the characters in the book but in the end the main character faces his fears that he is not the man that his father hoped he would grow into. And the ending gives a good cry. I explained the plot to John and he decided he would never read the book. It is really hard to read about awful things happening to children.

There were a lot of great quotes from the book:

“For you, a thousand times over” – the new “as you wish!” from Princess Bride

“There is only one sin. and that is theft… when you tell a lie, you steal someones right to the truth.”

“A boy who won’t stand up for himself becomes a man who can’t stand up to anything.”

Although it was a pretty heavy subject, I enjoyed reading all the comments about food and culture. It’s been difficult to find food and culture JUST about Afghanistan. The whole Islamic middle eastern world has greatly influenced all the countries in the region. Afghanistan is also heavily influenced by Pakistan and India. Naans, kormas and biryanis are all things we order at our Indian restaurant (Punjabi). They are also all popular dishes in Afghanistan. Additionally Afghanistan has been invaded several times from the north by the Mongols and Russians.

My next book to read is the Wars of Afghanistan. I’m interested to learn more about the history of the area. The country seems like it has been through a lot of different conflicts.

I’ve never heard of the Shahnameh which is a epic poem from Persian history that featured in the book but I found a website that is turning it into a series of graphic novels. I think that would be worth a read if you are into mythology.

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1 – Afghanistan June 17, 2012

Filed under: Afghanistan — Emily @ 1:15 am

I don’t really know much about Afghanistan other than the capitol is Kabul and we had a war there. So Gavin and I explored some children’s books about Afghanistan. Afghanistan is one of the oldest settled areas in the world since it is between the Fertile Crescent and India. Most of the people seem to be subsistence farmers and goat herding is popular. The population of Afghanistan is the same size as that of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio put together.

Pictures of the country remind me a lot of Eastern Washington. There are miles of barren hills and grass lands. It’s a landlocked country with no ports and only a few rivers. One is an offshoot of the Indus. The Hindu Kush mountains cross in the Northeast into Pakistan.

Here’s some interesting facts we found about the country:

  • Buzkashi is a national game that looks like polo with a stuffed goat carcass.
  • the fascinating religion of Zoroastrianism started here
  • poppies are a big crop as well as wheat, fruits and nuts
  • literacy is 36%, 21% for women
  • the people are 42% Pashtun and 27% Tajik (Persian)
  • goat is the most commonly eaten meat
  • people eat with their fingers seated on the floor around a heated table (sandali – similar to the kotatsu in Japan)
  • Mongols brought noodles to the country
  • kite flying is a popular activity
  • more than 30 languages are spoken
  • Islam is the main religion but Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and Hinduism are also practiced

Here’s some photos from the internet:

from Kite Running

Tajik kids with the Hindu Kush behind. Some guy’s flickr

Yes that is a headless goat. Some other guy’s flickr.

In the next few weeks I’m going to try and make a few dishes and read a few books.

Here are some of the most popular dishes:

  • Qabli Pulao (Kabli Pilau) – Yellow Rice with Chicken, Raisins and Carrots
  • Kababs (Kebabs) – we’ll probably have chicken since we are not huge lamb eaters
  • Qorma (Korma) – I’m not sure how similar this is to an Indian korma
  • Mantu – steamed meat filled wontons
  • Chalow – white rice Afghan style
  • Kofta – meatballs in curry sauce
  • Osh Pyozee – onions stuffed with ground meat and rice – this is probably the first I’ll make
  • Naan
  • Halwa – a wheat dessert
  • Baqlawa – baklava

Books that were recommended:

  • The wars of Afghanistan: messianic terrorism, tribal conflicts, and the failures of great powers – Peter Tomsen
  • Afghan Food and Cookery – Helen Saberi
  • Food of Life: a book of Persian and Modern Iranian cooking and ceremonies – Najmieh Batmanglij
  • The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini