Leek and Coriander Dumplings with Beef and Minted Garlic Yogurt

Ashak – Afghan Leek and Coriander Dumplings with Beef & Lentil Sauce and Garlic & Mint Yogurt

Week 19 – Afghanistan

ABOUT AFGHANISTAN

A landlocked country, mountainous, hot, cold, dry and earthquake prone, Afghanistan is situated on the old Silk Road at a crossroads between Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Settled for at least 50,000 years it’s an archaeological gold mine rivalling Egypt. Many empires and kingdoms have flourished here, its people are renowned for their hospitality and fighting prowess. Famed also for the striking beauty of the woman, Alexander the Great himself married into one of the royal families from ancient Bactria, now part of Afghanistan.

wg-afghanistan-1-400x300








SIGHTS TO SEE

The capital Kabul, dramatically located in a high valley at the foot of jagged mountains, Herat, an ancient city with its awesome citadel fortress mostly still intact, the exquisite Friday Mosque and the Minaret of Jam located in a narrow valley at the junction of two rivers, and the beautiful shrine of Hazrat Ali, a fabulous masterpiece to rival the Taj Mahal. Sweeping landscapes of wild mountains, arid upland steppes and the Band-e Amir, a series of brilliantly blue lakes.

images-1

 

 

 

                                                


THE FOOD

From all the multi-ethnic influences the food of Afghanistan is a rich, varied and sophisticated fusion of Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisines. Boasting a huge range of dishes drawing on a wide variety breads, fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. Famed for skewered and grilled meats (kebobs) , kormas (saucy stews)   dumplings (mantu), pickles, soups (shorma) and a vast array of complex rice dishes (pulao).

A national dish is Kabuli Pulao rice with raisins, carrots, orange and pistachios often baked with lamb or Alou Balou Pulao featuring chicken and fresh cherries, or Shebet pulao with fresh dill. Big  meat eaters, chicken, lamb, mutton and goat are most favoured. Cooking methods include a tandoor style oven for baking, grilling, pan frying and steaming, often in a sealed pot as in the ‘Dum” style of India. This method is used to produce their particularly fluffy rice (chawal).

Afghani cuisine is characterised by the surprising absence of spices and the inclusion of fresh and dried fruits and nuts in many dishes. Desserts are mainly sweetmeats, rice pudding or very sweet baklava style pastries. Popular drinks are tea (chai) and a cold yogurt drink flavoured with rose water and salt (dugh)

Afghani’s were famous for their hospitality, and visitors were honoured guests given pride of place and  served the very best on offer. The traditional Afghani feast (Dastarkhan) consists of a cloth spread over the floor ( usual dining place) and covered with as many dishes as possible. Eating is by hand with breads like naan used to scoop up food.

This recipe comes the wonderful SBS food site – http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/afghan-dumplings-beef-sauce-and-garlic-yoghurt-ashak

ASHAK

Dough

  • 500gm plain flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 250 ml (1 cup) water, approximately

Sauce

  • 100 ml  vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 500gm beef mince
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ red capsicum, chopped
  • 400 g can diced tomatoes
  • 1 long red chilli, chopped
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 250ml (½ cup) boiling water
  • ½ cup chana dal (dried split chick peas) soaked, rinsed and cooked until tender

Filling

  • 2-3  leeks washed and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp  butter
  • ½ bunch coriander, washed and chopped

Garlic yoghurt

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup plain natural thick (Greek style) yoghurt
  • small handful fresh mint, chopped

