Halwau-E Aurd-E Sujee (Semolina Sweetmeat): More Like Semolina Sweet Treat

Halwau-E Aurd-E Sujee in baking tray

Halwau-E Aurd-E Sujee is an Afghan dessert made with sugar, semolina, and ghee and then flavored with cardamom and rosewater. The English name for this dessert is “semolina sweetmeat,” but, quite frankly, I think that name sounds unappetizing. “Semolina sweet treat” is a more accurate (and less icky) name, so from now on we’ll stick with that.

An Unruly Sweet Tooth

I come from a family of dessert lovers. My dad eats Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups after dinner every night,

my mom and I can never say no to splitting dessert at a restaurant, and my grandma starts each meal by asking what’s for dessert. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree… no matter how much I wish it did.

Halwau-E Aurd-E Sujee Closeup
You can cut your Semolina Sweet Treat into triangles like shown here

I can’t help it! Some people have a big sweet tooth, and some people have a mouth full of sweet teeth. I fall into the latter category. If cookies were as healthy as broccoli, I can assure you I’d be making them every darn day. But, alas, the world is not perfect….

BUT, now once a week I get to try a different dessert from a different country in the world!! And that’s about as close to perfection as a girl can ask for *cue a unicorn jumping over a rainbow*

The First Dessert!

For my first “foreign” dessert, I decided to try something unlike anything I’ve ever baked before! Halwau-E Aurd-E Sujee isn’t a cookie or a cake or a pie or a pastry. Quite honestly, I don’t really know what to classify it as. But I do know that it can be classified as delicious.

When the halwau-E aurd-E sujee is finished, it’s one consistent layer of deliciousness with a great texture and density. The rosewater gives off a floral aftertaste that, at first, was really hard for any of my guests to place. Once I told them the ingredients, they said that the sensations happening in their mouths made total sense.

This dessert was definitely something different for my family to try, and they were a bit torn on their reviews. I, along with my mom and my aunt, loved the dessert. We thought that it was something different and interesting, and we liked that it was sweet without being overpowering. My dad, a classic meat and potatoes kinda guy, said he’d rather stick with his Reese’s. I did leave him alone with the pan for the weekend, though, and when I came home, the leftovers were almost gone. We’ll let that speak for itself.

Either way, I think you should try it. It’ll be an adventure, and one I’m pretty sure you’ll end up enjoying. If you do, let me know in the comments how it goes! What do you think of Afghan food?

Halwau-E Aurd-E Sujee (Semolina Sweetmeat)

Halwau-E Aurd-E Sujee is an Afghan dessert consisting primarily of semolina, ghee and sugar. It is flavored with cardamom and rosewater and topped with pistachios and almonds. It is a soft-textured dessert with an understated yet sweet flavor. Each bit contains a delicious hint of floral aroma. 

Course Dessert

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup ghee
  • 1 cup semolina flour
  • 1/4 cup pistachio nuts
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1-2 tsp rosewater to taste
  • 1/2-1 tsp ground cardamom to taste
  • additional pistchios or almonds to decorate

Instructions

  1. Combine sugar and 2 cups water in a saucepan. Stir occasionally over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.  

  2. Bring to a boil, then boil for 5 minutes without stirring. Remove from the heat and set aside. 

  3. Meanwhile, heat ghee in a deep saucepan. Add the semolina and stir continuously for 5 minutes. Do not allow semolina to color. 

  4. Pour the sugar/water mixture into the semolina mixture, stirring constantly. When combined, reduce the heat and leave to cook, uncovered, until all of the liquid has been absorbed. The mixture should be thick but still moist at this stage.  

  5. Stir in the nuts, and the cardamom and rosewater to taste. 

  6. Cover the pan with a cloth, put the lid on tightly, and leave over low heat for 5 minutes. 

  7. Turn off the heat and leave the pan undisturbed for 10 minutes.

  8. Spread the mixture on a flat, lightly oiled platter and decorate it with nuts.  

  9. Cut into triangles like in the photograph. Serve warm or cold. 

Recipe Notes

Recipe from The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook by Tess Mallos. 

