Saturday, July 24, 2010

Afghan Lentils--on the Exotic Side

One of the past weekends, my beautiful Afghan friend invited me for dinner. Our kids have a lot of fun playing together and I liked her cooking very much. My friend has lived outside her country since early childhood but she still favors her national cuisine over any other she tried. Her daily dinners are always Afghan and are always served with rice. She is open to new recipes, but most often ends up preparing something Afghan. Jokingly, she calls it "boring", but she finds it very comforting. The traditional food she cooks is in a contrast to her very modern look and style, which underscores her oriental beauty.

I do not think Afghan food is boring at all. As a matter of fact, I find it more exotic than for example Indian food, which I am more familiar with and also like a lot. Although spicy and sometimes heavy in oil, it is not as hot and rich as Indian food.

That day, a perfectly sunny morning turned into a rainy afternoon. Our plans had to change and instead of a grill on the deck we had our dinner indoors. My friend also had to change the menu at the last minute, which was OK by me. I was happy she decided to prepare Afghan food instead of ordinary hamburgers and hot dogs that she meant to prepare to please the kids.

The new menu--chicken, lentil, rice, bread, and cucumber salad made everybody happy. I was very excited especially about lentil, which is rich in protein and is an excellent substitute for meat, which my younger son refuses to eat.

We left late at night, after a very relaxing evening, not only very full, but also taking home delicious leftovers and a new recipe for lentil Afghan style.

Afghan Lentils

1 cup yellow mung lentil,
1 onion,
2 cloves garlic,
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup tomato sauce,
1 large fresh tomato,
1 and 1/2 - 2 cups of water,
2 tsp ground coriander,
1/2 tsp turmeric,
1/4 tsp cumin (optional, Indian influence, but brings the taste out and helps to digest),
olive oil to fry in,
salt and pepper to taste.

For garnish:
a piece of ginger, about 1 inch long,
a few chili peppers,
fresh chopped coriander,
3 gloves of garlic and 1 tbsp of oil.

1. Wash lentil and dry it on the colander.
2. Heat an oil in a pot, add chopped garlic,ginger and onion.Fry until onion is gold.
3. Add to the pan tomato sauce and tomatoe, and cook for couple of minute until all the ingredients are combine.
4. Put in spices--coriander, turmeric, chili pepper, and cumin (not used in the purely Afghan version).
5. Throw lentils into a tomato mixture, stir and add 2 and 1/2 cups of water (add another half a cup if lentils are still hard and there is not enough water for them to cook properly).
6. Cook for about 30 minutes, until lentils become soft.
7. Serve garnished with fried garlic, fresh coriander, ginger, and fried garlic.

1. Crush 3 cloves of garlic and fry them in oil until gold. Put them on top of the lentils.
2. Cut ginger in slices, chop coriander roughly. Add chili peppers and serve on a separate dish for anyone to spice up according to taste.

Useful tips:
Serve with rice or Afghan bread, any Middle Eastern, or Indian Naan.
Accompany with yogurt cucumbers salad.

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