Emerald Rice: Zamarod Palow


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Zamarod Palow is one of many Afghan rice dishes, all of which are cooked in a meat or vegetable broth. It literally means “Emerald Rice” reflecting its beautiful green color, but since Afghans have two rice dishes that have a green color (the other is flavored with Dill) this is easier for me to remember as “Spinach Rice.” Basically it is a Palow made with a blended spinach and lamb broth which is mixed into the rice. And no, this is not a tricky way of making kids eat their greens, in fact Zamarod Palow is a special Afghan rice dish usually made for occasions such as weddings and holidays. The earthy flavors of the spinach paired with the rich succulent lamb all topped with tart dried barberries make for a splendid Palow perfect for any holiday spread.

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Zamarod (Emerald) Palow

-4 cups rice (Soaked three hours in advance)

-2 Pounds Lamb (with bone)

-1 large onion

-2 cloves garlic

-1 pound spinach (1 box frozen)

-1 bunch Cilantro

-1 tablespoon salt

-1 teaspoon black pepper

-1 teaspoon cardamom

-1 teaspoon cumin

-Salt as needed for the rice

-1 cup Zeresk (dried barberries)

  1. Sauté onions in a pressure cooker until light brown. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and meat. Sauté the meat and onions, until outside of meat has browned. Add 2 and a half cups of water and 1 tablespoon salt, and turn the pressure cooker on for twenty minutes.
  2. While meat is cooking, in a small pot cook the spinach and cilantro.
  3. Once spinach and cilantro has cooked (soft and tender) process in a food until it forms a paste.
  4. Once the meat has cooked carefully remove the pieces of meat from pressure cooker and put to the side, make sure there are no pieces of meat or bone left in the pressure cooker.
  5. Add the spinach paste to the meat broth in the pressure-cooker, and let this simmer for a few minutes as you prepare the rice.
  6. In separate pot, boil salted water. Add the rice. Let the rice cook until al-dente. Then drain and rinse the rise with cold water in a colander.
  7. Pour the rice back into pot it was boiled in. Gently stir in the spinach broth mixture. Gently fold in a teaspoon of black pepper, cardamom, cumin,
  8. Make sure you gently mix all of this with the rice, so the rice is fully coated in the spinach broth mixture.
  9. Once rice is mixed, gently make a well in the middle of the rice and place the meat in this well. Cover the meat with the rice. With the back of your spatula, make small holes in the rice (around the meat mound), this is necessary so the rice steams properly ensuring soft and fluffy Palow.
  10. Cover pot with foil.
  11. Put in oven, bake at 380 for 30 minutes.



1) Leave the Zereshk to soak in warm water for about 10 minutes.

2) Once ready heat some oil and a frying pan, and add the Zereshk. Add about half a cup of water, and sprinkle about a tablespoon of sugar on the Zereshk. Let this simmer for about five minutes, a light pink colored syrup should develop and the Zereshk should be soft once finished.

3) When the rice is cooked garnish with Zereshk, and spoon some of the liquid syrup on top of the rice.





From Kabul to Paris: Rose Petal Yogurt Opera Cake


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With the recent events affecting some of the world’s loveliest cities, and the violence that is overtaking some of the world’s oldest civilizations… I thought it would only be appropriate to look for healing and love through something that brings all people together…dessert.


Last week two beloved cities were rocked by terrorist attacks. In both Beirut and Paris innocent people were targeted and killed. Families, shopping at a market in Beirut, around the rush-hour before dinner. Youngsters in Paris, out and about enjoying a lovely fall evening. All victims of politics and never ending wars, which they had no part in. Just a few days earlier, hostages were beheaded in Kabul, including a nine-year old girl. A funeral was bombed in Iraqi, the mourners turned into victims within seconds. And it should be remembered, that just last year at this time, terrorists attacked a school and killed more than one hundred teachers and children in Peshawar. Too many innocent people have died this year, all victims of a relentless hatred that seems to be engulfing the world.