Boolawnee (Fried Leek Pastries): The Disappearing Appetizer

Front view of boulawnee

Boolawnee, or fried leek pastries, are delicious appetizers that come from Afghanistan. They are easy and quick to make, and my family members absolutely loved them. The dough is a simple mix of flour and water. The leek filling only contains leeks, salt, vegetable oil, and chili powder. 5 ingredients for an absolutely scrumptious appetizer? Count me in!

Boulawnee from top, zoomed out

I chose to serve boolawnee— fried leek pastries– as the appetizer to my Afghanistan meal.Originally, I wasn’t planning on serving them, or any other appetizers, to my guests. However, after looking over the menu the day before the meal, I felt that I was missing something. I decided last minute to serve these boolawnee, and I think I definitely made the right call!

My aunt and cousin joined my mom, brother, and I for the kickoff of The Foreign Fork cooking experience. Around 7:30 pm, everyone gathered in my kitchen to talk, laugh, and catch up. As we were chatting, I was cooking the eggplant for the bouranee baunjaun and struggling to get this boolawnee on the table. Luckily, I had prepped the dumplings a few hours before, so once my guests arrived, I just heated up the oil and fried these little guys to perfection.

Once I had a steaming plate of dumplings, I put them out on the table alongside a bowl of chakah (garlicky yogurt sauce). I turned around to give a little TLC to my vegetables cooking on the stove. By the time I turned back around, all 18 of the boolawnee were completely gone. I swear, there’s no bigger compliment that a cook can get.

Recipe Size

This recipe was supposed to make enough for 32 boolawnee, but I only ended up being able to get about 22 out of it. First, the amount of dough allowed for only about 28 or so dumplings. Then, because I was trying to make as many dumplings as possible, the dough ended up really thin. Because of this, a lot of the boolawnee broke before they could be cooked.

Boulawnee from top, zoomed in

To remedy this problem, I recommend attempting to make about 22-24 dumplings instead of 32. This way, each dumpling can have more filling and the dough can be a little thicker. Additionally, as you are assembling the dumplings, do so on a dish towel. Assembling the dumplings on the countertop like I did will cause the dough to stick to the surface and rip. The dumplings that I left to rest on dish towels were infinitely more beautiful than the ones I had to peel off of the granite countertop.

I had already pre-made the yogurt sauce for my bouranee baunjaun, so I put a few cups of it out with the pastries. This was a great idea, and everyone loved having the yogurt as a dipping sauce!

With these few tweaks, I’m sure that your boolawnee will be an even BIGGER hit than mine were! Try them out, and let me know in the comments below how it goes.

Boolawnee (Fried Leek Pastries)

Boolawnee are fried leek pastries that originated in Afghanistan. With only 5 ingredients, they are a quick and easy appetizer to whip up before a delicious dinner1 

Course Appetizer
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Resting Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes

Ingredients

Pastry

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup cold water

Leek Filling

  • 2 leeks, about 3 cups chopped
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 3 tsp vegetable oil

To Finish

  • vegetable oil for deep frying

Chakah (Garlicky Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 cup plain, unflavored yogurt
  • 2-3 cloves garlic crushed

Instructions

  1. Sift flour and salt together in a large bowl.

  2. Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour water into the center. 

  3. Mix to a firm dough and knead for 5 minutes until elastic. Wrap in plastic wrap and leave to rest for 30 minutes. 

  4. Cut off and discard most of the green tops from the leeks. Wash remaining portion of leeks thoroughly, making sure to wash between each leaf to remove leftover soil. Chop.

  5. Add salt and chili powder to leeks and knead by hand to soften leeks. Stir in oil. 

  6. Roll pieces of dough into thin, 4-inch rounds. Fill each circle with even amount of filling. While preparing/assembling each pastry, leave dough on a dish towel so that they do not stick to the counter. 

