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Afghanistan (Afghanistani Recipes)

World Cuisine Recipes

   The type of food served in Afghan cuisine is quite unique. It has been well documented that the foods, tastes and spices of Afghan food are a rather tasteful blend of the regions that surround Afghanistan. Unlike food from it's neighbors to the east, the spices used in Afghan dishes, are neither too hot nor pungent, and in contrast to it's western neighbors, Afghan food is not bland. In fact may western travelers find the foods of Afghanistan a perfect blend of exoticness and good taste.
   Cooking and food has a very important role in Afghan culture. Unexpected guests might be seen as rude or an imposition in western culture, but not in Afghan culture. Guests are revered and even in families, people often just drop in with little or no notice and to not have food for them would be unheard of even in the most spur of the moment situations. Coming away from an Afghan table hungry is simply never happens, no matter how little preparation time the host has.
   The types off food served are also symbolic for example Qaabuli Pallow is the crown of Afghan cooking and served to special guests or on special occasions such as weddings. Letee is served to new mothers because of its easy on the stomach yet high nutritive value. Dogh is best enjoyed on a hot summer's day and Mahi is served during Nowroz (New Year). Even eggs are prepared in a special way so that a guest is well nourished when they wake up. Afghans also believe food is elemental in nature, and can produce hot or cold, or be neutral in the body. Food is well appreciated and even has special meaning as stepping on a piece of dropped bread is considered sinful.
   Afghans take great pride in their cooking and are very happy to see everyone full and satisfied. Afghan cooking is not about exact measurements, and many of the ingredients can be substituted to achieve a similar taste. The amounts of all of the spices can be adjusted to suit your individual tastes. No two Afghans prepare the same dish exactly the same. Creativity is another element that contributes to the wonderful medley of flavors that make up Afghan cooking. Prepare these recipes with love and Nosh-e-Jaan, or good eating.
Spinach & Yogurt Dip (Sabse Borani)
Makes 2-3 cups
1C yogurt (drained)
4 C fresh spinach leaves (chopped)
1 medium onion (thinly sliced)
2 cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
2 T oil
Cooking Instructions:
First, drain the yogurt for 60 minutes by placing in a cheese cloth and tying to a long wooded spoon set over a bowl to catch the draining water. (Some people place in a coffee filter or paper towel). Rinse and chop the spinach. Place it still damp in a sauce pan, cover, and cook till just wilted. Drain and squeeze out excess water. In a large skillet, cook onion in oil until soft, add garlic for one minute, then add spinach. Cook for 2 more minutes. When cool, combine the spinach with yogurt. Add salt and hot pepper flakes to taste. Turn into a bowl and serve with hot naan (a round flatbread) or toasted pita chips. You can also serve chilled.
Vegetable Fritters (Pakora)
Makes 8-10 pieces
1 1/2 C besan
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 C  water (more or less)
Assorted vegetables:  cauliflower, potato, eggplant, carrots, onions, spicy peppers
4-6 C vegetable oil for frying
Cooking Instructions:
Combine first 5 dry ingredients; then add water, beating vigorously. Or use a blender. Add as much water as you need to get the consistency of pancake batter. Let batter rest for 30 minutes. Slice vegetables in 1/4" rounds, or thinly so they will cook easily. In a wok or deep skillet, heat oil to 350.  Dip vegetables into batter and deep fry in batches, 2 minutes, flip, then 2 minutes more, till they become golden brown. Drain on towels.  Some cooks recommend “par-frying: deep fry till just golden, cool to room temperature, then deep fry a second time. This gives a crispier crust. You can make the pakora in advance. After the first deep-fry, store them in the refrigerator, or freeze them, then deep-fry the second time before serving.
