Friday, November 19, 2010

VeganMoFo: Afghan Boulani & Balkh Lentil Soup

Tonight's dinner is brought to you by Afghanistan!
A while back, we had a really great Afghani restaurant here in town, and that was where I first experienced this lovely cuisine. There were, naturally enough, many meaty dishes, but that restaurant had lots of very, very yummy things on the menu with the word "vegan" lovingly printed right alongside it. Fellow vegans, you know how much that can mean to a hungry diner. In fact, apparently we have a new Afghani spot in town, newly opened, so as soon as I'm done cooking my way around the world, I'm gonna head over there and check it out!

For our Afghani dinner, I pulled out all the stops... and made lots of dishes! Okay, I guess I didn't pull out all the stops. I used a few tortillas for our bread instead of hand-making fresh Afghani bread. So, sue me! It was a weeknight! :) First up, I made Balkh Brown Lentil Soup, a wonderful lentil soup with butternut squash and orange juice and lime juice and cumin and hot peppers... It was great! Also, it called for a special spice called "Angelica," which I had picked up at the Persian grocer last time I was there. Angelica is hard to find, but it has a tangy, sour flavor and was a really great element of this soup! I loved this soup, and it made a lot, so there's plenty left over for weekday lunches. Mmm!

Along with the soup I made some Afghani Cilantro-Mint Chutney. Here is a link to my recipe. This was something they always had at our dearly departed Afghani restaurant... and a while back we got to remembering how delicious it was, so I recreated it. It packs a seriously cilantro-minty punch, so cilantro haters should back away quickly. Cilantro lovers, however, should run to the kitchen, make a big bowl of it, and roll around in it. A big dollop in the soup was very tasty indeed!

I also made Afghan Garlic Chive Boulani with Yogurt Sauce. YUMS. These little boulani used wonton wrappers (make sure you get vegan ones!), and were stuffed full with chopped fresh herbs and hot chilies. The only thing was that they were way too salty, so next time I will definitely cut way back on the salt. Especially because scallions and cilantro and hot chilies have plenty of flavor to carry the day. They hardly need so much salt. That said, I will most definitely make these again because they were really fun to eat, full of that wonderful fresh-herbs flavor, and not complicated to make. The yogurt sauce with mint and cucumbers was a great balance to the heat of the boulani.

The soup and boulani and yogurt sauce recipes were all from "Silk Road Cooking, A Vegetarian Journey," by Najmieh Batmanglij... which is really, really an exciting book. Full of amazing recipes with exotic ingredients (exotic to me, anyway), new flavors, and recipes from many countries that have wonderful cuisines which are under-explored for the most part. I really recommend this book for anyone who enjoys adventurous cooking!

Our journey around the world continues tomorrow! Come back for more!


  1. Do you have a day job? If you do, you are my hero. Well even if you don't you are still my hero, cooking up these amazing elaborate exotic meals daily, all for our MoFo enjoyment. We are spoiled even just witnessing it! I am adding this cookbook to my wish list for sure.

  2. I heard so many great things about the Silk Road book before and I think this post has finally convinced me to get the book!

  3. There was a really good Afghani restaurant in NYC that I haven't been to in ages. This post reminds me of that.

  4. This meal looks and sounds amazing! I love the idea of orange and lime juice in the soup! I have the Silk Road Cooking cookbook (I agree it is an exciting book), so I'll be looking up that recipe for sure. The Boulani sound wonderful too. I'll remember your tips on the salt level.

    As a cilantro lover, I have to say, I love the idea of running around in a big bowl of that chutney.

    I love your theme, and the map of your itinerary as you go! Very cool!

  5. Silk Road is definitely on my wish list! Another incredible-looking meal.

  6. another wonderful post! Beautiful photos, and the food looks scrumptious.

  7. That chutney is so bright and beautiful! And everything looks mighty tasty!

  8. This is one post filled with awesome food! I want to try everything, the lentils look delicious, the coriander dip looks so bright and tasty and the boulani, YUM!


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