All the while hundreds of thousands of Syrian and Kurdish families have fled their beloved homes, risking everything they have to find a safe refuge for their children and families. Thousands of desperate Afghans, most of them young teenagers, are fleeing to Iran daily to begin a perilous journey to escape the violence in Afghanistan that is worsening by the day. The images of the refugees, walking through Europe, begging for a chance for life is if anything, a reflection of a world in which the suffering of our fellow man can no longer be ignored.

Because as Warsan Shire so movingly put it,

 You have to understand that no one puts their children on a boat unless the water is safer than the land.


Indeed it is a time, I would say, to be somber. A time to be grateful. A time to reflect on the world we have created. A world in which a passport determines the worth of an individual.

But most of all this is a time to remember. To remember the common humanity that connects us all.

And what better way then dessert. From Kabul to Paris, I can confidently say that something sweet, decadent, elegant, is a sure way to mend broken hearts and homes.


I only wish I could share a slice of this cake with a Parisian, and personally thank the people of Paris for this light lovely versatile sponge cake. Or have the pleasure of watching an Afghan child lick a spoon of this creamy  frosting made from rich strained yogurt. Or enjoy the delight I would imagine a Syrian woman would express of the lovely fragrance of the dried roses that decorate the top layer of this cake.

How I wish I could erase their pain and suffering, with a simple sweet dessert.

But for now all I can do is share a recipe. But to me, this recipe goes beyond measurements and ingredients. It is a reflection, of the magnificent things we can create through compassion, tolerance and diversity.



-1/2 cup dried rose petals

-1 1/2 cups Afghan Pistachios (These have a pink and green color)

-2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

Honey Syrup:

-1 cup Honey

-1 cup Water

-1 Tablespoon Rosewater

  1. Bring honey and water to a simmer, on stovetop at medium low temperature.
  2. Turn stovetop off, and mix in the rosewater.
  3. Let this cool before brushing on the Joconde

Joconde (Sponge Cake for French Opera Cake)

(Joconde recipe from “Paris Sweets” by Dorie Greenspan as reprinted from The Splendid Table. Originally found at Joe Pastry.)

-6 large egg whites, at room temperature

-2 tablespoons (30 grams) granulated sugar

– 2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds

-2 1/4 cups (225 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted

– 6 large eggs

– 1/2 cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour

-3 tablespoons (45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled briefly

  1. To make the cake: Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Line two 12 1/2-x15 1/2-inch (31-x-39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter. (This is in addition to the quantity in the ingredient list.)
  2.  Working in a clean dry mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the whites into another bowl.
  3.  In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the almonds, confectioners’ sugar and whole eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and beat on low speed only until it disappears. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture, then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.
  4.  Bake the cakes for 5 to 7 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. Put the pans on a heatproof counter, cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the cakes over and unmold. Carefully peel away the parchment, turn the parchment over and use it to cover the exposed sides of the cakes. Let the cakes come to room temperature between the parchment or wax paper sheets. (The cakes can be made up to 1 day ahead, wrapped and kept at room temperature.)

(My note: I used a 9 ½ inch ring mold to make a round shaped cake. Once the Joconde had cooled, I used the mold to cut four round shaped cakes, and then proceeded to layer the cakes)

Cream Filling

-16 ounces of Strained Yogurt (Chakkah or Labneh)

-8 ounces of Turkish or Iranian Kaymak (or Mascarpone)

-Zest of one Lemon

-8 cups of powdered sugar

-1 tablespoon Rosewater

  1. With an handheld mixer whip together the strained yogurt, mascarpone, and lemon zest until light and fluffy. If the yogurt is too thick you can squeeze in a little lemon juice.
  2. Add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time
  3. Gently fold in the Rosewater



  1. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush each layer of Joconde with the Honey Syrup. Then fill the layer with the cream filling. Just enough so that it can serve as “glue” for the next layer. The Chakkah (Yogurt) cream may ooze out a little; this is ok, as this will help the coconut and pistachios to stick to the cake.
  2. Apply a light think layer of the cream to the bottom half of the cake. Gently press the coconut and pistachios to the bottom half of the cake.
  3. Lightly brush the top layer of the cake with the Honey Syrup. Then sprinkle the rose petals on top. You can drizzle two tablespoons of the syrup on top of the rose petals.

