I was having a whale of a time when I was carrying out the draw for the Olympic Food Challenge. That was until I drew Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Mongolia and Uzbekistan for myself. All I knew about these countries was what is reported in the news and a smattering of their histories. Sadly most of my knowledge was all war related and in no way culinary.
More time was spent researching these countries than any of the others. A lot of websites seem to have exactly the same recipies with the same spelling mistakes and the same lack of inspiration. Finally I stumbled on the blog of Humaira, an Afghanistani living in America. Humaira and her friend Katie have spent a long time recreating the dishes of Humaira's birthplace and have even won awards for their dumplings.
Having read through most of the food pages on their blog* I decided to pair a couple of the dishes for tonight's meal. Lawang is a braised chicken curry with turmeric as the lead flavour. I thought it would go very well with Qorma e Sabzi. Qormas (korma) are at the heart of Afghani cookery. I was really taken by the idea of a huge pile of this aromatic spiced spinach curry, even though the ingredient list included frozen spinach. I can only assume that this is an american twist on the original recipe. Both dishes were superb, the spinach was really fresh and balanced wonderfully with the earthy tones of the chicken. I was dubious about the frozen spinach but it worked and was a cheap way of generating a lot of tasty food so who am I to argue?
I'm certainly not going to argue with Afghanistan's Rohullah Nikpai. Rohullah is aiming to get a second Olympic medal when he atempts to better his bronze medal from Bejing and win gold in taekwondo. The taekwondo doesn't start until next week but until then I'll have happy memories of two new dishes that we'll definitely be cooking again.
*it is really well written and I kind of got drawn in to the stories as well as the recipies.