Rugged Afghanistan sits at the center of the historic Silk Road trading routes from China to the Middle East, and its cuisine has been influenced by the many nationalities that journeyed through it en route to the lucrative markets they served.
Traders from India, Persia, Turkey, Mongolia, the Far East and the Mediterranean all left their recipes behind them in a form of historic fusion food.
Almost every culture has its dumplings and these steamed mantu, with their spicy meat filling and tangy yogurt sauce, are very popular in Afghanistan. They are often served for celebrations such as Ramadan, and it’s not hard to visualise their Silk Road origins.
– 450g plain white flour
– 2 tsp salt
– 225ml water
– 450g lamb, chopped small
– 450g chopped onions
– 1 green chilli pepper
– 1-2 tsp ground black pepper
– 1 tbsp vegetable oil
– 1 tbsp tomato puree
– 425ml thick yogurt
– Fresh coriander
1. Sift the flour with 1tsp of salt into a bowl. Slowly mix in as much of the water is needed to form a stiff dough. Knead on a work surface for 5-10 minutes, until the dough is elastic and shiny. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for about an hour.
2. Put the lamb, onions, chilli, 1 tsp salt and pepper in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
3. Divide the dough into 4 small balls, and roll each to 1.5mm thick, cutting into 10cm squares. Into each square, place 1 heaped tsp of the lamb mixture.
4. Take two opposite corners and bring them to join in the center by nipping together firmly between your fingers, and then bring together to other two corners in the same way, like a parcel shape. Do not completely close the mantu, as the steam has to get in and cook the filling.
5. Grease the steamer pans and place the mantu with a small space between each one. Steam for 30-45 minutes over a medium heat.
6. For the tomato sauce, heat the oil in a pan, add the tomato puree, and bring to the boil. Stir and simmer on a low heat until the dumplings are ready.
7. Remove the mantu from the steamer and place on a large, warm dish. Spoon the tomato sauce over the top, followed by the strained yogurt, and sprinkle with chopped coriander.
These deep-fried pastries are called ‘elephants’ ears’ because of their crimped oval shape, and are traditional in Afghanistan for the Eid celebrations.
– 200g plain flour
– Pinch salt
– 2 eggs, whisked
– 30g butter, melted and cooled
– 1 heaped tsp granulated sugar
– 50ml full-fat milk
– Vegetable oil for deep frying
– Caster/icing sugar
– 1 tsp cardamom powder or crushed cardamom seeds (optional)
– Handful unsalted pistachios, crushed with a rolling pin
– Handful edible rose petals
1. Sift the flour and add a pinch of salt.
2. In a large bowl combine eggs, butter, sugar and milk.
3. Add the flour and knead on a floured surface till it forms a dough. If it seems too sticky, slowly add a little extra flour till it begins to bind well. Knead for 10-15 minutes.
4. Divide the dough into two portions, cover with plastic wrap to stop them drying out, and rest them for 1 hour.
5. Roll out the first portion about half a centimetre thick. With a cookie cutter, cut circles about 7-10cm wide, then fold in half and crimp so that the pastry looks like an elephant’s ear. Place on parchment paper as you shape them and cover with a teacloth.
6. Take the leftover scraps and knead them into the second portion of dough. Repeat the process of rolling out the dough and cutting out circles.
7. Place a wok on a medium-high heat with enough oil for deep frying. Test with a small piece of dough – if it floats freely to the top, the oil is ready.
8. Fry the gosh-e-feel 3-4 at a time , 5-10 seconds on each side, until golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.
9. Sprinkle with icing sugar, cardamom powder, crushed pistachios and rose petals.