  7. Fold pastry in half and wet edges with water. Use a finger to press the edges of the pastry together. You can also use a thimble or a fork to press the edges together, but I found that this looked messier than simply using your fingers. 

  8. Heat vegetable oil in a skillet.

  9.  In a separate bowl, combine all chakah ingredients together. Set aside.

  10. Fry three or four dumplings at a time in hot oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve hot or warm. 

Recipe Notes

Recipe from The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook by Tess Mallos. 

Afghan Eggplant with Yogurt Sauce

Bouranee Baunjaun from top

This bouranee baunjaun (eggplant with yogurt sauce) dish was absolutely delicious. Eggplants are fried in hot vegetable oil and then combined with peppers, tomatoes, onions, and a garlicky yogurt sauce to create a smooth, scrumptious side dish. The eggplants are pre-cooked, but the tomatoes and peppers are not, leaving the dish with a great and dynamic texture (instead of one big pile of mush). Use Afghan naan bread to scoop up these veggies or just eat them with a fork!

To be honest with you all, aside from some waffles I made about a month ago, I cannot remember the last time I’ve cooked with vegetable oil. I’ve recently been experimenting with new types of oils (like coconut, sesame, and avocado), and I use olive oil on pretty much a twice-daily basis. But vegetable oil? That’s been sitting in the back of my pantry for quite some time.

I’m not sure why… I think vegetable oil scares me a little. I’ve been trying to make healthier food decisions, so the other oils typically fall into that category far before vegetable oil does. But this eggplant dish uses vegetable oil, and it uses a lot of it. So it’s time to dust off that bottle of veggie oil and see what magic it can bring.

Salting the eggplant

The first step to making this bouranee baunjaun is vital, so don’t forget it! Eggplants retain a lot of water, so if you salt and rest your slices before cooking, the water will be extracted from the eggplant and will sit on top of the vegetable for you to wipe away easily. If you forget this step, the water will come out when you fry your eggplant. Your dish will be watery and the eggplants will sizzle quite a bit when hitting the hot oil. The recipe says to salt the eggplant for 30 minutes. I salted mine for about an hour and a half, and quite a bit of water came out of them.

How do you fry… eggplant?

After salting the eggplant, use a paper towel to remove the excess water. Now it’s time to fry up those slices! Heat up a skillet with about ½ inch of oil. The oil is at the right temperature to begin frying when you stick a wooden chopstick into the oil and bubbles form around it. Drop your slices into the oil and cook until they become brown on each side.

Warning

If you cook your eggplant like this, they are going to absorb A LOT of oil. Afghans really like a lot of oil in their cooking, so frying the eggplant in ½ inch of oil is the authentic way to cook this bouranee baunjaun. This is how I chose to do it, but the amount of oil that was seeping out of the cooked eggplant started to make me nervous. In order to get rid of as much oil as possible, I lined a cookie sheet with paper towels. I left each eggplant slice to dry on there for about 15 minutes. Once they had cooled a bit, I used another layer of paper towel to press down on the slices. This helped a lot by removing a lot of the excess oil from the eggplant!

If you want your bouranee baunjaun to be less oily than in Afghanistan, you have a few options.

Bouranee Baunjaun with red dish towel

  1. Instead of frying your eggplant in ½ inch of oil, you can brush the slices with vegetable oil. Then cook them in the skillet instead of frying them.
  2. You can microwave the eggplant for about five minutes before frying it. By doing this,  air pockets in the slices begin to collapse and there’s not room for oil to get inside.
  3. Soak the eggplant in milk for 1 to 2 hours. I haven’t tried this method, though, so if you try it out, let me know how it goes!

