And so it begins….
Today I started at the top of the alphabet with Afghanistan. I was quite looking forward to trying a bit of Afghan cuisine; I’ve never had it before and it’s bang in the middle of North Africa and Asia so it must be good!
My first port of call (as with most things) was wikipedia’s article on Afghan cuisine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afghan_cuisine). They talk about the food being based around the staples of crops, dairy products and fruits. Food isn’t eaten with cutlery, but with bread (so less washing up in my house tonight). Everywhere I’ve read say that the Afghan people treat guests with great respect and give them the best food they can provide. I’d love to visit but can’t see that happening for a good while yet 😦
So, what to cook? The national dish seems to be a rice dish called Qabli Pulao; steamed rice with raisins and carrots. It can have meat included but I decided to cook a separate meat dish (there are loads of recipes online for this if you want to try). This was lovely; a really nice way of cooking rice which I hadn’t tried before; par-boiling then baking in liquid.
I decided on a dish that combined meat and fruits called Khoresht-e Seib. It’s basically onion, chicken thigh, spices (saffron and cinnamon), apples and cherries sweetened with brown sugar and soured with lime juice (http://asiarecipe.com/afghanistan/afghan-meat-dishes.html#kho). It’s a lovely complex mix of flavours like you get with Thai food.
My beautiful assistant cooked up some flat bread called Lavash to eat with.
The other thing I’d love to have made is Mantu. Mantu are steamed dumplings fattened with minced onion beef. I’m a little bit obsessed with dumplings. In fact this blog could easily be themed ‘Dumplings from around the world’ and I’d be in heaven. However, I didn’t have and dumpling wrappers left and didn’t have the time to make my own, so Mantu will have to wait until my order from The Asian Cookshop (http://www.theasiancookshop.co.uk/) arrives.
The meal was really tasty – very similar to a tagine but with rice instead of cous cous. Lots of flavour combinations with every bite; fruity, sweet, sour, spice. We has some background music from youtube courtesy of Nazia Iqbal (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpH5oFxwrBA) which set the scene nicely. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a traditional drink and I suspect the vin blanc wasn’t appropriate…. oh well.