Method

  1. To make the dough  place the flour, salt and oil in a large bowl and gradually add the water until a firm dough forms. (You may not need all of the water.) Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 8–10 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. To make the sauce heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium–high heat. Cook the onion for 6–8 minutes, or until golden. Add the mince and cook for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and liquid is evaporated. Add all remaining ingredients, except the boiling water and chana dal. Mix well and cook for 2 minutes. Add the boiling water. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer, topping up with extra water if necessary, for 15 minutes. Add the chana dal and stir through. Reheat just before serving.
  3. To make the filling  saute the leeks in butter until soft and tender, combine all rest of ingredients and refrigerate until needed.
  4.  Divide the dough into eight pieces and roll each into a ball on a lightly floured work surface. Working with one ball at a time, and keeping the others covered with a cloth to prevent drying out, roll balls into 20 cm circles, then cut in half. Using a pasta machine on the widest setting, roll out dough, lightly dusting with flour when necessary to prevent sticking. Reduce setting on machine and pass through dough again, repeating until dough is about 2 mm thick. Cut into 3 cm squares. Place 1 tsp of the filling mixture in centre of a square. Moisten edges with a little water and press edges together to seal, and fold over like making tortellini or wontons. Place on a tray lined with a tea towel. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
  5. To make the garlic yoghurt crush the garlic and salt to form a smooth paste. Process quickly together with the yoghurt and mint. Set aside.
  6. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Cook the ashak, in batches, for 3–4 minutes, or until they float to the surface and start to flip over. Drain well.
  7. Spread the garlic yoghurt onto a serving platter. Place ashak on top, then spoon over the meat sauce. Scatter generously with mint or coriander.

It pays to look at the video!  I was in a hurry making these and didn’t check it out, so I made them like large ravioli, forgetting pasta swells up when cooking – so mine ended up enormous! and fell apart a bit. And I served the yogurt on top instead of underneath! But they tasted good, I particularly liked the addition of the lentils, an unusual touch.

The rest of the family were a bit iffy about this dish which overall scored 7/10. It was quite a bit of work this dish, with lots of different processes involved in making them, I understand now why they are usually made with large family groups in a production line! Do try them for a filling and robust dish with a twist.

Afghan Biscuits

When I was growing up in NZ, one of my favourite (home made of course) biscuits were Afghans – a delicious chocolate flavoured biscuit with cornflakes in them and topped with chocolate icing and half a walnut. Our Edmonds cookbook was always stained on that page! Why they were named Afghans I don’t know unless it was a nod to the use of walnuts to decorate the icing.

My recipe comes from a very tattered, prized copy of the Edmonds cookbook, dating from the time when there still was the famous Art Deco ‘Sure to Rise’ factory with it’s sun rays, standing proudly in it’s beautiful gardens on Ferry Rd, Christchurch.  I, and I’m sure every New Zealander grew up  learning to bake from that little recipe book,  a trusty classic of home baking. In 1990 that beloved iconic building was demolished amid much controversy – in the interests of progress and cost efficiency, and what a sad loss it still is.

Afghan Biscuits

Advertisements

Bhutan – some like it hot hot hot!

BHUTAN: Kingdom of the Clouds

Bhutan The Last Shangri-la

images-5

images-8

 

Hapai Hantue – Bok Choy & Poppy Seed Buckwheat Dumplings

Week 12

I’ve always dreamed of going to Bhutan, one of the most unspoilt and picturesque countries in the world -alas the cost is so prohibitively high, only the well heeled can afford it. Sadly I know I’ll never make it there. But I have been to Myanmar, which (in 1990) was also one of the most difficult countries to travel to. And that was very special, but still not as entrancing as Bhutan……..

Bhutan  Fact File

The Kingdom of Bhutan has been known as Southland  of the Herbs, the Sandalwood Country and the Land of Happiness. A high altitude land-locked country sandwiched between Tibet to the North and Northern Indian states to the West And South. It’s a land of towering high peaks, fast flowing rivers and deep valleys. Sub-tropical jungle in the south, it becomes Polar and snow-bound in the north, this allows it’s outstanding range of biodiversity. There are five seasons, spring,summer,autumn, winter and monsoon.

