Taste The World – Afghanistan

Here begins the grand adventure we have undertaken. Cook a meal from every country in the world. I know this isn’t a new idea, but we are very excited! Let me introduce a special guy…my boyfriend Dan! He is the owner of Black Market Hot Sauce Company as well as a top-notch cook at a cool little local restaurant. We obviously both love food. We’re also both pretty bad at geography. The solution? Cook a meal from every country and learn a little about each country, and hopefully it’s location, in the process! (Don’t tell anyone but, we’re mostly just excited about the whole trying-new-food thing.)

I feel the need to apologize here for the photo quality. Hopefully it will slowly start improving. I learned today that my man has a knack for getting a decent picture in horrible lighting!

Why start with Afghanistan? Uh…’cause we’re so creative that we decided to start alphabetically. Next up – Albania.

The food we made today was amazing! Afghanistan was the perfect country to start with (how convenient). Even after researching recipes, I didn’t really have a good idea of the unique flavors and dishes contained in Afghan cuisine. I know the two dishes we made did not even begin to scratch the surface.

20160105_152331Dumplings, mint, meaty tomato sauce, yogurt, cilantro, sour dried plums, turmeric, spiced chicken, onions, ginger, garlic. On and on. So many flavors contained in two dishes; and everything tasted fantastic together!

It was a little challenging to find good recipes for Afghan dishes. Some were impossible to follow, some were overly vague, others sounded like they could have originated from any middle eastern or Asian country. In the end we decided to take several recipes for one dish and combine them. I’m hoping we didn’t step on any toes in the process. Regardless, the final dish was delicious!

We made chicken korma and mantu (dumplings) as well as attempted to make naan. I say attempted to make naan because ours turned out less like a soft flat bread and more like a crusty round loaf.

Word to the wise – if you decide to make these recipes, you will be dicing a lot of onions.20160105_152635The combination of yogurt, spices, lime juice, plums, and ginger in the korma was unexpected and completely different from any other curry dish I’ve had before. It was slightly spicy as well as tangy, savory, and sweet. This dish was great with our naan bread and it would have been perfect served with a rice dish. You can find our recipe for chicken korma at the bottom of the post.IMG_20160105_185320695The mantu were surprising simple and well worth the extra time it took to put them together. The filling was simply onions and spiced meat. They were served with a meaty tomato sauce and a garlicky yogurt sauce and garnished with mint. The flavor combination of mint, yogurt, tomato and onions was my favorite part of the whole meal! Mantu are generally made for special occasions in Afghanistan because of the extra time they require. We followed this recipe from Lucky Peach. We used a combination rice cooker/slow cooker to steam our dumplings but other cooking methods (including boiling) would work just fine.IMG_20160105_185305570No Afghan meal would be complete without tea. I’m sure I made it incorrectly but I made a simple chai tea with cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and green tea. It was very light and aromatic. All in all, our first meal in this experiment was a huge success!

Chicken Korma

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: intermediate
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Ingredients

  • 10 dried sour plums
  • 1 whole chicken or 3-4 chicken leg quarters, cut into smaller pieces
  • 2-3 T oil or fat, for frying
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 1-2 T fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 T fresh garlic, minced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 sprigs mint, chopped
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1-2 Anaheim chilies, thinly sliced
  • 3-5 red jalapenos, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Instructions

  1. Soak dried plums in water for about 1 hour.
  2. Heat oil to medium high in a deep frying pan or stock pot.
  3. Brown chicken pieces in hot oil.
  4. Remove chicken when browned and add onions, garlic and ginger.
  5. Saute onion mixture for a few minutes until the color starts to change.
  6. Drain plums and add all remaining ingredients to frying pan, stir to combine.
  7. Return chicken to pan. If needed, add enough water or cream to prevent burning.
  8. Cook on low heat for about an hour or until chicken comes off the bone easily.
  9. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Serve family style with a garnish of cilantro and lime wedges.

 

I would love to hear from anyone with experience in Afghan cooking and food!

Creamy Onion Coconut Curry Soup

Soup close-upI was inspired today while reading the book Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Dr. Mary Enig & Sally Fallon. This fascinating book takes an in-depth look at good fat (animal fat, nuts, whole dairy, anything from the coconut, etc.) and the positive effect it can have on our weight and health.

 

diced onion

Halfway through page eight the idea for a delicious new soup struck me and I immediately jumped up and rushed off to make it.

Some trial and error later and I landed on the perfect combination of savory mouth-watering richness. If you love spice: add some cayenne pepper or extra chili flakes. Serve on it’s own or with some warm, crusty bread.

This soup is creamy and satisfying – the perfect dish for a rainy day. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

 

Coconut Onion Curry Soup

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 large onion
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp yellow curry powder
  • 16 oz chicken stock
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup canned coconut milk
  • 2-3 pinches red chili flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Melt the butter and coconut oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
  • Finely dice the onion and add to the saucepan.
  • Cook on medium heat until the onion begins to caramelize (about 8 minutes).
  • Once the onions have caramelized slightly, add the curry powder and salt and stir to combine.
  • Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. (At this point the soup can be pureed if desired – either in a blender or with an immersion blender.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  • Take soup off the heat and ladle into bowls.
  • Spoon some of the coconut milk into the center of each bowl and lightly swirl in with a spoon.
  • Sprinkle the red chili flakes on top of the soup and serve immediately!

Makes enough for 2 large bowls or 4 appetizers.

Curry Coconut Soup

Bragging Rights & Chicken Curry Salad

I need to brag a little bit.

Recently I made all of the judge food for our Regional speech and debate tournament (about 120 people, 3 meals a day, 4 days). I had some excellent helpers! (See picture.) I couldn’t have done it without them.

Now the part that I’m bragging about is this… One day for lunch I made four salads. Southwest Quinoa, Chicken Penne Thyme, Greek Orzo and Chicken Curry. Everyone LOVED them! Everyone. I’ve received e-mails saying how great the salads were! (Everyone except some guy who wanted some meat. Beef to be exact. Chicken wasn’t cutting it!)

I love it when I can make people so happy that they won’t stop talking about it.

I thought I would share one of the salad recipes with you!

Chicken Curry Salad

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp finely ground sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Salad:

  • 4 cups diced chicken
  • 1 granny smith apple – diced small
  • 2 cups celery – chopped
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup red onion – finely diced
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • Optional – sliced grapes or chopped walnuts

 

Instructions

  1. Combine dressing ingredients in a medium bowl. Taste, taste, taste and adjust seasonings as needed. (It should be bold in flavor and taste slightly stronger than you want the salad to taste.)
  2. Add salad ingredients and combine well.
  3. Taste again and adjust seasonings if needed.
  4. Chill until ready to serve.

Serve as a sandwich or wrap filling or an it’s own. Enjoy!