I started off the new year fully prepared to swear off cooking forever. I don't have the time or the energy,and no one here wants to eat what I want to cook. But then after a trip to Costco where I invested in a ridiculously generous supply of every staple I could think of, I realized I had everything I needed to try nearly every single recipe in my collection of Afghani recipes. Surely the stars don't align this way more than once in a lifetime! It was a sign. At first I thought I'd just try a few simple selections, but with each sip of coffee my dreams and delusions grew.
This is how I ended up slaving over a meticulous, labor-intensive dish of stuffed chicken cooked in rice the very first week of the year. It was dry and disappointing. A "bitter" meal for me. I had been sure something that complicated had to result in greatness. It was SO bloody dry, and all the fried almonds and raisins and orange peel in the world couldn't fix that.
However, there was a cauliflower stew I made as well which was quick, simple, and though never destined for greatness, I intend to make it all winter long. I tried it with beef stew meat and ground lamb. Both times it was really good. I served it with basmati rice because we eat everything with rice, but I suppose it could go with anything you like. There is nothing in the stew which screams "Afghani!", so it would be equally at home with naan or mashed potatoes.
Happy New Year!
1-2 chopped onions
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound of stew meat, either lamb or beef
2 teaspoons ground coriander OR 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 cloves chopped garlic
1-1/2 teaspoons split peas
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
salt and pepper
1 large head of cauliflower cut into florets
In a large pot heat the oil and sauté the onions until they are golden brown. Add the meat, a little bit of salt, and allow the meat to brown a little. Stir in the coriander or tomato paste, the garlic, the split peas, the turmeric, and some salt and pepper. Add just enough water to barely cover the meat. Bring it up to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer until the meat is tender. Add the cauliflower, and when that is tender too season to taste with salt and pepper.
I made a horrible, lean, watery cabbage soup that I had to feed to the chickens because it was so bad. I had trusted the cookbook author and followed the recipe exactly. Big mistake, but here is the antidote. Chicken, beef, AND pork! It's rich and satisfying. It won't leave you wondering if times are really so desperate after all, and it serves 12. So make it for a big group, or make it once and freeze the rest for future dinners when you need something instant. You need an ENORMOUS pot.
This recipe calls for yuca, or cassava. You can usually find it in a Latin grocery store, and sometimes already peeled in the frozen section. It has a nice gummy texture; I believe tapioca is made from yuca. The preparation is simple. Peel it, cut it into manageable 2" sections, and remove the tough cord that grows down the center since it's impossible to chew. It wasn't until later that I read somewhere that it's poisonous before you cook it. It would have been nice to know earlier, but I was never tempted to pop the woody tuber in my mouth anyway. Here is a complete step-by-step tutorial on how to prepare yuca for cooking if you feel like you need it.
The tomato sauce that seasons the whole dish is so good I will at least double it next time. It would be so good over eggs or spooned onto just about anything. This recipe is from Saveur, and they based it on a recipe from Secrets of Colombian Cooking by Patricia McCausland-Gallo.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large tomato
3/4 cup chopped scallions
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon saffron
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
1 whole chicken
1-1/2 pounds pork spareribs, separated
1 pound beef brisket or stew meat
a few springs of cilantro
1 tablespoon salt
4 cloves garlic
2 pounds cassava, peeled and cut into 2" pieces
2 pounds of potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 head of cabbage, thinly sliced
3 avocados sliced for serving
white rice to serve along with the soup
Korean Meat Marinade
Oh yum. I used this on short ribs and then again with pork tenderloin. Delicious both times. The beef short ribs had the best flavor, but they were tough in spite of my best efforts to tenderize them. You can grill the meat or cook it under the broiler, but it tastes better grilled. We usually serve it with vinegared cucumbers, kim chi, and a fried vegetable. The traditional way with all the little sides would take an army. Suit yourself.
2-3 pounds meat
1/2 onion, minced
1/2 bulb garlic, peeled and minced
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
Mix all the other ingredients together for the marinade except for the meat. Put the meat in a bowl, stir in the marinade, and leave it covered in the refrigerator overnight.
Grill the meat.
Slow Cooker Nihari
I said that if all the recipes I tried from Anupy Singla's The Indian Slow Cooker were good I would become a slow cooker devotee. It's official now. Go buy the book and dust off your slow cooker. The Nihari was great, the split peas with spinach were great, the garlic ginger eggplant was fantastic, and I'm trying the carrot halwa tonight. I might be tempted to cook through the book from cover to cover this month, but then all I could post would be adaptations of recipes from Mrs. Singla's cookbook, and while I'm not a copyright expert, I'm pretty sure that would be violating the spirit of the law if not the letter.
Nihari is a meat stew traditionally made in India and Pakistan. I've never made Nihari the traditional way, so I can't compare the two versions, but this was good and so easy I felt guilty serving it. (I've got to work on that!) The list of spices is long, but you don't have to actually do anything with them other than dump them in.
All this contains is the meat, onions, garlic, ginger, and lots and lots of spices. If you're missing one or two of them I would just make this anyway. Also, I prefer not to cook with vegetable oil, so while I guess I could have used olive oil, I used coconut oil. This calls for a really big slow cooker to fit your beef, but if you only have one of the smaller ones you could halve the recipe. This would be great with naan, but I served it with basmati rice. A salad would be good with this too.
