Azerbaijan – So many people have told me that they don’t know where that is!

Azerbaijan Plag

Unusual Fact: The first known fireplace and construction in human history, which is dated back from 700,000 to 500,000 years ago, was discovered in Azikh Cave, the largest cave in Azerbaijan.

Finally, the last A country. I’m not kidding I had about 5 people ask me “Where is that?” For those of you who don’t know where Azerbaijan is, it is in the west of the Middle East, next to Armenia and Georgia, above Iran and beside the Caspian Sea.

Far out map

Close in map

Anyway, back onto the topic of food. I had a whirlwind of weekend cooking. I made four dishes (two of those fed three families). For Azerbaijan I made stuffed eggplants with sourdough bread, garlic yoghurt and a simple salad. For dessert we has Pistachio Halva.

In the filling of the eggplants, it asks for Montreal steak seasoning. They don’t sell it here in Australia because it is a Canadian thing, so I made my own. The recipe is here:

Montreal Steak Seasoning

2 teaspoons california garlic powder (probably any garlic powder, not garlic salt, will do)
4 teaspoons coarsely ground coriander seeds
2 tablespoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
4 teaspoons dill weed
4 teaspoons paprika
4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (or cayenne pepper)
4 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper (coarse)
Directions:

Mix all & store in a glass container.

I obtained this recipe for stuffed eggplants from this blog. The writer is part Azerbaijani part Russian. There are some fantastic recipes there. Some eggplants are more appealing than others. There isn’t a recipe for the garlic yoghurt. It is pretty simple; chop up some garlic as small as you can then mix it in with some yoghurt. Use as much as you like depending on how garlicky and how yoghurty you would prefer it. The salad also has no recipe. It is thinly sliced tomato and Lebanese cucumbers. We bought a sour dough loaf from our local bakery.

The halva, well it was a lot smaller than I expected even though the recipe says for 1 dozen! You can find the recipe here:

This website will, adjust the ingredients for you to cater for more people. I suggest doing it for about 3 dozen. If there is only two of you this size will be good. This recipe is not what I expected because it looked nothing like the picture and it wasn’t very accurate. Google other recipes if you want a better result. We only ate one piece each because our new mischievous dog jumped up and ate the rest off the bench! Notice how in the picture below the halva is quite thick. Ours was only 1/2 a centimetre thick. The one below is quite like nougat, ours was like crushed pistachios with sugar. I definitely  suggest getting a different recipe other than mine.

This is what the pistachio halva is supposed to look like
This is what the pistachio halva is supposed to look like

The Tea

Mum and Dad said that they really enjoyed the tea, I had the drink that was poured last so there was a lot of residue and it was really strong and over powering. I tried some of Mums. Hers was delicious. So I suggest using less ingredients or adding more water if you have the last served glass.

Azerbaijani-Style Stuffed Eggplants

1 lb ground beef

2/3 cup of uncooked rice

1 small onion, finely chopped (optional)

1 garlic clove, crushed (optional)

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 chopped fresh basil (do not substitute dried)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Montreal Steak Seasoning or salt and pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons of butter

2 tablespoons tomato paste

vegetable oil, for browning the meat

10-14 slender Japanese eggplants, depending on size

plain yogurt mixed with a little crushed garlic, for serving

sliced tomatoes and cucumbers

1. Trim the leafy caps from the eggplants.

  1. Using a paring knife, make a deep, long incision in the inner curve of each eggplant (so it resembles a boat), leaving about an inch on both sides of the incision uncut. Be sure to not cut all the way to the bottom.
  2. Use a teaspoon to gently scoop out some of the eggplant’s fleshy inside, just enough to hold about 3 tablespoons or so of filling.
  3. Brown the meat and the optional onions in a little bit of oil. Stir in the garlic and sauté for an additional minute, if using. Stir in the tomato paste.
  4. Add the rice, steak seasoning or salt and pepper, chopped herbs, cinnamon, and ginger to the meat mixture. Stir everything well (try some now it is delicious!)
  5. Fill the eggplants with the mixture and place them side-by-side in a dutch oven in one or two layers, depending on your pot’s size.
  6. Add enough water to almost cover the eggplants and throw in the butter. Bring everything to a gentle simmer and continue simmering for an hour, or until the meat and the eggplants are completely tender (some of the filling might escape during the cooking – be sure to serve it alongside the eggplants).
  7. Serve hot with some of the cooking liquid and topped with plain yogurt or yogurt-and-garlic mixture, as well as plenty of fresh, crusty bread to soak up the cooking liquid. Serve with the tomatoes and cucumbers.

Note: This recipe is a lot like the Armenian recipe of stuffed zucchini, which was served with yoghurt and had uncooked rice in the stuffing

The main dish all together
The main dish all together 

BLACK TEA

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

4 teaspoons loose black Chinese tea leaves

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon thyme optional

1 teaspoon cloves optional

1 cinnamon stick optional

1 teaspoon cardamon pods optional

Sugar cubes, for serving

Preparation:

1. Fill a tea kettle with 4 cups (the same size as you are serving in) fresh, cold water and bring it to a boil.

2. Place tea leaves, thyme, cloves, cinnamon, cardamon and ginger into another teapot or kettle.

3. Pour the boiling water onto the leaves in the other teapot or kettle and allow to steep, covered, for 10 -15 minutes.

4. Stir just before serving and strain the tea into serving cups.

5. Serve with sugar, if desired.

Pistachio Halva

1/4 cup(s) sugar

3/4 tablespoon(s) butter or ghee

5/8 cup(s) shelled pistachios

1/2 tablespoon(s) vanilla extract

1/2 cup(s) boiling water

1 tablespoon(s) milk

Directions

  1. Put pistachio in a bowl, top with boiling water and soak 30 minutes.
  2. Grease and line an 8-inch square pan with waxed paper.
  3. Drain pistachios thoroughly and put in a blender (mixer).
  4. Add milk and process in blender until finely chopped, scraping mixture down from sides once or twice.
  5. Stir in sugar.
  6. Heat a large nonstick skillet, add butter and melt over medium-low heat.
  7. Add nut paste and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture is very thick.
  8. Stir in vanilla extract, then spoon into prepared pan and spread evenly.
  9. Cool completely, then cut into 20 squares using a sharp knife.
Pistachio Halva
Pistachio Halva

If you have any recipes for any countries that I have or am going to do please don’t hesitate to post them as a comment. I am happy for anything.

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