Now I’ve gotten to the part that was the original idea of this blog: the food.
The first thing I had to do was find the recipes, and then I had to find the ingredients. Finding the recipes weren’t hard, but some of the ingredients were. I never did find ground cilantro seeds. So, I left it out. And I wasn’t able to find minced lamb, so I bought a lamb shoulder chop and Googled how to mince something. My Martha Stewart Cooking School book didn’t say anything about mincing. And then there were some things that I just forgot to pick up at the store. You know, a usual shopping trip for me.
The first thing I made was the Afghan rote bread. Of course my kids said they were gonna help me, but then somehow the Lego Harry Potter game was more exciting. Go figure. I felt like I was living the Little Red Hen story. I’m embarrassingly undomesticated, so Google and I spent a lot of time together before getting started. It was going well, until I realized that I forgot to Google the proper way to knead bread. I just made it up as I went and relied on children’s stories from the past as my guide to kneading. Apparently it went well because it turned out really tasty. The real recipe called for sprinkling sesame seeds and sia dona on it (apparently this is nigella seeds; still not sure where to find it or what it is exactly), but my husband absolutely hates “debris” or “rocks and sticks” as he puts it on and in his bread. So instead, I did chop up some slivered almonds and sprinkle them on top. It took a little longer to bake as indicated, but that was probably because I was using silicone baking dishes and that might have something to do with the added time.
While it was cooling, I made kahvi tea. I’m not sure if it’s so much specific to Afghanistan, but it is popular in the region, so it counts. It did make the whole house smell wonderful. When it was done, I made the kids stop playing the game and eat the bread and tea with me. My 6-year-old daughter really liked it, but my 3-year-old son is pretty much contrary to everything right now.
Later came the main entrée: kofta challow. The longest part was cutting the fat off of the lamb chop and then mincing it, which took forever! I have learned of some other Asian grocery stores that may have it already minced, or at least can mince it for me. After I made the meatballs, I made the korma sauce. The onions and cumin alone made the house smell very spicy. Then I had to put the meatballs into the sauce and let it simmer. My problem is that I burnt the onions and didn’t stir it enough, but since it’s served on basmati rice, it still turned out pretty good. I was afraid the kids wouldn’t even touch it, but they ate more of it than I thought they would.
In normal Afghan culture, the family sits on cushions on the floor to eat. And traditionally, they eat with their right hands. We used pillow pets, and I did let my 3-year-old use a spoon (even though most of the time he uses his hands anyway, so I thought he'd enjoy it, but sticking with being contrary, he finally insisted on using silverware). I forgot to buy pitas, so the next closest thing I had was sundried tomato and basil tortillas. Not authentic, but functional. We talked about some of the things that I had mentioned in the earlier posts for this blog. I think my daughter was fairly interested and asked questions, which I was proud of. Overall, for the first time doing this, I’d say it was a success. And I’ve found that ground cardamom is my new favorite spice, narrowly beating out crushed red pepper. I would die happy if they made a cardamom-scented candle or spray. (Crushed red pepper, however, would NOT make a good candle. On a related note, pepper spray is not cool either.)
At the end of this, I’m hoping they come to realize that we are all from the same world, and we’re all linked by music, literature, arts, and food. And I hope they realize the world goes beyond their driveway. You won’t find my kids insisting there really is an Uzbeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan.
Next country: Albania
Kofta Challow: http://www.afghan-web.com/culture/cooking/koftachallow.htmlhttp://www.ellenskitchen.com/faqs/chaikash.html