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.
Maybe this is an odd recipe to post on Memorial Day weekend, when everyone in their right mind is either camping or grilling. This recipe is so simple I almost didn't post it, but after some thought I decided that was the charm. It really is easy. The yogurt gives the stew a nice tangy flavor, and next time I'd like to try this with cream instead of the yogurt. I'd also like to try some more exciting Afghani dishes, but this was easy on a weekday and great served with rice and a roasted vegetable. According to Helen Saberi in Afghan Food & Cookery, this dish can be made with chicken as well without sacrificing authenticity although I plan on doing just that when I try this with cream next time. You can make this ahead of time and reheat it right before dinner.
I have eaten amazing Afghani food and ho-hum Afghani food, but I am hoping to find the great recipes in Helen Saberi's book. Her vegetables call for vegetable oil, but I use a blend of equal parts olive oil, coconut oil, and sesame oil. I bet that the traditional cooking fat was lamb fat, but that is impossible to find. Some day...
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1/4 cup of oil
1 pound of boneless lamb or chicken
1 tablespoon on tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
2 whole cardamom pods
salt and pepper
3/4 cup full fat yogurt
P.S. My husband deserves full credit for the cream idea. I'll post an update once we try it.
Pronounced "jew-vedge", this hails from the part of the world formerly known as Yugoslavia. This is home cooking at it's best- simple, nutritious and rich. The miracle of this dish is that I made a mistake, turned off the oven halfway through cooking, and came home three and a half hours later to perfection. My kids have activities every afternoon right now, and I don't get home until around 7. I will be making this dish as often as my family will eat it.
I found this recipe in Elisabeth Luard's The Old World Kitchen: The Rich Tradition of European Peasant Cooking. It was published in 1987, so it's hardly the hot new thing, but it is a good thing. The directions were so simple I reread them again and again because I kept thinking that I had left something out. No- it's just that easy. And did I mention delicious?
My kids abhorred the eggplant, but my sympathy is limited. Your family, your call. This needs at least an hour and a half to bake.
1/2 cup olive oil (it's rich, not greasy)
2 sliced onions
3-4 cloves of sliced garlic
2 pounds of boneless lamb, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
salt and pepper
2 pounds of chopped mixed vegetables (bell pepper, zucchini, green beans, eggplant)
1/2 cup of rice
1/2 pound sliced fresh or canned tomatoes
Options and Alterations:
You can leave out the meat and add feta cheese during the end of the cooking. You can switch out the vegetables for whatever is in season. You can substitute chicken for lamb. You can use 4 peeled, sliced potatoes instead of rice. You can also add some cumin to the spices. The original recipe called for 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder, not the paprikas that I used.
This was like a meaty shakshouka, another dish I love. It is an Iraqi breakfast dish, and a bit meatier and more aromatic than most American breakfasts. If that offends you, make it for lunch or dinner. I tried this with lamb and beef. The lamb is my favorite but it is more expensive and I know not everyone is a fan. This is such an easy recipe that once you try it, you'll see this is the kind of thing you can throw together at the last minute and has lots of possible variations. I kept the original amounts from the original recipe, but I think it should really read more like, "lots of chopped parsley, lamb for four people, plenty of juicy tomatoes, lots and lots of curry powder, etc." According to the Saveur article where I first saw this, this is based on a recipe found in a tenth-century Mesopotamian cookbook. It's called Makhlama Lahm, if that means anything at all to you. Here's a link to the original article.
This recipe finishes the eggs in the oven, but if you have really juicy tomatoes, you can just cover the pan and let the eggs finish on the stove.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground lamb
1 minced yellow onion
1/3 cup minced parsley
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 chopped tomatoes, or enough to make it moist and juicy
salt and pepper
crushed red chile flakes to garnish
griddle bread or flatbread
Last week I cooked through a collection of Lebanese recipes from Saveur in a sort of culinary virtual trip to Lebanon. For some reason the road to Lebanon was paved with more than a few bumps. My cooking buddy took a nap instead. I cut the tomatoes wrong for the tabbouleh and included a raw turnip. Yuck. What was I thinking? I spent so much time chopping the parsley for the tabbouleh that after a few lonely and exhausting hours of cooking (which was planned as a social event) I never even got to the lamb. The two and a half pounds of ground lamb became a fifty dollar expense (long story). The first lamb dish I didn't get to start until seven and my family ate at nine. I got distracted and more than doubled the amount of grated onion in the lamb patties, and consequently my entire family wept over dinner.
The spiced lamb patties were probably the best. I couldn't be sure these were a hit the first night since it got so late and there was the whole raw onion fiasco, but the truth was in the leftovers. They just got better and better. The flavor is very rich, so it's nice served with something tart. I tried it with pita and baba ghannouj one night, and then with basmati rice and labne the next day. Delicious.
Reading through recipes makes them sound so complicated and laborious, but these are very simple. You mix the patties (meatballs in disguise), brown them, simmer them in tomato sauce, and finish them off in the oven. Eat them right away or reheat them all week for lunches.
2 lb. ground lamb
1/2 cup minced parsley
1/3 cup flour
2 teaspoons Lebanese seven-spice powder
6 cloves garlic (2 minced, 4 thinly sliced)
1 -1/2 large white onions (1/2 grated, 1 sliced 1/2" thick)- this is where I screwed up and put it ALL in the lamb mixture
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil for frying
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 big tomatoes, one halved and grated and the other in 1/4" slices
1 stick cinnamon
1. In a big bowl, mix together the lamb, parsley, flour, 1 teaspoon seven-spice powder, two minced garlic cloves, half a grated onion, the egg, and the salt and pepper. When it is well mixed together, shape it into meatballs or fingers. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan that can go into the oven and brown the patties in batches in olive oil. Remove them and set them aside.
2. Heat a few more tablespoons of olive oil again. Fry the sliced garlic and sliced onion until golden brown, then add the tomato paste and the last teaspoon of seven-spice powder. After it's fried for a few minutes, add the grated tomato, the cinnamon stick, and salt and pepper. Let it simmer for a few minutes until it thickens, and then slide in the lamb patties. Top the whole dish with the tomato slices.
3. Slide it all into a 400 degree oven for about half an hour until the tomato slices look a little dried out.
I love trying new foods, cooking, and gardening. I hope to share these experiences on this site. Thanks for taking a look!