Eid Mubarak: Qaimakh (Clotted Cream) Stuffed Dates


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Eid Mubarak to everyone! I hope everyone had a lovely Eid-Al-Fitr to celebrate the end of a month of fasting. Where I am at we were fasting nearly 20 hours!

Dates 1

So now with the end of Ramadan, everyone is left with a challenge. What to do with the left-over dates? Since Muslims break their fast with a date, during the weeks preceding Ramadan in the Middle-East and Muslim world shops are filled with dates. Dates from all over the world such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia…each has its own flavor and unique taste. My personal favorite is the plump, sweet, and dense Medjool date. However this year I regularly bought Algerian dates, as these predominate in Europe. These are less dense and actually sweeter in flavor compared to Medjool dates.

For me there is no challenge in finishing up the large boxes of dates I excitedly bought at the beginning of Ramadan, as well as the various boxes I received as gifts. Dates are one of my favorite foods; I am amazed by how something so natural can be so satisfying and delicious. However, for those of you who have gotten a bit tired of dates, I have a few variations on dates that can take a simple fruit and turn it into a lovely summer dessert.

Qaimakh is a thick clotted cream made in Afghanistan. It involves a long, tedious process. Basically you bring whole milk to a low boil, and you continuously gather the top foamed part, which you can even later strain through a cheese cloth and refrigerate for about twenty-four hours to thicken. That makes Qaimakh, in its most natural form. This is a nice project to undertake on a winter afternoon, when you are relaxing at home.

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But for summer I like to use an alternative recipe, which I somehow came up with years ago. One winter, while in college I was going through a food-craze. I spent my whole winter break in my parent’s kitchen trying to make a “short-cut” recipe for Qaimakh. My mom, preferring traditional-methods, consistently chided me that no short-cut would work. In reality I think she found it challenging to resist sampling all of my “experiments” and given the high-fat content of Qaimakh this was a problem for my figure-conscious mother…however needless to say the rest of my family enjoyed these experiements. But I actually discovered a great recipe, that I think is best for dishes with Qaimakh in the summer, when I do not have the willpower to stand over a pot of steaming milk for a few hours. However in the winter, homemade Qaimaikh is definitely a much needed treat.

The alternative was based on an idea I had heard that if one used high-fat milk and lemon, the “clotting” affect could be achieved faster. I heard this from some of the Afghan Khala’s (my mom’s friends and female relatives). So I tried this method, however it consistently failed with just regular milk. So I cheated a bit, and used Whole Cream, which produced a great result. However I was happy to find that I could use an equal ratio of Whole Cream and Half-n-Half to achieve the same clotting affect, but reduce the fat content. Because really Qaimakh is unique in that it makes a rich, creamy product, simply using milk as opposed to cream.

Traditional Afghan Qaimakh:

-1 Gallon Whole Milk (Preferably Raw Full Fat Milk or as a second-choice Organic)

1) In a large pot, slowly bring to a boil the milk

2) Once it has come to a boil, gently pour into a shallow pan and let milk cool for about an hour or longer. The milk should start clotting at the top.

3) With a straining ladle, gently gather the clots and pour into cheesecloth.

4) Repeat the same steps with remaining milk, you may be able to get more clotted cream with the remaining milk. This depends on the fat content of the milk.

5) Once you have gathered all of the clotted cream strain through cheesecloth in the fridge overnight.

Summer Qaimakh Recipe


Equal Parts of Whole Milk and Cream/Half-N-Half

-8 cups (1/2 Gallon) of Whole Milk (Raw or Organic)

-4 Cups Half and Half

-4 Cups Whole Cream

-3-4 teaspoons of Lemon Juice


1) In a large pot slowly bring to boil the milk, Half-and-Half, and Whole Cream.

2) Once milk is boiling, add the lemon juice and turn off the heat. Let the milk cool, as the clotted cream begins to form at the surface of the milk.

