Afghan experimentation

Afghan dinner

It was a chain reaction. I picked up a copy of Tamasin Day-Lewis’ book Supper for a Song at the library, and while finding it attractive but irritating (does she really think that scallops and pheasant are budget ingredients?) also noticed that she included a lot of Afghan-inspired recipes from the book Noshe Djan by Helen Saberi. I adore Central Asian food, especially Afghan, but have very few recipes to work from, so I was happy to get the recommendation. I returned Day-Lewis to the library and went looking for Saberi instead.

Afghan Food & Cookery

I managed to find the book shortly afterwards while browsing at Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks in Vancouver (always a good place to look for obscure cookbooks), republished under the title Afghan Food & Cookery. It’s definitely no-frills, but there are some really intriguing dishes in here, including several versions of ash and a hell of a lot of kebabs. I finally tried some recipes out of it last week, and was pleased with the amount of detail in the cooking instructions. The spinach with rhubarb was very successful, the mastawa (sticky rice with lamb and yogurt) more  of a mixed result. I want to make both of them again, but possibly with some adjustments.

spinach with rhubarb and leeks

The spinach dish is a wonderful thing to make at this season, when greens and rhubarb are both at their best. I sliced some leeks, sauteed them in olive oil, then added spinach to the pan and cooked it down. A stalk of rhubarb, cut into pieces, was fried in a little oil and tossed in along with some dried dill. The whole thing cooks down to a rather unappetizing-looking mess, but it’s delicious, the rhubarb adding a quiet tart note that balances the sweetness of the leeks. It reminded me of the Kurdish Rhubarb Braise that we often make in early summer, but it’s much simpler.

glorp

Mastawa was much more complicated and time-consuming. I simmered whole lamb shoulder chops with water and onions until the meat fell off the bones, then shredded it by hand. I added washed short-grain rice to the lamb and broth and let it cook, then added soaked orange peel, a can of chickpeas, two whole cups of yogurt and dried dill. It smelled wonderful, but the result was strangely like orange rice pudding – the lamb and onions nearly vanished, and the orange flavor was overwhelming against the blandness of the rice and yogurt. It was very soothing, like congee, and we found a good splash of Sriracha helped a lot to perk it up. I would make this again if I wanted something soft and comforting to eat from a deep bowl in an armchair during the winter, otherwise I would maybe add less rice and a lot more herbs.

soaking orange peel

adding rice

adding orange peel

Afghan dinner

I do think it was a successful venture into Afghan cookery. Looking forward to grilling some kebabs and naan!

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savory

tart

Ever since I brought home a tub of leaf lard from Art of the Pie I’ve been itching to use some of it in a savory pie. My chance came this week, as we had a bunch of spinach from Frog’s Song Farm, a bag of mustard and kale greens from Blue Heron, and a wedge of fresh goat feta from Gothberg Farms. If that doesn’t say “savory tart” I don’t know what does.

I began by completely screwing up my pie dough. I usually stick with a part-whole wheat, all-butter crust for my quiches, but I wanted this crust to taste distinctly of lard. Unfortunately I added too much lard, especially given the warmth of the kitchen, and the dough became unwieldy. I ended up patting it into a tart pan with my fingers instead of rolling it out all the way. Then I prebaked it for a few minutes to make sure it would set and not just melt in the pan. It actually worked OK, so I got started on my filling. 

I wanted this to really be about the greens and feta rather than the binder, so instead of following my usual quiche formula I made up something a little different. I blanched the greens in salted boiling water, then squeezed the liquid out and chopped them. I mixed up two eggs, then added the cooled greens, some sauteed shallot, the crumbled feta, a dollop of cream, lots of freshly ground black pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. I piled all this into my tart crust and baked it for a while at 375° – sorry, I wasn’t really paying attention, but I think it was about half an hour. Basically, when the egg had set and was beginning to puff up, I called it done.

We let it cool briefly, then carefully (as the crust was very tender) cut wedges and ate them with glasses of chilled rosé. Despite the haphazardness of the preparation, it was really, really good. How about that?

creamed spinach

breakfast

This one could be a candidate for Confessions of a Locavore. Local it ain’t, and neither is it particularly healthy. It is, however, highly seasonal, in that I only eat it on or around Thanksgiving. And it’s really, really good. I don’t know where the recipe originated, but it’s a staple of my husband’s family’s Thanksgivings, hosted by his Aunt Mary. No matter what else I have on my plate, I always make sure there’s plenty of room for creamed spinach.

It’s one of those dishes where I might be happier not knowing what was in it. But as Mary writes in the family cookbook, “Don’t worry about the ingredients, just enjoy.” That said, here’s what the ingredients look like before the spinach goes in:

ingredients for creamed spinach

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grill me an oyster

grilling an oyster
wine & oysters

Finally, a beautiful day! We celebrated by going on food safari, as Jen from Last Night’s Dinner puts it (I’m adopting that phrase, it’s perfect). We had visited the farmer’s market the day before and gotten a bunch of goodies, but on Sunday we drove out Chuckanut for further supplies. We got mussels and Kumamoto oysters at Taylor Shellfish, a loaf of farmer bread from the Breadfarm (plus what may have been the world’s best macaroon), and a completely gratuitous chorizo sausage from Slough Food (hey, as long as we were in there…) We took our haul home, fired up the grill, opened up some wine and settled in to eat shellfish.

hot oyster shell
farmer bread Continue reading