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


Thanksgiving is a special holiday for my family, we are one of many political refugees who immigrated to the US from Afghanistan after the Russian invasion of 1979.

My family usually gathers at my sister Nabila's house for several days of family bonding over many delicious meals. I find myself taking advantage of my second to last birth order by letting others do the cooking and planning. However, this year I created a simple and easy pudding recipe to contribute a dish to our Thanksgiving meal.  

To justify sharing this Pom, Pear, Pudding on my Afghan Cooking blog, I created the recipe with ingredients commonly used in Afghan cuisine; chia seeds, olive oil, pomegranate, condensed milk and rosewater.

Since most Afghan desserts call for oil (mostly vegetable) instead of butter, I decided to join the food trend of San Francisco and use olive oil in this dessert dish.

Chia seeds come in black and white color

Chia seeds come in black and white color

After tasting the creamy pudding offset by the crunchy, flavorful chia seeds and graham cracker crust, I now understand why the Greeks, Italians and Spaniards use olive oil in their desserts. The pudding does not taste like olive oil but is enhanced by the fruity, nutty, sweet and tropical notes of the oil.

I hope you will add this pudding to your Thanksgiving menu. It can be made a day or two ahead of serving. I’ve also provided links to older posts that include Afghan side dishes and deserts that go well with turkey.







An Afghan Desert

12 whole graham crackers, broken
1/3 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup delicate, extra-virgin olive oil
15-ounce ricotta cheese
14-ounce sweetened condensed milk
1 ripe Bosc or Bartlett pear, cut in small pieces
1 ½ tablespoons rosewater (adjust to taste)
large pomegranate, seeded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine graham crackers and chia seeds in a food processor. Drizzle the olive oil into the processor as you pulse the ingredients in the processor. Blend until crumbs begin to stick together. Press crumbs evenly onto bottom of a approximately 9x9 baking dish.

In a bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, condensed milk, pears and rosewater. Whisk until creamy. Pour the contents into the baking dish, bake for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, sprinkle 1/3 cup of pomegranate seeds on top of the pudding. Save the remaining pomegranate seeds. Let the pudding cool to room temperature or if making a day before, refrigerate.

Distribute the remaining pomegranates evenly among serving bowls, add pudding on top.


Serves 8


                                   Olive oil production has returned to Afghanistan with the help of Italians

                                   Olive oil production has returned to Afghanistan with the help of Italians



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