Friday, April 1, 2011

Coriander Chutney--Afghan All the Way

Last Saturday afternoon I finally got together with my Afghan friend for a long planned cooking session to delve into the mystery of Afghan cuisine. Our plans for the day were very ambitious. I wanted to learn how to make at least six of my favourite Afghan dishes. Fortunately, just at the beginning while making the shopping list, we decided to skip a half of what we were intending to make. As it turned out later, even the remaining half was probably too much for a one, leisurely Saturday.

First of all, I learned that Afghan cuisine is as labor intensive as Polish cuisine. Just cooking my favorite rice is not only tricky--it has to be soaked, cooked, and baked at the end--but it also needs to be planned in advance so it can soak for several hours to wash out the whole starch from it in order loosen the grains.

Preparing kebabs was even more complicated. We decided on trying a Pakistani beef version with beans, potatoes, and many spices and a somewhat simpler Afghan version, with just with potatoes and spices. We cooked all the ingredients in two pots, cooled down, than we ground them, and finally we fried the kebabs on a pan. While the meat was cooking I wrote down some other recipes and in the meantime we prepared a coriander chutney to serve with kebabs.

Almost four hours later, when dinner was served and we sat at the table, we both were exhausted. We had a great time talking not only about the culinary subjects and laughing a lot but somehow the whole event wore us out. And as always the most uncreative and tiring part of cooking was the measurement of all the ingredients used. For both of us a method of dipping a spoon or, even better, a finger to try and decide what else should be added works the best.

I am still processing all the information and wisdom from that even, so please forgive me that for the time being I only have this delicious chutney to share. Mostly because it is not only delicious but also very easy to prepare. It takes a couple of ingredients and two minutes of blender's work.

Chutney can be stored in a refrigerator for weeks and used with grilled meats, rice, or flat breads. It was such an instant hit that the big jar I made to keep for later disappeared within two days and I am sure it will be very popular during the grilling season, especially if I serve it with fresh beef kebab, which I will post soon.

You can decide how spicy you want your chutney to be by adding more or less jalapeno peppers, but an important tip is to use apple cider vinegar. It harmonizes nicely with the coriander and, unlike lemon, it helps preserve and store the chutney for weeks.

Coriander Chutney

2 big bunches fresh coriander,
1/2 cup walnuts,
4 garlic cloves,
1/2 - 1 jalapeno pepper (depending how spicy you like it to be)
1 tbsp sugar,
1/2 tsp salt,
1 and 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar.

1. Put all the ingredients in a blender and mix first on and off to mince them and then run a motor on high speed for about 1-2 minutes until the chutney becomes smooth.
2. Transfer to a jar that can be sealed tightly, seal it, and store in a refrigerator.

Serve with meats and vegetables, especially grilled.

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