Bhutan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tradition

Tradition is very strong in a country which was almost completely isolated from the modern world until the 1960’s and only allowed TV and the Internet in 1999! So it’s rich and unique culture has remained intact, the government decried that all citizens must wear traditional clothing when in public!  Thanks to the hefty mandatory charge of US$250+ per day per tourist, tourism will be limited and it will probably remain so unspoilt.

Sights to see

Palace at Thimpu

 

 

 

Religion is intrinsic to Bhutanese life, predominantly Buddhist with Hinduism practiced in the south. Some of the most spectacular sights are the precariously situated Dzongs (fortress) such as Punakha and Trongsa and the Taktshang Goemba (monastery)  and other historic buildings in the capital Thimpu. Check out fantastic wildlife, go on cycling tours, mountain treks, snow treks, fly fishing or admire spectacular alpine scenery.

The Food

Bhutanese Food

Heavily influenced by the proximity of Chinese culinary traditions and Indian cuisines, Bhutan has come to love the chilli as no other – so much so that they eat it as a vegetable not just a condiment! The national; and ubiquitous dish is a chilli and cheese  dip served with everything, rather like a sambal or pickle, called Ema Datsi.

Dairy mostly cheese and butter is a very important source of protein, from cows, yaks goats and buffalo. Buckwheat and red rice are the main grains along with barley and millet, all cool climate crops, and used to make breads, noodles, dumplings and biriyani style dishes.

Remembering many Bhutanese are vegetarian, beef and pork are commonly eaten and trout from their pristine rivers. Much is made of wild gathered food such as ferns, canes orchids, wild greens like radish and turnip tops, wild berries and especially adored are mushrooms such as Chanterelles. Many fresh herbs like coriander, dill and fennel are used  along with ginger,garlic and shallots. Of course lots of ‘Indian’ spices are used with Szechwan pepper, Perilla and poppy seeds particularly popular.

The food of Bhutan is often blisteringly hot, but as richly varied as this jewel of a country is itself.

Buckwheat Dumplings

Buckwheat Dumplings with Bok Choy & Poppy Seed Filling          Serves 4-6

 This recipe was taken from http://www.asian-recipe.com/bhutan/bh-vegetarian-recipes.html with some slight changes on my part – namely I made a mistake with reading the recipe, and I love Szechwan pepper! I think the combination of buckwheat with poppy seeds and boy choy is so interesting.

Ingredients

  • Filling
    • 1 bunch bok choy, washed, chopped
    • 3 tablespoons poppy seeds
    • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese Szechuan peppercorns
    • 2 medium garlic cloves
    • 3 cm cube fresh ginger
    • 1 small red onion
    • 1/2 cup crumbled farmer cheese or Danish Feta
    • 1 teaspoon chili powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 60 gm butter, melted to golden brown

    Dough

    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup buckwheat flour
    • 1 cup water
    • All-purpose flour, for dusting

 Method

  1. To make the filling, cook the bok choy in a saucepan of boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and squeeze dry.
  2. Grind the poppy seeds and peppercorns with a spice grinder, or in a mortar.
  3. Process the onion, garlic and ginger until finely chopped. Add half the melted butter and the rest of ingredients and pulse briefly until just combined. Leave to cool.
  4. To make the dough, combine the flours in a food processor. With the motor running pour the water and the rest of the melted butter through the feed tube and process until the dough forms a ball. Dust the ball with flour.
  5. Cut the dough into 8 pieces, dust with flour, and cover with plastic wrap to prevent drying out. Roll out the remaining piece with a pasta machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions, down to the second lowest setting, dusting with flour occasionally to prevent sticking. Or rollout thinly with a rolling pin. Place the dough sheet between sheets of plastic wrap. Roll out the remaining dough in the same manner.
  6. Cut the sheets, 1 at a time, into 4 by 2 inch [10 by 5cm] rectangles. Place 1 teaspoon of the filling in the center of each rectangle. Brush the edges lightly with water and fold the rectangles over to make squares, pressing the edges to seal them well.
  7. Cook the dumplings in batches in a saucepan of simmering salted water until they float to the top and are tender. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  8. Serve with Ema Datsi or if you’re pressed for time as I was – Chiu Chow Chilli Oil and garnish with fresh chilli and chopped coriander.

