Cooking Around the World: Afghanistan

My first experience with Afghan food (and Venezuelan food, after which I’m now anxious to get down to the V’s!) was at Pittsburgh’s Conflict Kitchen. If you’re ever in Pittsburgh, go to Conflict Kitchen.

Every six months, they feature the cuisine of a different country the U.S. is in conflict with. They have posters and flyers with interviews and information about the country from natives living both in their home country and here in the U.S. More on Venezuela, which I just ate yesterday, later.

For now, Afghanistan!

The mention of Afghanistan immediately makes me think of war and unrest, because that’s the only reason it’s really ever in the news. Obviously, there is more to the people and culture of this country than what the average American sees.

Afghanistan

As anyone who has played extended games of Risk is likely familiar, Afghanistan is on the edge of the Middle East, close to India and ever-so-slightly bordering China

Afghani food is chock full of lamb, which BW loved. Our budget didn’t though, so we did lamb in one dish and beef in the other.

I’m not sure what I want the format of these posts to be, or what I want to focus on. I am no great food blogger! For now, I’ll start off with sharing the recipes we used, and the mistakes we made.

(for recipes as I add them, and also honorable mentions I just didn’t have menu-room to make, check out my Pinterest page for CAtW)

Main dish: Qabuli Pulao — Afghanistan’s national dish

Basmati rice, lamb, carrots, raisin, sugar and beef broth.

Stew: Lamb with Spinach (yup, that’s the only name I could find for it)

Lamb, beef stock, onions, garlic, tomatoes, spinach, yogurt, and the most delicious combination of spices. We subbed garlic for nutmeg and cinnamon for cardamom, which is a very expensive spice.

Side: Naan

Bread!

Dessert: Paneer with blueberries (you’re supposed to use craisins, but Aldi had $1 pints of blueberries, so what the hey)

Milk, vinegar/lemon juice, cheese cloth.

Budget: Roughly $20. Guestimate. We’ll keep better track of the cost for future posts! Also, we’ve gotten two more meals so far out of this dinner, and we still have a ton of Qabuli Pulao left.

We learned that maybe we should only choose one main dish instead of two, especially when experimenting with new cooking styles. We started the process at 5pm, and didn’t eat until 8:30pm. Although we did snack on the paneer first, because we were starving, and why not start with dessert?

Wow.

So good!

The Qabuli Pulao was SO good. I wasn’t expecting much — the ingredients are pretty basic. But you wouldn’t believe the magic of caramelizing some sugar and then boiling it with beef stock and oil.

Fun fact: rice dishes are prized in Afghanistan, and typically eaten by wealthier folks at least once per week.

Thanks Mom for the pot set! Couldn't have done this meal (or really any of the meals we've made so far) without it

Thanks Mom for the pot set! Couldn’t have done this meal (or really any of the meals we’ve made so far) without it. Also, the extra stock pot from my sister. Invaluable.

I didn’t understand why until I actually had to make a rice dish. There’s so many steps. See how crowded our stove is? And this is only half the pots and pans we used.

Other fun fact: one of my friends who grew up in Nepal said white rice is eaten by the rich and brown rice by the poor, because white rice is more expensive since it’s more processed.

We’re probably getting ripped off when we buy brown rice here, since it’s more expensive in the U.S. because of health food buzzwords.

I digress!

The stew was by far our favorite dish. Highly, highly recommend.You could probably throw everything in the crock pot after searing the meat and be fine.

Again, I’m not a food journalist or photographer of any kind, but here are a few photos taken in the dim lighting of our apartment at 8:30pm.

Enjoy!

A little paneer and blueberries to kick things off

A little paneer and blueberries to kick things off

Afghan meal

Our meal!

Afghan meal

Terrible lighting and all kind of one color, but it was delicious I promise!

 

 

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