3) Using a straining ladle gather the clotted cream from the surface.

4) Once you have gathered all of the clotted cream strain through cheesecloth in the fridge overnight.

6) Next morning you will have fresh clotted cream.

Qaimakh Stuffed Dates:

1) With a sharp fruit knife, gentle pit the dates vertically.

2) Scoop some of the clotted cream into a small Zip-Lock bag, cut a slit in a corner of the bag and pipe the clotted cream filling into each date.

3) Garnish each date with a raw almond or walnut.

4) Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Nowruz Mubarak: Happy Nowruz


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Happy Nowruz to everyone!
Have been quite busy with my studies, but wanted a post a mini Nowruz Spread I did…with lots of delicious chocolates, marzipan treats, and exquisite Algerian cookies.
A reflection of the beautiful country I spent Nowruz in…can you guess?

Also check out my Haft-Mewa and Cream Roll Recipes from previous years!

Wishing you all a beautiful year filled with lots of magical moments.

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Degcha: Sweet Sticky Cardamom Rice


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My mom typically makes Degcha over winter break, later in the evening when all the family has gathered for the long holiday break. She usually makes this towards the end of the break after we have consumed all the fancier cookies and desserts, and everyone is in the mood for something a little more simple. Degcha is a rich sweet sticky rice dish cooked with butter, milk, and sugar. The nice thing about Degcha is it requires very little fuss, all the ingredients are thrown into a big pot. With lots of family over its nice having extra hands to stand over the stove top and chat while stirring the rice until it is al-dente. Once al-dente, the rice is baked for about half an hour, until nice and sticky. It is then topped with melted butter and cardamom before being served warm.

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-1 ½ Cup short grained rice such as Arborio rice (soaked for 1 hour)
-4 Cups Heated Milk
-1 stick of butter
-1/2 Cup Sugar (or more if you prefer)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2) Place Rice in a pot and pour just enough water to cover the rice, let this come to a simmer on medium heat.
3) Once water has just been absorbed, add 4 cups of warm milk and ½ stick of butter. Stir continuously until rice is al-dente. Stir in the sugar.
4) Once rice is al-dente, cover pot with aluminum foil and bake in oven for about ½ hour to forty-five minutes. You can check after half an hour, the rice should be sticky.
5) Top the Degcha with remaining half stick of butter melted and powdered cardamom, and serve it warm.

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Afghan Apple Walnut Roat (Tea Cake)


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Roat is the most common traditional sweet that is served for Afghan breakfast and afternoon tea. A dense crumbly cardamom flavored cake that is only lightly sweetened, it is a cross between sweet cake and savory bread. Roat is traditionally made in a large oval shape, sprinkled with nigella seeds and sliced into diamond shapes.

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For everything that Roat is, it is traditionally not made with walnuts and apples. This is because when it comes to sweets, Afghans keep things quite simple, and would not dare to meddle with the traditional beloved Roat. So this seasonal take on Roat would raise some eyebrows. I can’t take full credit for this combination, as I actually first had this unique Roat when my auntie brought some back from Afghan Market on a trip to Alexandria, Virginia. I loved the chunks of apples and walnuts in the soft dense Roat. This Roat is also much thicker than traditional Roat, as I think this better compliments the chunks of apples and walnuts. You could easily make three 8 inch pans of Roat from this recipe for a more traditional Roat.

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This is the perfect treat to go with your afternoon tea during these lovely falls days 🙂

-4 Cups White Flour
-1 ½ teaspoon Baking Soda
-1 Tablespoon powdered cardamom
-1 ¾ Cup Sugar
-3 Eggs (Set aside 1 egg yolk)
-1 Cup Oil (Heated)
-1 Cup Milk (Heated)
-1 Teaspoon yogurt
-3 Medium Apples Diced (Preferably a crunchy apple such as Fuji, Granny Smith,
-1/2 cup chopped walnuts
-1 teaspoon of nigella seeds