Chilli Chicken & Noodles

Chilli Chicken with Buckwheat Noodles          Serves 4-5

I made this dish with chicken mince not the more traditional pieces, as that was all I had on the night. The flavourings are very Chinese but with a twist, for the buckwheat noodles I used Japanese Soba noodles which are probably more refined than the more homey Bhutanese version.

I kind of combined two recipes, one for noodles from  http://www.peisch.com/photos/bhutan/Recipes and the other for the chilli chicken came from  http://www.chicken.ca/recipes/bhutanese-chili-chicken-with-red-rice

Ingredients

  • 500gm  chicken thigh fillets /breast or mince 
  • 1/4 cup cornflour 
  • 2 tbsp  sesame oil + 1 tsp extra
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • red onion,  sliced 
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 green chillies, sliced
  • 1/2 red capsicum, sliced
  • 1/2 bunch spring onions, cut into 5cm lengths
  • 1 tbsp ginger, grated
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into wedge
  • salt and fresh black pepper
  • 270gm packet of soba noodles
  • coriander,  chopped to garnish

Method

  1. Rinse 2/3 packet of noodles under cold running water, bring large pan of water to the boil.
  2. Add noodles and boil for 2 minutes, drain.
  3. Cut the chicken into cubes, season with 1/2 tsp salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper and toss with cornflour making sure all pieces are totally coated. If using mince, sprinkle flour over.
  4. Heat oils over medium heat in a non-stick wok or skillet. Cook chicken until pieces are browned on both sides and slightly crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  5. Heat other 1 tsp of sesame oil, add sliced onion, minced garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add capsicum, chillies and shallots, cook another 2 minutes. Return chicken to pan, add sliced tomato wedges, season with soy sauce and heat through another minute.
  6. Add the noodles to the pan and toss everything together. Serve garnished with chopped coriander.

My family enjoyed this meal, although making the dumplings was a lot of work, especially on a hot night – better suited for a cold winter night. Hubby isn’t fussed on buckwheat noodles and was fairly unimpressed, but Bunny and I loved these unusually spiced dumplings – I could have eaten a lot more of them for sure! Our Bhutan meal got a combined score of 27/40, the dumplings getting thumbs up from all but hubby.

 

A Slovakian dinner – comfort food for a cold night

Week 11 – Slovakia

 

Beef Paprikás̃ with Haluŝky

It was time to pick our new culinary adventures – where would we be cooking from next? Bunny drew Togo out of the box this week and I pulled out another African country, so I picked again as hubby said “two African meals in one week was too much” Yah, I got Slovakia, another Eastern European country.

What did I know about Slovakia? 

Not a lot…….. It’s a landlocked country surrounded by five other (larger) countries, and was once half of Czechoslovakia. Home of the original Slav’s from the 6th century on, it formed part of Greater Moravia in the middle ages. Then gradually became part of the Kingdom of Hungary and later the Hapsburg Empire. Unified to become one country Czechoslovakia, which peacefully dissolved in 1993 becoming independent Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

images-1

The capital and heart of the country is Bratislava, situated on both banks of the Danube River, it was once the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary. Loomed over by the impressive Bratislava Castle, it features many medieval towers, baroque palaces, wonderful churches and many green parks.

The small population is well educated, the fabulous natural landscapes of wild mountains, lakes, rivers and caves, strong and colourful folk traditions, and many well-preserved historic buildings and quiet towns make this a great country to visit.

 

wooden church Slovak Carpathians

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Attractions

Skiing, fishing (in rivers & lakes) cycling, sight-seeing of fabulous castles, fantastic churches especially the UNESCO site of the Wooden Churches of Slovak Carpathians, the mountains, especially the High Tatras, Bratislava itself, spa resorts and the Andy Warhol museum. Yes, Andy Warhol was actually Slovakian, born Andrej Varhola to parents who migrated from Miková in the 1920’s to Pittsburg, USA. Who knew?