Even though the amount of oil in the dish was out of my comfort zone, the vegetables ended up tasting way better than I had expected they would. The veggies were tender but not too soft, and the leftover oil mixed with the yogurt sauce was to die for. In fact, the veggies were one of the favorite dishes on the table!

If you try making this eggplant dish, let me know how it goes– ESPECIALLY if you soak your slices in milk. I’m curious about the results of that one, so don’t forget to share how it went in the comments below!

Bouranee Baunjaun (Eggplant with Yogurt Sauce)

An Afghan vegetable side dish made up of tomatoes, peppers, onions and fried eggplant topped with a garlicky yogurt sauce. 

Course Side Dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
Resting time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 6

Ingredients

Vegetables

  • 4 eggplants
  • salt for sweating eggplant
  • vegetable oil for frying eggplant
  • 1 bell pepper, green or orange sliced into rings
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder

Chakah (Garlicky Yogurt Sauce)

  • 2 cups plain, unflavored yogurt
  • 4 garlic cloves crushed
  • salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Leave skin on eggplants and cut into sliced 1/2 inch thick.

  2. Spread on tray and sprinkle slices liberally with salt. Leave for one hour, then dry well with paper towels. 

  3. Pour enough oil into a frying pan to cover base well. Fry the eggplant until browned on each side but not cooked completely. 

  4. Leave to rest on a paper towel covered cookie sheet. Press paper towel into eggplant slices to remove excess oil. 

  5. Once eggplant is fried, add onions to pan and fry until translucent. Remove to another plate.

  6. Place a layer of eggplant back into the pan. Top with some onion, pepper, and tomato, and then sprinkle with salt and chili powder. Repeat until ingredients are gone. 

  7. Add 1/4 cup water, cover pan, and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. 

  8. Combine chakah (yogurt) ingredients. Spread half onto the base of a platter. When vegetables are finished cooking, place vegetables on top of chakah. Then spread the other half of the chakah over the top of the vegetables. 

Recipe Notes

Recipe from The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook by Tess Mallos. 

How to Make Naan Bread

naan bread with flour and decorative pot

I looooove bread. I love bread a lot. I think I might even love bread on an Oprah Winfrey-type level. And I’m not kidding when I say that one of the reasons that I’m MOST excited to cook the world is so that I can experiment with (idk, hopefully?) 196 different kinds of bread. Wouldn’t that be amazing? 

naan bread with flour and decorative pot
The bread is a bit dense here. I think that I could have avoided this problem by kneading the dough more and allowing it a longer chance to rise.

So of course, when Afghanistan rolled around, bread HAD to be on the menu. Bread in Afghanistan is called naan and there are a few different kinds. As I mentioned in my Afghanistan intro post, Hafizullah Emadi, the author of Culture and Customs of Afghanistan, says that naan is probably the single most important food in all of Afghanistan. It’s treated almost religiously, as a gift from God.

As I was cooking, I kept hoping that my own homemade Afghan naan bread might reach the same divine status that authentic Afghan naan is allotted. It was good, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think it was GREAT. The flavor of the bread was on point, and it definitely served its purpose on the dinner table– the bread is a vessel to get pretty much everything else on the plate into your mouth. It was, however, a little dense for what I had expected from Afghan naan.

HOLD UP

Before I go any further, I want to let you know that I don’t want this blog to be like most of the food blogs out in the blogosphere. Most bloggers create a recipe once or twice a week and then share that recipe in a post. I WISH that this was something I could do. However, as someone that’s never eaten Afghan food before (let alone food from Kyrgystan or Brunei), I would feel like an imposter trying to create and share recipes from each country with you. I’m not a culinary expert on every country in the world, and I’m not a master chef by any means. In fact, I’m probably on the same level as most of you… but I want to improve, and I want to learn.

Instead of making up my own recipes, I want to take recipes from the experts and focus on sharing my learning experience with you all. I want you to follow along, try it out with me, and share with me what YOU learned from the experience. By the end, maybe I’ll be able to say that I AM a culinary expert on every country. But you have to start somewhere, so that somewhere for me has to come from someone else’s Afghan naan recipe.