Chicken with Rice & Carrots (Kabuli Palow)
Servings: 8
2 C Basmati rice (see sidebar)
1/4 C ghee or butter (see sidebar)
1 yellow onion (sliced thinly)
3 lb. chicken pieces (without skin)
2 T tomato paste
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic (crushed)
3 1/2 C water
1 T garam masala (see sidebar)
2 carrots (shredded or julienned into matchsticks)
1/2 C raisins
1/3 C slivered almonds
1/2 C hot water
Cooking Instructions:
Rinse Basmati rice several times in cold water - draining and rinsing until rinse water is clear. Bring 6 C of water to a boil and add Basmati. Cook for only 6 minutes. Drain rice and set aside. Discard the rice liquid. In a large skillet, heat ghee or butter. Add onion slices and caramelize, cooking till dark brown. This will take a while. Remove onions and set aside, leaving most of the ghee or butter in the pan. Add chicken pieces to skillet and brown on all sides. Remove chicken, saving ghee, and place chicken pieces in a good-sized pot. Add salt, garlic and 3 1/2 C water to the chicken. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over medium heat for 20-30 minutes or till chicken is tender. Remove chicken and set aside in a warm place. Reserve chicken liquid. In a food processor, blend caramelized onion with 1/2 C water or chicken liquid, tomato paste, and salt. Pour tomato paste mixture back into chicken broth and boil for 10 minutes. Add rice and garam masala to chicken broth mixture. Cover and simmer rice until liquid is reduced and rice is tender. While the rice is simmering, cook shredded carrot in the skillet with left over ghee till golden brown. Drain ghee from skillet, add raisins, almonds and 1/2 C water to the carrots and cook till all the water is reduced. Place rice on a platter or in a large shallow bowl.  Arrange chicken pieces on top of the rice and garnish with the carrot-raisin-almond mixture.
Lamb Kabab (Shish Kebab)
Servings: 6-8
2 lb. boneless lamb (1” cubes)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 C red wine
Cooking Instructions:
Marinate all the ingredients for 1-2 hours. Skewer lamb, alternating with onion quarters, on metal skewers. Grill or broil for 10 minutes.
Meatballs with Chickpeas (Kofta Nakhod)
Servings: 6
1 C dried chickpeas
1 ½ lb. lean ground beef
1 large onion (grated)
¼ tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

1 T dried mint leaves (crushed)
1 T bread crumbs
4 C chicken broth (or mix of water & broth)
Cooking Instructions:
In a large pot, cover chickpeas with water, bring to a boil for one minute, cover, and remove from the heat.  Let stand for one hour. Drain chickpeas and blend them in a food processor with the remaining ingredients, except broth. In a separate large pot, bring broth or water to a boil. Form the chickpea-meat mixture into small balls, about 1 1/2" in diameter. This should give you about 18 meatballs; place them the in boiling water, and simmer for 45 minutes till done.  Drain and serve with Noodles and Yogurt.
Traditional Lamb Stew (Chalau)
Servings: 6
1/2 C vegetable oil (divided)
1 large onion (finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
1 1/2 lb. lamb stew-meat (1” cubes)
1 1/2 C water
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. cumin
3 C uncooked Basmati rice (see sidebar)
6 C water
3 C fresh spinach leaves (chopped)
2 T fresh cilantro leaves (chopped)
Cooking Instructions:
In a large skillet heat 1/4 C of oil. Add onion and cook till translucent. Add garlic and lamb, browning lamb. Add water, salt, cayenne, and cumin. Simmer on low heat, covered, for 1 1/2 hours. In a large saucepan, cook rice for 5 minutes in remaining 1/4 C oil, stirring frequently. Add water and bring to a boil. Cover loosely, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or so till rice is tender and most or all of the water is absorbed. Add spinach and cilantro to lamb and cook 10 more minutes. Turn rice onto a serving bowl and spoon a little stew over the top. Serve remaining stew in another serving bowl. Serve with Naan.
Afghan Flatbread (Noni Afghani)
Makes 8 pieces
1 1/2 C warm water (divided)
1 1/4 oz. pkg. dry yeast
1 T sugar
4 C flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 C vegetable oil
1 egg yolk (mix with 1 T water)
1 T caraway seeds
Cooking Instructions:
Mix yeast and sugar with 1/2 C warm water.  Let stand for 10 minutes until it begins to fizz and froth. Sprinkle top with 1/2 tsp. flour and let stand 5 more minutes. It will rise and froth quickly. In a large mixing bowl, add flour and salt. Make a well in the center and add oil and yeast mixture. Stir this in, and slowly add remaining water, in small amounts, till you have a soft, moist dough. Knead for 5 minutes and place dough back in bowl, covered with a towel. Set in a warm spot to rise for 1 1/2 hours. Preheat oven to 350. After 1 1/2 hours, punch the dough down and divide it into 8 equal portions. Roll each into a ball, then flatten each ball into 6-7" oval, about 1/2" thick.  Brush each piece with egg yolk mixture and sprinkle with seeds. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake 20-25 minutes till golden brown. Serve immediately or cool and serve as you would pita bread. Serve with Spinach & Yogurt Dip or with any other Afghan dish.