Zelene Pleso (Lake)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The food 

Naturally given the history, the Hungarian/Austrian influence is very strong and all the countries in this region share a common culinary heritage. Many recipes are very similar but still have their own regional differences. Meat, particularly pork, chicken and game is very important,  vegetables are hardy species such as potatoes, onions and garlic, the cabbage family, capsicums and carrots. Fungi are hugely popular and many are found in the wild.

Wheat the staple crop is made into bread, dumplings and noodles. Temperate fruits such as plums, apples, apricots and berries are used in both sweet and savoury dishes.  Milk products such as yogurt and soured cream, cheeses especially sheep milk ones are eaten a lot and meals traditionally were simple, tasty and hearty, using what was locally available.

Long cold winters led to many techniques for the preservation of foods from cheese-making, salamis and sausages, pickles, and of course variations of sauerkraut. A much loved spice is paprika, hot varieties or mild and sweet, caraway, poppy seeds, and walnuts are popular flavourings.  Paprika finds it’s way into many foods and recipes and is synonymous with the region.

Haluŝky – Slovak Potato Dumplings

  • 2 large potatoes
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2-3 rashers streaky bacon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • approx. 1/2 cup water
  1. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil
  2. Dice bacon and fry until just a little crispy
  3. Peel and grate the potato and squeeze out excess water. Add the rest of ingredients and enough water to mix to a soft dough
  4. Put dough on a board, with a knife quickly cut into short little batons, dropping into the boiling water as you cut.
  5. Let them rise to the surface, then boil for a minute or two, scoop out and drain.
  6. Serve immediately with paprikash or even stirred into the sauce to coat the dumplings. Browned butter may be poured over the haluŝky for extra richness and flavour.

This recipe is adapted from a most excellent site for all things Slovak :  http://www.slovakcooking.com/2009/recipes/halusky/

 

Beef Paprikás̃  – Beef Goulash

Ingredients

  •  2 tablespoons olive oil
  •  500g beef round or topside steak
  •  1 large onion, chopped
  •  1 tsp caraway seeds. + a few extra to serve
  •  1½ tb sweet paprika
  •  2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  •  2 bay leaves
  •  1/2 red capsicum thinly sliced
  •  1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  •  180 g cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 4 medium mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 long green chilli, thinly sliced
  • 1 tb tomato paste
  •  1/2 cup (125ml) beef stock
  •  1/2 cup (125ml) white/red wine
  •  1 large potato, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  •  2 tb finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Method

  1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook beef, in 2 batches, for 3-4 minutes or until browned. Transfer to a bowl.
  2. Stir onion and garlic in pan for 5 minutes until softened. Add carrot, capsicum, chilli  and mushrooms, cook for 5 minutes or until soft.
  3. Stir in paprika, caraway seeds and cayenne for 1 minute or until aromatic. Add tomatoes, potato and beef. Season.
  4. Add wine and bring to boil. Add tomato paste, stock and bay leaves. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour 45 minutes or until beef is tender.
  5. To serve, mash the potato into the sauce with a rubber spatula to thicken it. Stir in half the sour cream, serve topped with a blob of sour cream, a few extra caraway seeds and the chopped parsley.

I used my own recipe and spiced it up a bit to come closer to what a true Slovak Beef Paprikás̃ should be. I hope you like it.

Thank goodness it was a cooler, rainy night when I made this hearty dish, otherwise we couldn’t have face it in 30 + degree heat! I served it with braised red cabbage, and the potato dumplings which were weird for us but good. Overall we enjoyed this meal from Slovakia and rated it 7/10. The dumplings made this dish interesting for us, as I regularly make a version of paprikash/goulash during winter.