BACK TO THE AFGHAN NAAN

Some very high-tech, advanced research (AKA a google search) informed me that, most likely, my bread was dense because I didn’t knead it for long enough. Kneading bread dough activates and develops the gluten within the bread. The longer you knead, the more light and airy your bread will be.

Naan bread on wooden background with red rag

So, if you decide to make this bread, learn from my mistake. Knead that darn bread like there’s no tomorrow! Knead for longer than the recommended 20 minutes! And then give that baby ample time to rise.

I want my bread to be perfect, but this bread wasn’t quuuuiiiiite there yet. The good news is, I love to bake, so I’ll be in the kitchen working to perfect this recipe. When I do, I’ll let you know the special secret! Until then, I’ll share the recipe that I followed with some additional notes that I’ve collected from my experience. Try it out! Maybe your Afghan naan will reach that divine status I’ve been searching for. Let me know in the comments below!

naan bread with flour and decorative pot
3.5 from 2 votes
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Afghan Naan Bread

Classic Afghan whole-wheat bread. 

Course Bread
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings 8 loaves

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp activate dried yeast
  • 3 cups whole-wheat flour (1 lb or 450 grams)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • oil for shaping

Instructions

  1. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup (60 ml or 2 fl oz) warm water


  2. Put flours and salt in a mixing bowl and stir well with a balloon whisk. Remove about 1 cup (150 g or 5 oz.) of the flour and set aside.

  3. Add 1 3/4 cups (440 ml or 15 fl oz) of warm water to the yeast mixture and pour into the centre of the flour. 

  4. Stir a little flour into the liquid to thicken it slightly, cover the bowl, and leave it in a warm place for 10 minutes or until the liquid is frothy. 

  5. Stir in the remaining flour, then knead by hand for 25 minutes gradually kneading in the reserved flour towards the end of the time (or 15 minutes using an electric mixer). (I beat for about 20 minutes, and it was not long enough, so I have upped the time in my instructions).

  6. Cover the bowl and leave the dough in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size, about 30 minutes to an hour (air on the side of an hour). 

  7. Preheat the oven to 430 degrees F. With oiled hands, divide the dough into 8 equal portions, then roll into balls. 

  8. Press the ball into a tear shape about 1/2 inch thick. Place the shaped loaves on baking trays, cover with cloths, and leave for 15 minutes. 

  9. Dip a finger in oil and then use a finger to press three parallel grooves into each loaf that run from the top of the dough to the bottom. The one in the middle will be the longest. 

  10. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 15 minutes or until loaves are lightly browned and cooked. Wrap in a cloth as they come out of the oven. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

Recipe adapted from The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook by Tess Mallos. 

How to Make a Garam Masala Spice Blend at Home

Ground garam masala in a spice blender

Garam Masala is a spice blend that originated in India. It’s made with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin and nutmeg. It goes well on just about everything!

When I saw that my kabuli pulao recipe called for garam masala, I spied a challenge. I have never made my own spice blend before, but this experience was so much fun!

I’ve also never cooked with Garam Masala before, but after taking the time to make my own blend and then use it in a recipe, I can happily say that I will be using this spice quite a bit more in my everyday cooking.

grated nutmeg on a cutting board with a grater in the background

What is Garam Masala Made With?

Cardamom
Cinnamon bark
Cloves
Cumin seeds
Black cumin seeds
Nutmeg

For full ingredient measurement and recipe instructions, visit the recipe card at the bottom of the page.

Each household in the Middle East probably has a slightly different version of Garam Masala in their house. However, the backbone of each recipes is the same. They all include some variations of the ingredients above.

How to Make Garam Masala Spice Blend

Combine all spices except for nutmeg in a small frying pan and dry roast over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until spices smell fragrant. Do not burn. Remove to a plate and cool.