Eggplant Salad (Bonjan Salat)
Servings: 8
3 medium eggplants (1 1/2" slices)
2 T salt (divided)
2-4 T vegetable oil (divided)
1 1/2 C tomato sauce
1 T red pepper flakes (less if you don’t like it hot)
2 T ground cinnamon
1 T dried mint leaves (crushed)
1/2 tsp. salt
Cooking Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350. Salt eggplant slices and drain for 30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry. Toss with 2 T oil and place on a baking sheet.  Place in oven for 10 minutes. Turn eggplant slices over, sprinkle with remaining 2 T of oil (if needed) and bake 10 more minutes, till tender and glistening but not mushy. Set aside to cool. In a small saucepan, heat the tomato sauce, pepper, cinnamon, mint and 1/2 tsp. salt for 10 minutes. Pour over eggplant, refrigerate for several hours or, best, overnight (even 1 or 2 days). Serve cool or at room temperature.
Noodles with Yogurt and Mint
Servings: 8
1 1/2 lb. fresh fine egg noodles
2 C plain yogurt
2 large cloves garlic (crushed)
3/4 C fresh mint leaves (chopped)
Cooking Instructions:
Bring 8 C water to a boil in a large pot.  Add noodles and boil 4 minutes, till tender, or al dente, your taste. Drain noodles and turn into a large bowl. Combine remaining ingredients in a smaller bowl, and pour over noodles. Arrange Kofta Nakhod (meatballs) around the outside.
Afghan Fudge (Sheer Payra)
Makes 45 pieces
2 C sugar
2/3 C milk
1/4 tsp. salt
2 T light corn syrup
2 T butter
1/2 tsp. cardamom (see sidebar)
1/4 C pistachios (finely chopped)
1/4 C walnuts (finely chopped)
Cooking Instructions:
In a saucepan over a medium heat, combine milk, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Stir occasionally, making sure sugar dissolves. Heat to 240 on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and add butter. Cool to 120 without stirring. Add cardamom and beat vigorously for about 5-10 minutes, till fudge is thick and no longer glossy. Stir in nuts and spread into a buttered 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan.  Let rest until firm and cut into 1" squares.
Creamy Milk Pudding (Firnee)
Servings: 6-8
2 C whole milk
1 C sugar
4 T cornstarch
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1 capful rosewater (see sidebar)
2-4 T pistachios (finely ground)
Cooking Instructions:
In a saucepan over a medium fire, combine all ingredients except pistachios.  Bring to a boil, stirring continuously.  Once you reach the boil, pour into a shallow serving bowl and regfrigerate.   Sprinkle with pistachio nuts and serve.
Elephant Ear Pastries (Gosh Feel)
Makes 40 pieces
2 eggs
2 tsp. caster sugar (see sidebar)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 C milk
1/4 C vegetable oil
2 1/2 C flour (divided)
oil for deep frying
1 C confectioners’ sugar
1/2 C pistachios or walnuts (finely chopped)
Cooking Instructions:
In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs with sugar and salt till light and frothy. Add milk and oil and continue beating. Add 1 C of flour to egg mixture, blending thoroughly. Then blend 1 C more of the remaining flour, reserving 1/2 C. Turn the dough onto a floured board (using a bit of remaining 1/2 C), sprinkle the dough with more of the remaining flour and knead for 10 minutes, using flour when needed. Dough will be somewhat sticky, but have a smooth gloss to it. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest 2 hours. After 2 hours, pull off a piece of dough about the size of a large cherry tomato.  Roll into a flat 3 1/2" x  4" oval. Take one side of the oval and fold it over to the other side, crimping edges together.  It will resemble an elephant ear.  Make more “ears,” deep frying them, in batches, in 350-degree oil. Turn to cook evenly till golden, remove, and drain on paper towels. When cool sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and nuts.  Serve immediately or store in an airtight container.

World Cuisine Recipes