1) Grease two 9 inch pans and line with parchment paper (This will make two very thick Roats, you can alternatively bake this in 3-8 inch pans or a 13 by 9 inch pan).
2) Preheat oven for 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and position oven rack in middle.
3) In two separate small sauce pans heat the oil and milk until warm. Turn off heat and set aside.
3) In a medium size bowl whisk together the eggs and sugar. Whisk in milk to this mixture.
4) In a separate large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and cardamom.
5) Mix in the oil to the flour mixture.
6) Mix in the egg mixture to flour mixture.
7) Gently fold in the apple and walnuts to the mixture.
8) Gently scoop batter into prepared pan/pans.
9) In a small bowl mix the one egg yolk and 1 teaspoon of yogurt. Using a rubber spatula or your fingers, gently use the glaze to even out the dough as it may be sticky. Brush the top of the Roat with remaining glaze. Sprinkle with nigella seeds.
10) Bake for about 30 to 45 minutes. (To test for doneness pierce with a toothpick, it should come out clean just like for a cake.)
11) Enjoy Roat once completely cooled with a cup of Chai/Tea

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Eid Mubarak! Reflections on the Holiday that Honors Trusting and Believing


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Chevre Stuffed Peppers

Afghan Sheer Berenj (Rice Pudding) and Palestinian Haloumi/Watermelon/Mint Salad

Eid Mubarak! It seems every Eid I have the intention of posting recipes for Eid sweets and dishes, yet the holiday overwhelms me and I do not find time to post. Eid Al-Adha celebrations continue well past the day of Eid, as pilgrims returning from Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina) return home.

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Chevre Stuffed Peppers

I love the celebration of Eid-Al-Adha which commemorates Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his only son (Ismail) based on God’s commandment. Right as Prophet Ibrahim was about to make this heart-wrenching sacrifice, God intervened and commanded him to sacrifice a lamb instead. It is a beautiful story that reminds us to just simply believe and trust in God. I myself struggle to do this on an every-day basis, it is easy to get frustrated and try to desperately resist reality….but Prophet Ibrahim’s story is a powerful reminder that to trust in God is key. Though things don’t make sense at the time, there is always a reason for everything and having that sense of belief is the only peace you will have in your life. This Eid comes at a time of, I would say, incredible challenges in my family, so remembering the story of Prophet Ibrahim, that intense belief he had in God and God’s mercy is calming.

I decided this year to do an Eid brunch at my parents’ house. Traditionally Afghan Eid brunch is a combination of sweet and salty spread, which is what I replicated but did a combination of all types of dishes, middle-eastern and western. It was actually just relaxing cooking all night, and of course impressing my mom that I could do it on my own 🙂

Afghan Gosh-E-Feel: Thin fried dough topped with powdered sugar and pistachio

Afghan Gosh-E-Feel: Thin fried dough topped with powdered sugar and pistachio

Algerian Makrout El Louz: Almond Cookies

Algerian Makrout El Louz: Almond Cookies

Wishing everyone a blessed Eid, and congratulations to all the returning Hajjis (pilgrims).

Afghan Chapli Kabob and Uzbek Samosas

Afghan Chapli Kabob and Uzbek Samosas

My true passion: Baking! Raspberry-Lemon Cupcakes and Strawberry Chocolate Cups

My true passion: Baking! Raspberry-Lemon Cupcakes and Strawberry Chocolate Cups

Tahdigi: A Guilty Pleasure-Potato and Yogurt Crusted Rice


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There is an old Afghan saying that if a girl likes Tahdigi then it will rain on her wedding day…and this is a folktale I have actually witnessed come true repeatedly. Tahdigi is the bottom crunchy oily crust of rice. Afghans eat Tahdigi from the rice pot and may put it into a small bowl on the side for those whom like it, but it is never served as a dish and is seen as more of a silly guilty pleasure. My mom and grandma would always scrape out some Tahdigi for me into a small bowl after serving the rice, which I would be hesitant to share.