Remove and discard pods from cardamom.

In a spice grinder, blend cardamom seeds and roasted spices to a fine powder. 

Grate the nutmeg and add to the ground spices. Store in a sealed jar. 

In order to enhance the flavors of each spice, dry roast them on the stove before grinding them. To dry roast, add the spices to a small skillet on the stove without any oil. Toss the spices over low heat until they become fragrant and slightly darker in color. This is the point when you add them to the spice grinder and add the nutmeg.

teaspoons filled with Indian Spices

Where is Garam Masala Eaten?

I made this recipe for Garam Masala while experimenting with the food from Afghanistan. The spice blend is a very popular choice in Afghanistan and is always available in Afghan houses.

But this is not the only country where the Garam Masala Spice Blend is popular! Homes in Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, often also have jars of Garam Masala readily available in their kitchen.

This spice blend is used very often in these countries, so families will have ready-made jars available to throw into their recipes whenever necessary.

Is Masala the Same as Garam Masala?

In Hindi, the word “Masala” refers to any combination of spices that make a blend. Therefore, the term Masala does not always reference this specific spice blend, Garam Masala.

There are plenty of Masala’s in Middle Eastern cooking, and Garam Masala is just one of them.

A “dry masala” refers to a dry spice blend, made of seeds and powders ground together. This spice blend can be sprinkled on rice, rubbed on meat, etc.

A “wet masala” references the combination of a “dry masala” with a tomato or an onion or any other ingredient that will make the combination into a paste. This version of masala cannot be sprinkled, and it is more used as a spice rub instead!

Garam Masala Spice sitting in a pinch cup

Do I Need a Spice Grinder?

At the time that I started making my Garam Masala Spice Blend, I didn’t own a spice grinder. But one battered blender and one insufficient food processor later, and I ended the day with a brand new spice grinder on my kitchen counter!

I originally thought that I could use a blender or a food processor to grind up the ingredients for this spice blend. This may have worked had the blend only included cumin, cardamom, etc.

However, the cinnamon stick in the mix is really what makes the Spice Grinder necessary. The cinnamon stick is tough, and a blender or a food processor won’t quite be successful in grinding it up into the powder that you need.

If you have the resources/ability to use/obtain a spice grinder, that would be my recommendation. If you don’t, I would recommend trying to grate your cinnamon stick before adding it into the blend, just like you do with your nutmeg.

toasting ingredients for garam masala spice

What Can I Use this Spice Blend With?

Garam Masala goes well with just about anything actually. The only thing I would recommend NOT using your Garam Masala on is fruit!

It is delicious on rice dishes, lentils, red meat, chicken, meat curries, fish, potatoes, vegetables, yogurt, and salad.

I would recommend trying out your Garam Masala with these dishes:

By the time my spice was finally finished, my kitchen smelled like you had walked right into a kitchen in India, and I had a beautifully fine, dusty powder of Garam Masala to experiment with during my adventures in Afghanistan.

The best part? I have almost a half cup of leftover spice!! Now I can try cooking more delicious recipes with my newfound FAVORITE spice, and then I can share my experimentations with you lovely people! Stay tuned!

Until then, try making this blend for yourself. Trust me, you’ll love it!

If you make this recipe at home, leave a comment on this post letting me know what you thought! Post a photo on Facebook or Instagram and tag @TheForeignFork or hashtag #TheForeignFork.

If you liked this recipe, make sure to check out the other recipes on my site I picked out just for you!:

Garam Masala

Garam Masala is a spice blend that originated in India. It's made with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin and nutmeg. It goes well on just about everything!

Course Spice Blend
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 2 pieces cinnamon bark 3 1/4 inches long
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp black cumin seeds
  • 1/2 whole nutmeg grated

Instructions

  1. Combine all spices except for nutmeg in a small frying pan and dry roast over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until spices smell fragrant. Do not burn. Remove to a plate and cool.

