Having recently emerged from a Holiday induced food coma, I am happy to be returning to my worldly travels. After two months of construction, we are back in our house at long last, so all is right with world. The biggest Christmas surprise was that Santa brought me studio lights so that I can actually shoot food when it's dark or raining and natural light is not available (not used here, because I don't have the slightest clue how to work them yet). Somehow, I think my husband was getting tired of having "dinner" at 3:00 in the afternoon while I madly scrambled to cook, shoot and plate the dish before the sunset at 3:30. Thank you
A mountainous, landlocked country in Central Asia, Tajikistan is bordered by Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China. The narrow Wakhan Corridor also separates Tajikistan from Pakistan. This country's ancient roots are grounded in the Sogdiana and Bactria civilization. The majority ethnic group are the Persian speaking Tajiks, who share their beautiful language, culture and history with Afghanistan and Iran. Once part of the Samarid Empire, the country became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union during the 20th Century. In 1990, the country was beset but a bloody civil war that claimed more than 50,000 lives. Today, the country's people have forged ahead to rebuild their lives, but the economy remains a fragile one. The primary source of economic revenue comes from aluminum production, boasting one of the largest production plants in the world.
According to The Lonely Planet, one of my favorite travel sites on the web, the country offers breath-taking scenic views. The capital city of Dshambe, is considered one the world's prettiest, along with the city of Penjikent, which was a prominent stop along the Silk Road. Food in this country is closely linked to Russian, Iranian, Afghan and Uzbek traditions. Plov, a layered rice dish and green tea are the country's national dish and drink. Dairy, yogurt, Kaymak, and kefir are enjoyed in cooking and as breakfast and snack food. Grapes, melons, pomegranates, apricots, plums, peaches, apples, pears, figs and persimmons can all be found in the open air bazaars.
The basics: Whole wheat and white flour, yogurt, yeast sugar, salt and water
Tajik chickpea and onion stew - I used canned chick peas
Tajik Non (Adapted from Food.com) - *Takes about 3 hours from start to finish*
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1 cup yogurt , plain
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons shallots , finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
water , for spritzing
1.Place 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a bread hook. Stir in sugar, then sprinkle on yeast and stir to dissolve. Set aside.
2.Place yogurt and one cup water in a saucepan, stir to mix, then place over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lukewarm.
3.Add the yogurt mixture to the yeast and water mixture and stir. Add the whole wheat flour one cup at a time, stirring in one direction only as you add the flour then stir for about one minute in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge stand, covered, for 10 minutes or for as long as 2 hours.
4.Sprinkle 1 tablespoon salt over the sponge, then stir in unbleached flour one cup at a time until dough is too stiff to stir. Knead using bread hook for 10 minutes, until the dough becomes smooth and elastic, incorporating more unbleached flour as necessary to prevent dough from sticking.
5.Oil a large bowl, add the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in volume, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
6.Position a rack in the top third of your oven. Arrange unglazed quarry tiles on it, leaving a 1-inch gap between tiles and the oven walls (to allow air to circulate). (Alternatively place a baking stone or baking sheets on the rack).
7.Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Gently punch down the dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes.
8.Place shallots and remaining salt beside your work surface, together with a bowl of lukewarm water. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces. Using lightly floured hands, press each piece into a 4-inch round.
9.Work with one round at a time, leaving the others covered at the back of your work surface. Working on a lightly floured surface, roll out to a 6-inch round.
10.With a fork or bread stamp, stamp a 1 1/2-inch diameter circle at the center of the bread thoroughly, to flatten and pierce it (to prevent it from rising). Sprinkle onto the center approximately 1/2 teaspoon chopped shallot, a pinch of salt, and a sprinkle of water.
11.Quickly roll out and prepare one, two, or three more breads (depending on the size of your oven), then transfer prepared breads to the hot tiles, stone, or baking sheets.
12.Begin shaping your next breads as the first batch is baking. Let bake for approximately 7-8 minutes, or until lightly golden.
13.Use a long-handled peel (or spatula) to remove from the oven. Place on a rack to cool, then stack and wrap loosely in a cotton cloth to keep soft and warm. Shape and bake remaining breads in the same way.
Chickpea and Onion Stew (Recipe Adapted from Celtnet)
1 large can (1 pound, 13 ounce) can cooked chickpeas (more if you want a thicker stew)
2 1/2 cup strong vegetable stock
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 large, ripe, tomatoes, chopped 1
/2 tsp crushed red chillies
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp saffron ground with 1 tbsp warm water
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon salt, to taste
Heat the oil in a casserole or large pan and use to fry the onions for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown.
Meanwhile, combine the chickpeas and stock in another pan and bring to a boil.
When the onions are ready add the chickpea mix then stir-in all the remaining ingredients.
Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer then cook for 20 minutes. Serve ladled into bowls and accompany with plenty of bread.
© 2010-2011, What's Cooking in Your World? Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved