Where is Azerbaijan? What do you know about this country? Except for hearing the name couple of times in my life, I actually do not know a single thing about the country. From the brief read of the country, I found out that it is an oil rich country lying on the Caspian sea. Few interesting facts about this country:
- Tea in Azerbaijan is taken with Jam as a sweetener
- Bread is considered sacred, hence stale bread is hung up as respect and if bread is dropped on the floor its custom to kiss it.
- They love pancakes! Savory pancakes is a popular native dish which is made with pumpkin, meat or just herbs, and made as toast on the grill.
Neighboring to Armenia, Turkey, Iran and Russia the Azerbaijani cuisine is hugely influenced by a blend of Eastern European and Middle Eastern flavours.
The national dish of Azerbaijan is Plov, a meat and rice dish seasoned with dried fruit, nuts and spices. As usual, I really enjoyed cooking with ingredients of the spice and herb family. The meat, lamb which I chose to cook with was tender and juicy through slow cooking. The spices cumin and saffron gave the dish distinct middle eastern look and taste. In addition to dried apricots I threw in few dates and raisins as well. Just to mix things up, although I kept it to a minimum to keep up the authenticity of the dish.
For the next dish I made Levengi, which is a stuffed roasted chicken dish. This was a bit tricky, as I tend to be intimidated by whole chickens. For some reason, handling a whole raw chicken makes me cringe. But, up for the challenge I think I did live up to my expectations. The chicken cooked so beautifully, vibrant with the color from leftover saffron and stuffed with lightly fried and spiced dry fruit and walnuts. The best part was the marinade juice that oozed out once it cooked, sticky and concentrated with so much flavour!
As for dessert, I attempted to make Bakhlava again. I ran out of filo pastry so for half the dish I used puff pastry. It really turned out tasting just as good. The filling was honey, cardamom, walnuts, nutmeg and cinnamon. For the sugar syrup, I added a splash of rose water. OMG, the taste was absolutely beautiful. I had a lot of thumbs up. My son devoured the bakhlava, of course without the sugar syrup. In fact, we had an episode of midnight kitchen raid where the last standing piece of bakhlava disappeared from the table. Crumbs lead to his bed.
There is so much more that I want to attempt cooking from these countries. The dishes are so beautiful and the way that they use combinations of flavours is just mouth watering. Can’t wait to do the next country on the list- Bahamas.