Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Afghanistan - Kofta Kebab/Qima Kebab, Bor Pilau and Lentil Soup - A to Z Project

[This post originally was posted at another domain to begin a Project I refer to as my "A to Z Project", where my goal is to cook a meal based on the cuisine of all the countries listed on the U.N.'s website.  I plan to continue that journey here at onionsandpeppers. 

Some minor edits have been made from my original post, however; mostly to add more information on where the recipes came from.]


When I first began to think about making food from Afghanistan, I had no idea what to expect.  I do not own any cookbooks that contain Afghan recipes; nor, to my knowledge, have I ever eaten Afghan food.
As much as I'd love to have gone online to buy a new cookbook, I decided to check the web for some ideas instead.

I was pleasantly surprised when I found the site: InMamasKitchen.com.  Not only because it had a section on Afghan food, but also because it included the introduction to Helen Saberi's book Afghan Food and Cookery, which can be found here.

In her own comment to the following dish, Ms. Saberi said, "The Kebabs are traditionally cooked over a charcoal fire.  Use a barbecue if you have one."   Then and there, I felt like cooking this dish was going to be like visiting an old friend.  We had something in common.  But there would be new things to learn and discover.

For instance, although my husband and I are avid fans of cooking over charcoal, I've never made skewers that called for the use of ground meat.  One question loomed - Would they stay on the skewer or fall off miserably half way through cooking?  I knew the people in Afghanistan must be able to do it, but could I?  I couldn't wait to find out.

The recipe called for using either ground beef or ground lamb.   I opted for using lamb.
Below are pictures of the ingredients used, as well as a before and after cooking pictures of the kebabs.

Kofta Kebab or Qima Kebab (click name for recipe) [from http://www.inmamaskitchen.com/RECIPES/RECIPES/meatsII/meatloaf_meatball/Afghan.html which is said to be "Adapted from Afghan Food and Cookery by Helen Saberi."

As you can see, the kebabs held together very well.   And, most importantly, were very tasty!

Next time, though, I will have to remember to make a sauce to go with them.

After the kebabs,I moved on to making a chicken rice pilaf.   I had never cooked with basmati rice before (except maybe a mix-in-a-box type).

Prior to using this rice, I had to rinse it many times and soak it.   This seemed very odd to me, and I really had no idea how this dish would come out.  So, I did what I usually do in these circumstances.  I just followed the recipe and hoped for the best!

Also, when I went looking for "ground cilantro seed", I didn't find it at my local market, which I figured I would.  Cilantro is very popular here in Southern California.  Not finding it at the market, I went to two other stores I thought would carry it.  A Persian market in Santa Monica (where I picked up the yogurt) and then to Samosa House, an Eastern Indian Market in Culver City (where I bought the rice).  After not still finding what I was looking for, I decided to ask someone at Samosa House.  I was told that coriander is cilantro seed.   Good to know!  Since I have some at home, I didn't need to buy any after all.  (But I did discover a wonderful place to shop.  I will be back to Samosa House very soon.)

Bor Pilau (click name for recipe) [from http://www.inmamaskitchen.com/RECIPES/RECIPES/GrainPastaBeans/afghan_chicken_pilaf.html which was contributed there by Helen Saberi]

Bor Pilau ingredients

Regrettably, by the time the pilaf  (and the following soup) were finished, I was feeling a bit under the weather and didn't end up trying either.  I was told by my husband that it was very good. I can't wait to make it again soon so I can try some, too.  

Lentil Soup (click name for recipe) [from http://www.inmamaskitchen.com/RECIPES/RECIPES/Soups/lentilsoupAF.html - which was contributed there by Sayed Ahmed Shah of Bamiyan Afghani Restaurant.

I will try making the soup again when I re-make the pilaf.  I will likely add a little more seasoning to the soup.  Any seasoning suggestions for the soup would be appreciated.

The only comment I have about the soup is that the recipe called for "dried sour plums".  The closest thing I could find was "dried sour prunes".  A lady at the Persian market told me they are the same thing, but subsequent research seems to indicate they are not.  Also, the dried sour prunes had seeds in them.  I've seen dried prunes here, of course, which are pitted.  But they do not say sour.   I'd love to hear more about this ingredient.

Lentil soup and Bor Pilau, cooked

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