ISTANBULI PALAU—AFGHAN RICE PILAF

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups brown rice, rinsed in cold water

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion or one cup green onions chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound ground turkey or beef

2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste

2 teaspoons coriander

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground clove

1 cup peas, frozen or fresh

2 cups spinach chopped, frozen or fresh

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 large jalapeño pepper, seeded, chopped (optional)

Directions:

Add the rice and several cups of water in a deep pot. The water should be two inches above the rice.

On high heat bring to boil, turn down the heat to medium and simmer for around fifteen minutes or until the rice is cooked through.

Place a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add olive oil, onions and garlic. Sauté for two minutes or until the onions are translucent.

Add ground turkey to the sauté pan. Quickly break apart the meat with a spatula as it cooks all the way through, around five minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir until ingredients, especially the spices are mixed well. Cover pan with a lid and cook on medium heat for around 10 minutes.

Drain the rice in a colander and let it sit until all the water drips out of the colander. Add the rice to the sauté pan.

Mix until the rice turns a light green color from the spinach and meat sauce.

Cover the sauté pan with aluminum foil folding the edges to make it airtight. Place the lid on the foiled pot, reduce the heat to low and cook for another fifteen minutes.

Serve with a side of salad or steamed vegetable.

  

Serves 4-6

By Humaira

Do you want to know the dirty secret of Afghan diaspora?

Our elders are addicted to Afghan television.

Yup! Twenty-four hours of non-stop, addictive, live television programming streamed from Afghanistan into living rooms of millions of Afghans that fled Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion in the 80’s. Our old and immobile waste their days away by watching what the young generation considers junk. Despite living outside Afghanistan for over thirty years, the elders have not found cultural roots in their adopted homes such as Los Angeles, Virginia, Sydney, and Frankfurt. Their community speaks their language and lives in a rectangular box.

Every time I call my mom or aunt, I compete with shrieks of soap opera actresses speaking in high-pitched Dari in the background. Talking to Jeja, my mom, during her favorite show is like talking to my fifteen year old—lots of gaps filled with silence and a “what” or “aha”.

Recently I spent a week with Jeja at her home in Los Angeles.  We bonded by breathing the same air while sitting side by side in-front of her big screen TV watching Afghan talk shows, comedy shows, and even Turkish and Korean soap operas (yes, they're dubbed in Dari). During meals, Jeja discussed the latest news and the clever plotting of the Turkish soap operas.

As Jeja felt pride in her media savvy-ness I on the other hand struggled a little with the formal Dari and at times asked her for clarification. After all these years, when I translated for Jeja at stores, at doctor’s appointments or at banks, the table is finally turned.

Thankfully there was one show I fully got, Pokht-o-Paz, a cooking show.  Aside from improving my formal Dari, I was thrilled to get a recipe out of this experience, even if it was from a show and not from Jeja.

Chef Habib Khashae of Pokht-o-Paz made Istanbuli Palau, a dish I hadn’t eaten before. It turns out that many countries in the Middle World have a version of Istanbuli Palau/Polo. I’m sharing the Afghan version.

This rice pilaf has ground meat, carrots, peas, spinach and flavorful spices. I modified the recipe by using brown rice instead of white and I used ground turkey instead of ground beef. Istanbuli Palau a quick and easy dish you can serve with a side of salad or maybe steamed broccoli on weeknights. The kids loved it and left overs were great the next day.

YOGURT MARINATED CHICKEN KEBAB - MURGH Kebab

Afghan women hold up half the sky—with my family in Kabul (I'm in the polka dot dress)

Afghan women hold up half the sky—with my family in Kabul (I'm in the polka dot dress)

By Humaira

In last week's post I recounted my first impressions of Afghanistan after my last visit in 2012.

Afghan hospitality is world famous—unless you are there to invade the country. In six days, I managed to gain five pounds from the elaborate meals, countless cups of tea accompanied by sweets. On previous trips, I was amazed by my cousin Ghani jan and his wife Farida jan's endless energy for hosting. They have out of the country guests who stay for a month, or families from their home province who come a week or local guests who pop in at meal time without calling.  I've always assume that maybe I would be such a patient host if I grew up in Afghanistan but that is not the case. I discovered their secret for seamless hospitality—cohesive family dynamic and team work.

Their children wash dishes, make meals and take care of each other without being asked, rewarded or threatened. There are no colorful stars or rewards for doing chores

Eighteen year old Elias (my cousin's son) and his cousin marinated 20 pounds of chicken for a family BBQ

Eighteen year old Elias (my cousin's son) and his cousin marinated 20 pounds of chicken for a family BBQ

The parents roles are very clear—Ghani jan handles everything outside the house—making money, handling kids' academic needs, buying groceries, driving, and keeping up with their clan's demands from his home province, Ghazni. Farida jan, handles everything inside the house—cooking, cleaning, laundry, overseeing and assisting in children's homework, and hosting countless guests that pop-in unannounced.

Elisa's kebab with with fresh flat bread and home made yogurt

Although their five children's responsibilities generally fall along the gender lines but I also noticed their birth order dictated their responsibilities. It was remarkable when the four-year-old took dishes to the kitchen to help her older sister or the twelve-year-old offered to take the garbage out so his older brother can rest from a full day's work.

Women eat ...

Women eat ...

Every house I visited had a similar scheme—the kids were right there, hosting, engaging and participating right along with the parents. I'm not sure how one instills such values in children. My two daughters will walk by an overflowing compost bin for two days without taking notice of it.

In the past thirteen years of engagement in Afghanistan, we Americans have exported many ideas to better the country but perhaps we can learn a few things from Afghans.

Men BBQ - the most delicious Kebab I've ever had

Men BBQ - the most delicious Kebab I've ever had

 

Yogurt Marinated Chicken Kebab

Kebab e Murgh

3 cups plain, whole milk yogurt

5 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried, ground garlic

3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Put all the ingredients except the chicken in a large bowl and mix well. Add the chicken and mix until all pieces are covered with yogurt. Pour the contents of the bowl in a sealable plastic bag or a container with a tight lid. Marinate for at least 24 hours.

Pull the chicken out of the fridge 30 minutes before you are going to grill. Get the barbecue good and hot. If you are using a gas grill, let it heat up for a good 10 minutes. In the meantime, pour the chicken into a colander and wipe the marinade off as best you can.

Grill the chicken over a medium-high flame about 7 minutes a side until it’s cooked through. Once cooked, wrap the chicken in aluminum foil and let it sit for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Serves 6

More fabulous meals I consumed...

Lunch feast

Lunch feast

Gorgeous salad accompanies qabili palau, qorma e murgh and mantoo

Gorgeous salad accompanies qabili palau, qorma e murgh and mantoo