AFGHANISTAN

Let’s start at the very beginning – Afghanistan. I started my research with the help of what else but Wikipedia, where I learned that Afghan cuisine is based upon crops and products that are plentiful in the area, which is not really surprising.  So this particular cuisine is rich in cereals, like wheat, maize, barley and rice, dairy products (yogurt and whey), and various nuts (walnuts, pistachios, almonds, peanuts, pine nuts). They also use distinct herbs, such as mint, coriander, cilantro and black pepper, as well as spices I’ve never used before in my life, like saffron and cardamom.

Afghanistan’s culinary specialties are very similar to those of the neighboring countries, which I’m also planning to explore, but still distinct enough for me to stay interested in this particular cuisine.

So I decided to continue with my exploration, as my knowledge about Afghani desserts was not much greater than before. In the process I came across some great sites, of which I’d like to name three. The first one is Afghan Culture Unveiled, where I learned lots about Afghan cuisine and culture in general, and discovered a huge amount of recipes for sweets. Yet this only increased my curiosity, so I carried on with my journey. The second noteworthy website I found was Afghan Online.com, where I finally found an organized list of most typical Afghan desserts:

  • Brides Fingers (Asabia el Aroos)
  • Baklava
  • Firnee
  • Gosh Feel Elephant’s Ears
  • Halwaua-e-Aurd-e-Sujee
  • Khatai Cookies
  • Sheer Payra Fudge
  • Sweet Pumpkin

Lastly I ran into Wiki Recipes, where the list of the most common desserts was literally the same, with the addition of Haroseth, which I later learned is a Passover sweet, consisting of hazelnuts, almonds, dates and raisins (possibly also other dried fruits and spices), which are simply ground together and shaped into small balls.

I finally came to the conclusion that Afghani desserts include at least one of the following ingredients: some sort of nuts (mostly almonds and pistachios), dried fruits, cardamom (or other spices) and rosewater. They also seem quite easy to make. The majority of these desserts also comes off as very sweet to me, but luckily I don’t have a problem with that (as I know some people, for reasons that to me remain unknown, do).

After giving it a lot of thought and time, since this is my very first recipe on the list, I decided to make Asabia el Aroos, also called Bride’s Fingers, because the recipe seems fairly simple and the ingredients are not that hard to find around here. Also, the dessert seems very similar to baklava, which I am very familiar with, and I was really curious of what this version looks and tastes like (mostly because the baklava I eat is made of walnuts, not almonds or pistachios). So here it goes.

Asabia el Aroos

Ingredients:

Sweet Syrup:
  • 100g sugar
  • 100ml  water
  • 1 tsp lime juice
Filling:
  • 100g almonds pulverized in food processor with
  • 50g sugar
Glaze:
  • 1 egg, beaten
Others:
  • 200g frozen filo dough, 18″ * 12″ rectangles

I know I said I don’t mind the sweetness, but when I saw how much sugar actually goes into this dessert, I decided to slightly reduce the amount, and it still turned out OK.

1. Syrup

Prepare the syrup in advance and chill it in the fridge. I can’t stress enough how important this is, since my syrup wasn’t cold enough and, consequently, not thick enough.

2. Filling

Simply combine all of the ingredients.

3. Rolling

First preheat the oven to 375°F (180°C). Cut the filo into 18″ * 12″ (about 30 * 22cm).  Lay the rectangles on the table one by one, with the shorter side facing you. Place a table spoon of the filling on the side facing you and roll it up from the short side, forming a fat cigar shape. Place on the baking sheet with the cut edge down. Repeat with the remaining dough.

You may notice that despite the fact the instructions say to cut the dough into 30 * 22cm rectangles, I couldn’t help myself but to experiment a little, so my cigars are of very different shapes and sizes. The majority of them are still approximately the same, as I soon found it best to make it 12 * 25cm.

Asabia el Aroos

4. Baking

Beat the egg and brush the tops of the pastries. Bake for 15-20min, or until golden brown.

5. Finishing touches

Place everything on a tray and pour the syrup over. That’s what I did. Alternatively, if that sounds too sweet for you, you can just dip the “fingers” in syrup.

Asabia el Aroos

If you are looking for more specific instructions, check out one of the sites recommended above. The ingredients are the same; I only changed some of the amounts.

The recipe is not very difficult and I really had no problems with it (even the syrup turned out fine, once the whole thing cooled down in the fridge). And this dessert is absolutely delicious. I was actually really surprised at how great it turned out, because it looks so simple and there are really very few ingredients. So the lesson learned with Asabia el Aroos is that even though some things may seem to go too be true, there is always a possibility, that they are just good.

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