Afghan Culture Unveiled

Afghan Culture Unveiled

By Humaira

Even food bloggers get in a food rut. My family knows I’ve run out of cooking energy when our dinner consists of Tortila de Patata, a Spanish potato and egg omelette since I always have eggs, onions and potatoes on hand. 

Today’s recipes, khakeena,  is Afghanistan’s answer to the Spanish Tortilla, you wouldn’t know it from the the long list of ingredients but I promise you it's true. Khak is the Dari word for dirt. Perhaps, our cleverly named dish khakeena, symbolize sweeping out the left overs from pantry, fridge or cold room from left over ingredients.

The idea is to throw together whatever veggies you have laying around into a healthy, hearty dish using eggs as a binder since they are expensive and used sparingly in Afghanistan. A summer khakeena will most likely have a different ingredient list than a winter khakeena.

Traditionally, khakeena is eaten for lunch. It’s served in a wedge with a salad and a side of nan.

Afghan Culture Unveiled


I made wraps to make the dish more filing for my hungry teenagers. I added a little Humaira twist to the dish by creating a creamy feta sauce which adds a tangy edge to the wrap. There is no wrong way to serve this dish. 

I want to thank my sister Nabila for sourcing this recipe from a friend of hers.

Afghan Culture Unveiled 




½ cup acorn squash, shredded with a box grater

⅓ cup fresh dill, finely chopped

3 green onions, chopped

2 cups spinach, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

1 zucchini, shredded

3 fingerling potatoes, shredded

1 small red onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely chopped

3 eggs

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

1 teaspoon cumin, ground

1 teaspoon coriander, ground

4 spinach lavash, cut down to 8x10 inch size

Feta sauce:

¼ cup crumbled feta

½ tablespoon lemon zest

½ tablespoon olive oil

Heat oven to 350 degree

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until all ingredients are mixed well - around two minutes. Butter the bottom of an oven safe, deep frying pan with a generous coat of butter or use olive oil. Pour the mixture into the pan, spread evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

While the frittata is in the oven, make the feta sauce. Put all ingredients in small bowl, mix with a small spoon, pressing the feta with the back of the spoon to create a creamy mixture.

Frittata can be served with a fresh salad with a small dollop of the feta sauce with side of pita or nan.

I made a wrap to make the dish more filing. Spread a thin layer of the feta sauce in the middle of the lavash, divide the frittata into quarters, place one portion on the lavash. Fold in one side of the lavash and then roll from the bottom up. Cut in half, serve with a side of salad. 

Serves 4-5

Afghan Culture Unveiled


By Humaira,

Eva is on the board of Afghan Friends Network the non-profit I started. She has become a dear friend over the short period we have known each other. Eva exudes positive energy, relentless charm and unconditional love for everyone she meets. I am not surprised that every Afghan she met fell in love with her. This is true public diplomacy at work, now we just need 100 Evas to "win the hearts & minds of Afghan". 

Eva, and friends in Ghazni, Afghanistan

Eva, and friends in Ghazni, Afghanistan

By guest blogger: Eva Vander Giessen

Last September, when San Francisco was finally warming up and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere was cooling down, I was given the opportunity to go to Afghanistan. “A dream come true” was my response. Despite the fact that no one would name Afghanistan a holiday paradise, this complex country has drawn me for many years.  Afghanistan shines the light on humanity in its widest varieties. Two boys hauling crushing loads of rocks uphill on Eid in Kabul. A woman with a cracked tooth smiling and children walking two hours to attend literacy classes in Ghazni, a province of Afghanistan. Some people look at Afghanistan and see hopelessness. I meet Afghans and hope is unavoidable.

Eva, the natural diplomat

Eva, the natural diplomat

One reason for this is the kindness of the Afghans. Three minutes in a taxi and I’m suddenly being invited to have chai (tea) with my driver’s sister, mother, aunt and uncle. I’ve experienced hospitality when traveling, however, Afghans wear their hospitality with a pride that reflects their rich history and surpasses harsh realities of their every day lives.

In the face of this regal generosity, humorous situations can arise. I, for instance, am a card-carrying vegetarian. Being somewhat familiar with Afghan cuisine, I studied three different ways to politely decline meat when offered in Dari (one of the main languages of Afghansitan). They included vague medical reasons, equally vague religious reasons, and even “I to meat am allergic” mutterings. They lasted me six days and countless meals, until the mayor of Ghazni City personally placed a succulent skewer of lamb on my plate as the guest of honor. When a Mayor places a skewer of lamb on your plate, and you are painfully aware of the effort it has taken on the part of five diplomats and twelve military personnel to get you – and it – there… well, no convoluted mutterings of allergies seemed sufficient. I appreciated the lamb for all our sakes.

On the other end of the spectrum was a feast served by a colleague and her family that lasted four hours. This was just the eating. The cooking took ten hours prior and the cleaning another three. How this 22-year old does this while studying medicine, working with an NGO and running a business at the Women’s Garden had me amazed. Plate after plate of tender kadoo drizzled with yogurt, steaming qabili palau dark with seasoned meats and savory aushak plump with juices came out of the tiny kitchen. She had made a special effort to include a variety of vegetarian dishes, of which there are plenty. All were placed on a rolled out mat on the floor, accompanied by mounds of nan fresh from the nanwayee (bakery).

It was a magician’s trick: rather than pulling a rabbit from a hat, she pulled an 8” x 3” feast out of a 2” x 3” kitchen. Then came the melons, grapes – legendary from Ghazni province – and pears, all sweeter than anything you would find in a California grocery. Although candies feature prominently in any social gathering, the real desserts are Afghan fruits. I had no idea the wealth of pomegranates, apples, grapes and alike that I would find in the backyards of Kabul and Ghazni.

The fruit, like their gardeners, have seeds of sweeter futures inside. I cannot wait until my next cross-legged meal with Afghan friends.  Perhaps, after a few more cooking sessions with Humaira jan, I can host one of my own with Afghan hospitality.

Eva at a restaurant in Kabul

Eva at a restaurant in Kabul

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