(Kabul Party Rice)
This is a special dish prepared for celebrations when guests are expected. If pine nuts aren’t available, pistachio can be substituted. The Afghans use lamb tail fat to sauté the onions, but since this is not readily available, I suggest butter.
1 tablespoon chopped fresh green chile, such as serrano
2 large carrots, peeled and grated
3 large onions, chopped
4 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 cups cooked white rice
1/2 cup shelled piñon or pine nuts
1/2 cup seedless raisins
1 tablespoon each, ground cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, cumin
Place the carrots in a saucepan and add water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes, then drain. Melt the butter in a skillet at medium temperature, add the onion, and sauté until lightly brown. Combine the drained carrots, rice and onions, and stir in the remaining ingredients while simmering over low heat for about 10 minutes.
This is an excellent side dish with meat, fish or poultry.
Heat Scale: Medium
Lamb is by far the most popular meat in the country and it is prepared in several ways. Folktales say this is how Genghis Khan liked his lamb prepared while on his way through the country. If you prefer beef, it can be substituted, using a cut suitable for roasting.
1/2 teaspoon ground or powdered red chile
1 5-pound leg of lamb, trimmed of fat
8 ounces plain yogurt
1/2 level teaspoon powdered ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 ounces ground pistachio nuts
1/2 teaspoon saffron, or substitute annatto (available in Latin markets)
1/4 pound butter or shortening
Pierce the surface of the meat with a fork. Mix all of the ingredients together, except the butter, and rub into the meat thoroughly. The Afghans keep the meat at room temperature for about 12 hours, but I prefer to cover it and keep it in the refrigerator overnight.
Place the lamb in a shallow roasting pan, dot the surface with the butter, then place it in the oven for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees F. Reduce the oven heat to 300 degrees F. and cook for three hours, or longer if needed. Baste with the juices in the pan and serve hot with a rice side dish.
Heat Scale: Mild
This is the almost universal way meat is cooked every day, as well as for festive get-togethers. It is about as close to the national meat dish of Afghanistan as one can get. Lamb is commonly used, but beef can be substituted.
1/2 teaspoon of chopped fresh or dried red chile
1 pound boneless lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup of plain yogurt
2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
Combine all ingredients and allow the meat to marinate for 4 to 5 hours. Place the meat on barbecue skewers and grill over wood or charcoal. When done, the kabobs can be eaten as is or placed inside non or pita bread.
Serves: 3 to 4
Heat Scale: Mild
(Village Whole Wheat Bread)
This is the staff of life for all classes of Afghans, whether city dwellers or nomads. The basic ingredient is wheat—red hard winter wheat is preferred, but any local wheat will do.
7 cups whole wheat flour
1 Tablespoon salt
water as needed to make the dough kneadable, about 3 and 1/2 cups
Mix the flour and salt together and add the water to make dough. Knead the dough 300 times, cover it with a wet towel, and let sit in a warm place for 12 to 24 hours. Knead 100 more times, and place it in an oiled baking pan. Cut the top lengthwise and let sit in a warm place for 4 hours.
Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 30 minutes, then in a 400 degree F. oven for 45 minutes. The crust should be dark brown.
Yield: 1 large loaf