  2. Remove and discard pods from cardamom.

  3. In a spice grinder, blend cardamom seeds and roasted spices to a fine powder. 

  4. Grate the nutmeg and add to the ground spices. Store in a sealed jar. 

Kabuli Pulao (Spiced Lamb Pilaf) from Afghanistan

Kabuli Pulao (Spiced Lamb Pilaf) on yellow background

This Kabuli Pulao is a perfect way to experience the flavors of Afghanistan. This Rice Pilaf dish is made with basmati rice, raisins, lamb, and the delicious Garam Masala seasoning. You are going to love the tender lamb and flavorful rice!

I’ve been planning on and dreaming about this kabuli pulao for at least two months, and it did NOT disappoint.

When I conceived the idea for The Foreign Fork, I was in the middle of a 5 month trip to Europe. Taking 13 hour bus rides across Eastern Europe and living in the cheapest hostels you can find on HostelWorld doesn’t really allow for much money/space/time to be cooking 5 course meals from other countries.

But I was still so excited about my idea, so before I went to bed every night, I would plan the menus for my first couple of countries. Would you believe that I’ve been planning on and dreaming about this Kabuli Pulao for at least two months? The thought of putting raisins in my rice was so out of my comfort zone that I couldn’t wait to try it.

It did NOT disappoint.

Disclaimer: This recipe is not my own. I got it from The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook by Tess Mallos!

Kabuli Pulao (Spiced Lamb Pilaf) full palte

What is the National Dish of Aghanistan?

Kabuli Pulao is actually the national dish of Afghanistan! It’s a traditional meal in the country, served very often at weddings and for special occasions. The first meal to kick off cooking every country in the world is pretty darn special, so I thought that this dish would be perfect to celebrate.

What Ingredients are in Kabuli Pulao?

Ghee or vegetable oil
Onions 
Boneless lamb
Garam masala
Ground cardamom
Cinnamon
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt
Slivered almonds
Carrots
Raisins
Sugar
Basmati rice 

How to Make Kabuli Pulao at Home

Heat 2 tbps ghee or olive oil in a deep, heavy-based saucepan. 

Add the onion and fry over medium heat for 15 minutes, or until translucent and golden brown. Remove and set aside. 

Add the lamb to the pan with the remaining ghee and fry over high heat until browned, stirring often. Sprinkle with spices and 1 tsp of salt. 

Stir over heat for 1 minute, add 1 1/2 cups water, then return onion to the pan. Cover and simmer for one hour. 

While the meat is cooking, add 1/4 cup ghee to a frying pan and lightly brown/toast sliced almonds. Remove from pan, leaving ghee behind. 

Add carrots to the frying pan and fry over medium heat until lightly colored, stirring often. 

Add raisins and continue to fry, stirring until raisins become plump. Sprinkle carrot and raisin mixture with sugar and set aside. 

Adding the Rice

Wash and strain rice. Bring 6 cups (1.5 litres, 51 oz) of water to a boil with 1 tbsp salt. Add rice, return to a boil, and boil for 6 minutes. Strain. 

Remove the cooked lamb and 1/2 cup (4 fl oz. or 125 ml) of liquid. Stir the rice and the remaining 1 tsp salt into the juices still remaining in the pan. 

Make 3 or 4 holes in the rice with the end of a wooden spoon. Place lamb mixture over half of rice and carrots/raisin mixture over the other half of rice. Pour reserved meat juices over the top. 

Place two paper towels over pan and cover tightly with a lid. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 25 minutes more. Remove from heat and keep covered for 5 minutes. 

Pile the lamb into the center of a platter and top with carrots and raisin mixture. Fluff up rice grains with a fork and mound the rice around the meat in the middle. Sprinkle with reserved almonds and serve. 

Where Can I Buy Lamb?

I searched my local grocery store for lamb, but I had a hard time finding it. My store did have ground lamb, but unfortunately there was no cubed, boneless ham to be found!

