Cook & Learn about the world: Afghanistan:

 So welcome to a new regular post I´m going to be blogging about frequently: Cook and Learn about the World. Inspired by the Global Table Adventure blog, I decided that I wanted to also cook the world so my family could try new cuisines and dishes from different countries, eat more variety and hopefully encourage my daughter to be less of a fussy eater while at the same time learn about these countries and cultures and become more tolerant and open-minded. And after the recent attack in London, it couldn´t come at a better time.

The first country on the list is Afghanistan and I was excited to try this cuisine as I´ve never eaten Afghan food before. I turned to Global Table Adventure´s Afghan recipes and decided to make the following recipes:Burani Bonjon (or Spicy Braised Aubergine with Seer Moss(Garlic Mint Sauce);Kabeli Palau(Twice-cooked Basmati Rice with Chicken & Carrots)and Firnee (Cardamom & Rose Water Custard). I chose these particular dishes as they were the ones that I liked the sound of the most but also because I thought that my children might like/eat these better than the others.Although I used Global Table Adventure´s recipes for Afghanistan, for other countries I might use other recipes I find in addition to those of Global Table Adventure.

The first dish I made was the Kabeli Palau(Basmati Rice with Chicken & Carrots). I made the slightly quicker version using chicken breasts and chicken stock(yes, with an Oxo cube!) and even though I made the "quick" version, this recipe did take quite a lot of work but in the end it was so worth it.The rice with tender chunks of chicken lightly spiced is reminiscent of Indian cuisine(one of my favourites!) and the crunchy yet sweet carrot and nutty garnish just finishes off the dish perfectly. I´d definitely reccommend trying this dish.It was a real hit with everyone except my daughter who only ate the rice(and that was with loads of ketchup!!)

The second dish I made was Burani Bonjon(Spicy Braised Aubergine)& Seer Moss(Garlic Mint Sauce) I made this as a side dish. Unfortunately I didn´t make all these Afghan dishes on the same day as it would have made an ideal side dish for the Basmati Rice with Chicken & Carrots. I knew my daughter probably wouldn´t try this dish with it being a vegetable dish but you can live in hopes....I think my 18mth old had a little bit although I think he spat the aubergine out. This was tasty without being too spicy and the garlic mint yoghurt sauce was a great accompaniment to it...very garlicy. I had to use dried mint as didn´t have any fresh so I think the mint flavour was lost a little. Again, I´d definitely reccommend trying this dish.
 Finally, I made Firmee(Cardamom & Rose Water Custard). Both of these flavours were pretty new to me,especially the rose water...which I managed to find in a Morrocan food shop. The recipe itself is pretty easy to make(just make sure you add warm milk to the cornflour not cold otherwise it won´t thicken..I realised this later on but corrected the problem and managed to thicken it up!!)I couldn´t find peeled pistachios so peeling the pistachios was probably one of the things that took up most of the time in this recipe and then grinding it and the cardamom...luckily I had my trusty Thermomix! Unfortunately, we weren´t very keen on this dessert as it has a very strong, perfumed taste despite me only making half the recipe and using half the amount of the rose water.Neither of my children tried this dessert either.

My view:I really enjoyed the food from Afghanistan and would love to try more dishes now including the other recipes featured in Global Table Adventure. However, dessert was a little disappointing.I´ll definitely be making both the rice and the aubergine dishes again in the future.Delicious!!

My children´s view: Not such a success with the kids. The rice was the most successful especially with my 18 mth old and we mananged to encourage my daughter to eat it with copious amounts of ketchup and by saying that it was a special "paella".

Now for the learning part, you can find educational activities about Afghanistan on both Activity Village & Enchanted Learning,however you have to pay to become a member to obtain these activities.I found the following page with various educational activities about Afghanistan and printed out the Afghanistan flag for my daughter to colour.However, we haven´t done anything else so I was a little disappointed that she hasn´t learnt more about this country. I´d love to know of any books aimed at children about Afghanistan or any other activities....please feel free to share them with us. I´d also love to hear if you make any of the dishes too!

Just adding on this quick. I´ve found a book about Afghanistan at my local library(and even better it´s in English!) which looks like a great way to teach my daughter a bit about Afghanistan. It´s called The Sky of Afghanistan by Ana A.de Eulate and illustrated by Sonja Wimmer. I´ve only just borrowed it from the library so we haven´t read it yet but it appears to be a lovely story about an Afghan girl, a dream and a song for peace and it is also beautifully illustrated.


Eat More Variety Alphabet Challenge: D: D for Dates: Wild Rice with Dates & Walnuts

Hello strangers! Finally back again to bring you this month´s Eat More Variety Alphabet Challenge and we´ve reached letter D. I decided to choose dates for the letter D as it´s something that although I like we hardly eat but now after reading the nutritional and health benefits of eating dates....I think it´s something we´re definitely going to be consuming more often. Plus I have discovered lots of yummy recipes to try!!

First a quick look at some of the nutritional benefits of dates. Dates contain a wide range of essential nutrients and are a fantastic source of potassium.They are rich in dietary fibre, so therefore helps protect the colon mucous membrame from cancer-causing chemicals. They contain tannins which possess anti-infective,anti-inflammatory and anti-hemorrhagic properties.They are also an excellent source of iron. They also have many other health & nutritional benefits which you can read more about here .

The first recipe using dates I decided to try out was this Wild Rice, Dates & Walnuts despite the fact that it isn´t very toddler friendly because of the nuts and even though I suspected that my daughter would not so much as touch it!I thought at first that I´d overcooked the rice as it looked quite clumpy/ mushy but however the end result was delicious and I´m glad I tried it. It is quite reminiscent of couscous and the sweetness of the dates and the crunch of the walnuts gives it added texture and flavour.As predicted though my daughter wouldn´t try it.I adapted the recipe from my New Better Homes & Gardens Cook Book.

1/2 chopped onion
1 tbsp butter
1/2-3/4 cup of wild rice,rinsed and drained
1 cup of chopped celery
200ml chicken stock(I used Oxo chicken stock cube)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup pitted dates,chopped
1/8 cup chopped walnuts(toasted if time)

1. Cook onion in hot butter for 10 minutes until tender.
2. Add wild rice and cook for 3 minutes while stirring.
3. Add celery ,chicken stock and water and bring to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer covered for about 20 minutes(the original recipe said 40 minutes but mine was ready between 15-20 minutes) until rice is tender and most of the liquid has absorbed(much like a risotto).
4.Stir in dates and walnuts and cook uncovered for 3-4 minutes.
5. Serve as a side dish with chicken or fish.
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