Monday, September 20, 2010

AFGHANISTAN (Repost from Passport Pantry)

This is a re-post from my group blog with Kathy Patterson: Passport Pantry
Each week we study a country and it's cuisine and post our findings and a recipe I cooked from that country. Here is Afghanistan! Enjoy! If you want to check out our blog it


Immediately upon hearing the country's name, I think of women peering out mysteriously from dark burqas. After reading "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini, I was intrigued. There is so much to talk about, but I'm going to dive right into Afghan cuisine. Kathy will add some facts about the country in a separate post.

So let's take a peek into our pantry...
Although there may be some variations in Afghan cuisine between regions, similarities exist throughout the country. Fresh yogurt, coriander, garlic, onions, spring onion, tomatoes, potatoes, and fruit are all commonly used in preparing meals and are readily available.

Here are some ingredients most commonly used in Afghan cooking:

Herbs and spices

o Coriander

o Cardamom

o Paprika

o Cumin

o Cinnamon

o Turmeric

o Black pepper

o Sea Salt

o Ginger, fresh and dried

o Dill

o Dried garlic

o Fresh cilantro

o Mint, fresh and dried

o Chilies, fresh and dried

o Nigella seeds (tiny black, slightly bitter seeds; available in specialty markets/mail order businesses)

o Sesame seeds

o Fenugreek


Legumes are used as an extender for kebabs and other meat dishes since they are far less expensive than meat.

O Chick peas

o Kidney Beans

o Mung Beans

o Split Peas

o Lentils

The Onion Family

Most Afghan dishes are made with some form of onion. Most common is something called piaz e surkh kada, which is finely minced onion cooked in plenty of oil until deeply browned. Afghans also use the “juice” of the onion, squeezing it out over ground meat for extra flavor in kebabs.

O Yellow onions

o Red onions

o Leeks

o Scallions


Rice is the center of almost every meal in this culture. Knowing how to cook rice properly and use the right rice is considered essentials of being a good Afghan cook.

O Long grain rice

o Short grain rice


This recipe was my first in our project. We really didn't know what we were doing yet. Looking back I wish I could change things up a bit. For instance, I chose a pasta dish. If I am staying true to the country and trying to fairly represent their cuisine, I should have chosen rice. I have also since learned that many Afghan dishes are made with beans. I chose beef. All this to say we live, we learn. I think as time goes on our project will become a little tighter at the seams, as well.

The recipe I chose was fairly simple.

1 Pound Ground Lamb Or Beef

  • 1 Medium Onion -- Grated

  • 1 Teaspoon Cilantro -- Chopped

  • 1 Teaspoon Cumin

  • 1/2 Teaspoon Pepper

  • 1 Medium Egg

  • Salt

  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

  • 2 Medium Onion -- Sliced

  • 1 Can Tomatoes -- Chopped

  • Salt And Pepper -- To Taste

  • 8 Ounces Spaghetti -- Cooked

  • 16 Ounces Yogurt

  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne

  • 1 Tablespoon Mint

  • 3 Cloves Garlic -- Chopped


Combine meat, onion, cilantro, cumin, pepper, egg and salt. Mix well and roll into small balls. Saute onions in oil for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add meatballs and cover, simmer for 30 minutes. Add yogurt, cayenne, mint and garlic. Simmer but do not boil for 10 minutes. Add spaghetti and serve. Serves 4

The ingredients for this recipe were not difficult to find. As I said earlier, I chose the beef instead of lamb. I really wish I would have used rice instead of pasta. I think that would have been a truer representation of the culture.

The combination of spices in the food reminded me of hummus, which has been the extent of my trying middle eastern food up to this point. It was good. Different, but good. The heartburn, however, was outrageous! My husband and I were both up during the night looking for the Zantac. I would definitely be interested in exploring these spices a little bit more. But my stomach would need some time to adjust :)

For this blog, I used the following references: (topic: Afghan cuisine and Afghanistan) (for the recipe) (information Afghan cooking and first picture)

The 2nd picture was taken in my kitchen :)

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