(1) 2-3 pound chuck roast or beef brisket
2 onions, chopped
1- 2 inch piece of ginger
10 cloves of garlic
1 generous teaspoon ground ginger
4 cardamom pods
3 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon garam masala
2 tablespoons ground fennel
1/2-1 tablespoon red chili powder (I used 1/2 tablespoon but the original recipe called for 1)
2 pinches ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon white salt
1 teaspoon black salt
1/2 cup oil
1. Blend the ginger and garlic together in a food processor or chop it by hand.
2. Into the slow cooker put the onions, then the beef, and then the ginger and garlic. Layer in the spices and drizzle the oil over the whole thing if the oil you're using is liquid, cover, and cook on low for 9 hours.
3. Stir it up to break apart the meat and remove the bones, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick.
According to James Beard, this menu is a fusion of Mexican and Spanish influences, but this tasted to me like a cross between a burger and felafel, and maybe better than either one. I can’t wait to eat the leftovers.
I came across these recipes in James Beard’s American Cookery. He recommends that you make the chuletas a meal by serving them with refried beans and the salsa fria. Both the salsa and the chuletas had so much flavor, it seemed like a waste to serve them together. So I would either serve the salsa with plain burgers, or serve the chuletas with beans.
I googled “chuletas” and found only recipes for fried pork chops. Odd, but James Beard must have known what he was talking about. His recommendation was to serve these with the salsa fria and refried beans. I am not including a recipe for refried beans, so use your own.
1. Mix everything together in a bowl except for the breadcrumbs. Roll out about 30 meatballs, using roughly 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture for each one. Put the breadcrumbs in a shallow dish and smoosh each ball into it to form a patty, flipping afterward to coat the other side with breadcrumbs. Each patty will be about 3-4 inches in diameter. Chill them- probably to help the patties hold their shape.
2. When you are ready to eat them, sauté them in a frying pan with olive oil, flipping once to brown each side.
North African Meat Stew (Dafina)
Sure there are slow cookers, but what about a slow cooker meal that serves up three courses and doesn't even require a crockpot? Way more impressive. This meat stew is the work of brilliant Jewish women who needed to serve a hot meal on the Sabbath without lighting a fire. It is from Gloria Kaufer Green's The Jewish Holiday Cookbook.
There are probably many more ways to serve this, but the traditional way is to eat the eggs and potatoes together, possibly for breakfast, the rice and meat together as a second course, and then the beans and broth as a soup. I served it once after church on a Sunday with a green salad, and I was impressed even if no one else was. Next time I make this I think I will use it for three full meals: toast with eggs and potatoes for breakfast (if I include the rice next time, otherwise I'll save the potatoes for the meat), tacos with the meat and rice (and avocado, lime, etc.) for lunch, and finally I'll serve the bean soup with a salad for dinner.
You can make this either in the oven or in a slow cooker. I left out the rice this time because I couldn't find my cheesecloth stash, so I'm sorry it's missing in all the pictures. Use your imagination. Because the chickpeas have to soak, you need to start this recipe early- so for a Sunday afternoon meal, soak the chickpeas from Saturday morning or even Friday night. I let mine soak for 24 hours sometimes out of sheer laziness.
1-1/2 cups dry chick peas
2-1/2 pounds chuck roast cut into 4-6 large pieces
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped pitted dates
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 cup rice
6-8 small new potatoes
about 7 cups water
1. Soak the chickpeas in a bowl with water to cover by at least 2 inches. Leave it for 8-24 hours. Drain before using.
2. In the bottom of a large slow cooker or a big Dutch oven, spread the soaked and drained chickpeas. Layer the meat on top of the chickpeas. Scatter the onions, garlic, dates, and spices (cinnamon through pepper) around the meat. Cut a big square of cheesecloth from a double thickness and tie the corners together to form a bag around the rice. Make sure there is plenty of room in the bag since the rice will swell to 2 or 3 times the original size. Put the bag in the center on top of the meat, and surround it with alternating eggs and potatoes. Add enough water so that everything is almost covered, but be sure there is at least 1 inch of headroom at the top of the pot.
3. If you're doing this in a Dutch oven, bring the dafina to a boil over medium heat, cover it tightly, and put it in a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake it for one hour, then lower the temperature to 225-250 degrees and bake it for another 12-20 hours. Don't stir the dafina while it's cooking. If you are cooking this in a slow cooker, put it on hight heat for 1 hour, and then turn the heat to low and cook it overnight.
It's simmering on the stove and it smells amazing. Must be the lard.
This was a very simple recipe. It simmers for nearly three hours, so it's better made ahead of time, but it doesn't take much effort once the vegetables are all cut up. You don't even have to brown the meat. I know next to nothing about sausage, so I bought Andouille, the only sausage that was smoked at Trader Joe's. It was pretty fiery but it tasted great- though I wish I could have tried the recipe with a more authentic sausage, whatever that would have been. I used the meat that I had, which was just over 2 pounds of a cut I think was called rib steak. It was tough with lots of connective tissue, but after the long simmer it was completely tender.
Another winner from the Countess.
2 pounds of beef cut into 1 inch cubes
1 or 2 smoked sausages, sliced
3 medium onions sliced thinly
2 diced tomatoes
2 red or green bell peppers, peeled if you like and thinly sliced
2 or 3 potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 tablespoons paprika
6 cups boiling water
3 tablespoons lard, olive oil, or butter
Heat up the lard, olive oil, or butter in a large pan. Fry the onion in it until it is light golden. Add the cubed beef, the tomatoes, the chopped bell peppers, the paprika, and some salt. Simmer it very gently for 45 minutes. The salt will draw out moisture from the vegetables and it will create enough juice to simmer in. Slowly add the 6 cups of hot water, cover the pan, and let it continue to simmer for another 2 hours. Half an hour before serving add the potatoes, and 10 minutes before serving add the sausage.
I love trying new foods, cooking, and gardening. I hope to share these experiences on this site. Thanks for taking a look!