The recipe calls for 1 lb., 2 oz of boneless lamb, which I couldn’t find in the pre-cut meat section of my local grocery store. A trip to a butcher was in order. I found a Lebanese grocery star not far from my house, so I called and pre-ordered my lamb the day before.

You can visit a Lebanese or Middle Eastern grocery store, and they should have lamb available for you to purchase. If you don’t live within driving distance of a Middle Eastern grocery store, you can also visit a local butcher. They should have be able to provide you with lamb as well!

Lamb and onions cooking in skillet

How Long Does it Take to Make Kabuli Pulao?

When I say that Kabuli Pulao is a time commitment, I’m not kidding.

But when I say that Kabuli Pulao is worth the time commitment, I’m not kidding either.

If you’re having a bad week and just want a way to relax and de-stress, carve a few hours out of your Saturday to keep this rice simmering on the stove. By the end, your house will smell incredible, and you’ll have a great bowl of warm, yummy comfort food waiting for you.

The one thing that I think I would change about this dish is maybe adding a little more lamb. The way that the lamb is slow simmered in the liquid for an hour makes it SO tender and flavorful, and I wished I had more pieces of it in the rice to enjoy.

Did you like this recipe for Kabuli Pulao from Afghanistan? If so, leave a comment on this page or post a photo on Facebook or Instagram and tag @TheForeignFork and hashtag #TheForeignFork.

If you liked this recipe, you’ll also love these other recipes that I’ve picked out just for you!

Kabuli Pulao (Spiced Lamb Pilaf)

Kabuli Pulao, or Spiced Lamb Pilaf, is a common dish in Afghanistan. It is often made to celebrate big occasions such as weddings. 

Course Main Course
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup ghee or vegetable oil (or 2 oz)
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 1 lb 2 oz boneless lamb, cut into 2 cm cubes (or 500 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds, not roasted or salted (or 40 grams or 1 1/2 oz)
  • 1 1/2 cup carrots cut into matchsticks
  • 1 cup seedless raisins (4 oz or 125 g)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 cups basmati rice (or 14 oz or 400g)

Instructions

  1. Heat 2 tbps ghee or olive oil in a deep, heavy-based saucepan. 

  2. Add the onion and fry over medium heat for 15 minutes, or until translucent and golden brown. Remove and set aside. 

  3. Add the lamb to the pan with the remaining ghee and fry over high heat until browned, stirring often. Sprinkle with spices and 1 tsp of salt. 

  4. Stir over heat for 1 minute, add 1 1/2 cups water, then return onion to the pan. Cover and simmer for one hour. 

  5. While the meat is cooking, add 1/4 cup ghee to a frying pan and lightly brown/toast sliced almonds. Remove from pan, leaving ghee behind. 

  6. Add carrots to the frying pan and fry over medium heat until lightly colored, stirring often. 

  7. Add raisins and continue to fry, stirring until raisins become plump. Sprinkle carrot and raisin mixture with sugar and set aside. 

  8. Wash and strain rice. Bring 6 cups (1.5 litres, 51 oz) of water to a boil with 1 tbsp salt. Add rice, return to a boil, and boil for 6 minutes. Strain. 

  9. Remove the cooked lamb and 1/2 cup (4 fl oz. or 125 ml) of liquid. Stir the rice and the remaining 1 tsp salt into the juices still remaining in the pan. 

  10. Make 3 or 4 holes in the rice with the end of a wooden spoon. Place lamb mixture over half of rice and carrots/raisin mixture over the other half of rice. Pour reserved meat juices over the top. 

  11. Place two paper towels over pan and cover tightly with a lid. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 25 minutes more. Remove from heat and keep covered for 5 minutes. 

  12. Pile the lamb into the center of a platter and top with carrots and raisin mixture. Fluff up rice grains with a fork and mound the rice around the meat in the middle. Sprinkle with reserved almonds and serve.