Chalow 3

However our neighbors in Iran (who have a very similar style of rice) eat Tahdigi as a main dish and treat it as a special delicacy. In Iran a woman is considered a very accomplished cook if she can make a delicious rice crust that comes out perfectly from the pot. Iranian Tahdigi usually has fried potatoes or pita as a base for the rice crust that is formed at the bottom. Since I love Tahdigi I have adapted the Iranian outlook on Tahdigi and like to make a fuss out of it and serve it for parties. I found it easier and a nicer presentation when I cook a deep Tahdigi in a separate skillet and can flip it on a platter to serve.

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-3 cups of basmati rice washed and soaked for 1 hour

-5 strands of Saffron in half cup of warm water

– ½ cup Yogurt/Chakkah/Greek Yogurt

-1 tablespoon turmeric

– 5 large Potatoes sliced (enough to cover the base of the skillet)

-1 cup of Zereshk

1) Soak the Zereshk in warm water for about 10 minutes, and drain. Then fry the Zereshk in oil for about 5 minutes, sprinkle sugar and a few tablespoons of water on top. Let this fry for about five minutes.

2) Boil rice in salted boiling water until al dente. To check the rice, squeeze a grain of rice between your thumb and index finger and it should break but the rice should not be cooked all the way. Pour the rice in a drainer.

3) Carefully mix saffron water and half cup of yogurt with rice.

4) Heat up oil in a deep skillet, and stir 1 tablespoon of turmeric in the oil. Fry potatoes on both sides, until cooked.

5) Place rice on top of cooked potatoes carefully.

6) Cook uncovered on medium for about 10 minutes, you may hear the crust forming with some cackling noise at this time.

7) Cover skillet with 2 paper towel and place sauce lid on top. Turn temperature to medium-low and cook for another 20 minutes.

8) Once rice has finished cooking, let it cool for about 5 minutes. Take a platter, place face down on the skillet, and flip the Tahdigi out onto the platter.

9) Garnish with the Zereshk.

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Salata (Afghan Salad)


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Afghan Salata

Salata is the basic Afghan salad that is served with lunch and dinner. The thing I love about Afghan food is the balance, and that is evident with the fact that Afghans compliment nearly every dish with a salad. Whether it is Kabuli Palow, Shoola, Kabobs, or Buranee nearly every dish is served with salad.

Afghan Salad 1

Salata is finely minced tomatoes, parsley, and cucumbers as a base. You can add diced red onions, bell peppers, or substitute lettuce for parsley but this is the traditional salad. The more finely minced and diced the vegetables, the better. In our family my Amma and my sweet cousin Meena are known for making a beautifully finely minced salad that my grandfather would boast about at family dinners. Forget the Kabobs and Palows, for my grandfather a carefully prepared salad is the best part of the meal.

Salata is served with the usual sprinkling of dried mint, salt and freshly squeezed lemon juice. This makes a delicious and refreshing compliment to all Afghan dishes.

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4 Baby Persian Cucumbers

2 large Tomatoes

1/2 bunches of Parsley

Juice of 1 Lemon

1 tablespoon dried mint


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1) Wash your vegetables, especially the parsley individually to make sure there it is clean.

2) Finely dice the tomatoes and cucumber.

3) Finely chop the parsley, until you get to the stems which you can discard.

4) Whenever you are ready to serve the salad squeeze the lemons juice, and add the salt and dried mint.

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Zereshk Challow: “Jewelled Rice” (Basic Afghan Basmati Rice with Dried Barberries)

Zereshk Challow

Afghan rice is known for its perfect fluffy individual grains of rice, the cooking process is multi-stepped in order to get the perfect texture. All Afghan rice is prepared using Basmati rice, which is where half of the flavor and amazing texture comes from. Challow is basic white rice, it can be garnished with fried Zereshk (dried Barberries), almonds, pistachios, or even fried eggs. I personally love Zereshk Challow, as the sweet ruby colored gem-like berries perfectly compliment the fluffy cumin scented rice. Challow is often paired with popular side dishes such as Kufta-Challow (Meatballs), Kurma-Challow (Meat Stew), and Sabzi-Challow (Spinach).

