I do not know a lot about Afghanistan. Two things I stumbled across on the internet recently made me think about this a bit. The first was this recipe, and the second was the Atlantic’s collection of photos from Afghanistan in the 1950s and 1960s. As a former student of international law, I can provide a decent length rant about the moral and legal legitimacy of the US drone programme, its effect on the Afghan civilian population, and so on and so forth, but beyond statistics and ideological arguments, I don’t have much else. I had never seen anything about Afghan food until I came across this recipe on Food52 from the Afghan Cooking Unveiled blog. When the writers of the Gaza Kitchen started interviewing women in Gaza about their recipes, the women were thrilled. No-one had ever asked them about their food or what they were interested in and what they did, only about the political situation in Gaza. Food is of course not the only way to discover a culture, but this recipe was a good reminder to me that there is a country full of people beyond the statistics and debates.
I really enjoyed this dish. It had just the right level of spiciness, and a tangy flavour from the spring onion and yoghurt. It seems to be a hybrid of the traditionally vegetarian aushak and of mantu, the traditional meat dumplings. It is a dish related to the Turkish manti, and according to that most reliable of sources, Wikipedia, variations of it can be found all along the silk route. I substituted some ingredients, but you can check out the original from the link above. I also used a bit less lamb, just because we had a 250g bag in the freezer waiting for a home. I only had round dumpling wrappers, but these are usually folded into a distinctive napkin pattern using square ones.
This makes about 25 dumplings
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 250g minced lamb
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1-2 teaspoons sugar or honey
- 2 bunches of spring onions, washed, trimmed and finely chopped (green and white parts)
- 1 chopped fresh red chili
- 25 dumpling wrappers
- 1 teaspoon wine vinegar
- 240ml greek yoghurt
- 1 tablespoon dried mint
- olive oil
- To make the sauce, saute the chopped onion in a little olive oil over a medium heat for 5-8 minutes until softened and slightly coloured.
- Add 2/3s of the garlic for 1-2 minutes
- Add the lamb mince and cook until browned all over, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.
- Add the tomatoes, coriander, sugar, and paprika.
- Simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes until reduced into a relatively thick sauce.
- Season to taste and set aside.
- Saute the spring onions with the chopped chili in some olive oil over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes until soft.
- Mix the yoghurt, 1/3 garlic, dried mint and 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil together.
- Season well.
- To assemble, spoon about a teaspoon of the spring onion mix into the middle of the dumpling wrapper.
- Moisten the edges and fold over to seal and form a half moon.
- You can put a crimped pattern on the edges with a fork if you like.
- When the dumplings are all assembled, bring a large pot of water to boil with the vinegar in it.
- Meanwhile, reheat the lamb sauce.
- Boil the dumplings for 3-4 minutes, or whatever time is advised on the wrapper package.
- Drain them and dry with a towel (kitchen paper will stick).
- Serve warm with the lamb sauce and the yoghurt.