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To make Afghan rice you first make Aw-Roghan which is the sauce for the rice. For Challow it is a basic sauce of water, oil, and salt. For more fancy rice dishes it can be a sauce mixed with saffron, turmeric, tomato sauce, or spinach sauce. It depends on what type of rice you are making. For Pallow the sauce is made from fried onions, meat broth and tomato sauce.

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First the rice is washed and soaked for a few hours. Then the rice is cooked in boiling salted water until al dente. To check if it is al dente you squeeze a grain of rice between your thumb and index finger. The rice should break with a gentle squeeze, but should still be firm and not too soft. Once al dente the rice is drained in a strainer. Check the rice to see if it is too salty, if it is you can lightly rinse it with water or reduce the salt in your Aw-Roghan.

Then the rice is carefully placed back onto the pot it was boiled in. It is gently mixed with the Aw Roghan and seasonings, for Challow you only use crushed cumin. But you must be very careful mixing so the rice does not break. At this point you can taste the rice to check and make sure the salt is right. After the rice is placed in the pot, you smooth the top of the rice and with the back of your spatula you make a few deep holes in the rice to the bottom of the pot. Then you check if there is liquid at the bottom of these “holes” if there is no liquid then you can add a little water in a few of the holes just so there is a tiny bit of water at the bottom. The pot of rice is then covered with a kitchen towel or foil to absorb the moisture. This is so the rice steams properly in the last stage of cooking.

The last stage of cooking is important as this is when you “Damm” the rice, which is basically steaming the rice and finishing up the cooking. This stage is what results in perfectly fluffy individual grained rice that fills every Afghan home with a heavenly aroma as the rice cooks. The trick here is the rice should be cooked at high temperature for about 1/3 of the cooking time, and for the rest it should be cooked at medium low. The cooking time depends on the type of rice, Pallow takes longest to cook and Challow takes the shortest time to cook. For Challow you cook on the stovetop on high for about 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to medium-low for twenty minutes.

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4 cups white basmati rice (should be soaked in water for at least an hour)

Aw Roghan:

1 cup of oil

1 cup of water

1 ½ teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin

½ teaspoon of cumin seeds

1) It is important to soak the rice ahead of time for at least an hour.

2) First to prepare the Aw-Roghan boil 1 cup of oil, 1 cup of water, 1 1/2  teaspoons of salt. Make sure to taste Aw-Roghan as it should be slightly salty. Let this come to a soft boil and then let it cool to room temperature.

3) In a large pot boil salted water. Once it comes to a boil add your four cups of rice. Let this cook for about 5 minutes, or until rice is slightly soft but not cooked all the way. To check is the rice is ready take a grain of rice and squeeze it between your index finger and thumb. It should break into 2 pieces when squeezed gently.

4) Once rice is ready strain it in a rice colander in the sink. Taste your rice to see how salty it is, and keep in mind how salty your Aw-Roghan is. If the rice is too salty gently rinse the rice with lukewarm water.

5) Now take your empty pot that you boiled the rice in and pour the rice back in. Add the Aw-Roghan and Cumin. Make sure to carefully and thoroughly mix Aw-Roghan with the rice.

6) Smooth out the top of the rice and take the back of the ladle and make holes in the rice to the bottom of the pot. In each hole there should be just a little tiny bit of liquid, if there is no liquid then add a little water to a few of the holes.

7) Cover the pot with a clean kitchen towel and put aluminum foil on top. Place on high temperature, for 10 minutes. You should see steam coming out from the pot. Then lower the temperature to medium-low for about twenty to twenty-five minutes. This step is called “Damm” and is basically steaming the rice.

8) Once rice is ready serve on a platter and you can garnish with fried dried Barberries (Zereshk),  fried almonds, or a simple tomato sauce that is poured around the top.


1) Leave the Zereshk to soak in warm water for about 10 minutes.

2) Once ready heat some oil and a frying pan, and add the Zereshk. Add about half a cup of water, and sprinkle about a tablespoon of sugar on the Zereshk. Let this simmer for about five minutes, a light pink colored syrup should develop and the Zereshk should be soft once finished.

3) When the rice is cooked garnish with Zereshk, and spoon some of the liquid syrup on top of the rice.

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