Borani Esfanaj

My brother had stayed with me for a week after my mastectomy.  It seemed really soon for him to have to leave, probably because I was out for at least 2 days of his visit.  It ended up being way more comforting than I expected.  My friend Issac volunteered to stay with me after my brother left.  I was still struggling to do some minor things, like picking up, cooking, taking out the trash, so having the help was still needed.  The surprising thing for me was how hard it was to put on clothes.  My arms just have limited movement and stretching the arms up over my head and to put on a shirt hurts.  The doctors recommended button down shirts, which I found useful for the doctors appointments, but buttoning the buttons was no fun.  I got some loose fitting dresses and this is now what I wear.  They really are fancy muumuu’s.  Never really saw myself wearing them, but it works.  Also helps with people coming over and not just being in my pajamas.

Equally as hard is finding Bahrain recipes.  A lot of things I found online seems to be middle eastern dishes rather than specific Bahrain dishes.  With a lot of time spent researching I find a cookbook called “multicultural cookbook of life-cyle celebrations”.  It basically has recipes from all over the world.  It has a recipe for a spinach salad called Borani Esfanaj.  The book describes how it is common on feast and wedding days that a whole baby goat is served and this is a common salad to accompany it.  I’m not feeding a family, so don’t go for the whole goat recipe but want to make this salad.

When reading the Borani Esfanaj recipe it seems to be much more of appetizer or more specifically a dip than a salad.  I was thinking of this as a side dish.  What goes well with a creamy spinach dip?  BREAD!  Well as I am cooking Bahrain I start to look into what is a common bread and find that they typically eat khubz.  Which is like a pita, so I am going to make this as well and serve with the “salad”.

The khbuz is a yeast dough.  Following instructions I add yeast to water and let it sit.

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Mix the dough and let it rest.

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Then split the dough into small balls and let it rest.

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I roll out the dough into the circle.  Yeah, my skills are of rolling dough is getting better!

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Then you bake it in the oven.  While it cooks the dough puffs up.

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Then broil till brown.

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Once it is done the air in the middle forms a pocket like a pita would.

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The “salad” is straightforward to make.  Boil spinach in water and then cook with onion and garlic.  Cool a bit and mix with yogurt.

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Then top with nuts and mint.

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The result is good.  The “salad” is like a dip.  It is like a spinach dip with a bit more unique flavors.  The mint is refreshing bite with the yogurt.  The bread is like a pita not particularly flavorful, but I’m shocked at how crisp the outside and soft the inside is.  The two pair together well, this may not be how they ate it in Bahrain, but works in my imagination.


Recipes

Borani Esfanaj

The original Recipe can be found here

  • 1 lb fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons roasted walnuts, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, chopped
  1. Boil water and add spinach.  Cook for 10 minutes.
  2. Drain spinach.
  3. In large sauce pan heat olive oil over medium-high heat.
  4. Add onion and garlic.  Saute for 5 minutes
  5. Add spinach and cook for 5 minutes
  6. Transfer to bowl and let cool for at least 5 minutes.
  7. Add yogurt, salt and pepper.
  8. Serve with walnuts and mint sprinkled on top.

Khubz

Original recipe can be found here

  • 1 ½ cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast
  1. In a large bowl, pour in the warm water and add in the yeast, stir until the yeast is dissolved.
  2. Add in the salt.
  3. Start gradually adding in the flour and oil while kneading.
  4. Knead the dough for 8 minutes.
  5. Put the dough into a large greased bowl and turn dough to grease all sides.
  6. Cover with a dry tea towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size about 1 ½ hours.
  7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  8. Punch dough gently.
  9. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and shape them into smooth balls.
  10. Place on a floured work surface and dust tops lightly with flour.
  11. Cover with a dry tea towel and let rest for 15 minutes.
  12. Roll out each ball into a 6-inch diameter circle.
  13. Place in oven and bake for 5 minutes, until puffy.
  14. Then broil for 2 minutes to brown.

Apyrpylchapa

My next dish is Apyrpylchapa, which is a walnut stuffed pepper. After my experience with Abkhazian chicken I was nervous about this dish.  However this calls for the Adjika to be added to the walnut mixture, so maybe it won’t be too bad.

The recipe for Apyrpylchapa required summer red peppers. I didn’t see any at my local store, so just opted for red bell peppers.  The recipe required that the peppers be marinated, but not cooked. I thought I would also try and see if I parboiled one of the peppers and the other one leave raw. I preferred the parboiled pepper.

Marinated red peppers

The walnut filling recipe called for fresh green coriander. On research this is cilantro, I would have never known the seeds taste so different to me. I toasted the walnuts and I think I added a touch to much salt. The mixture was spicy with a hint of the Adjika flavor, so I would suggest adding more.

 

Walnut mixture

 

Combined with the marinated peppers it was a tangy spicy treat. It was a bit too spicy for me.  I ended up having to grab some Bryndza cheese to cool off my mouth. The recipe called for a tablespoon of cayenne pepper, which seems too much. I would cut that down. All in all the dish has a lot of potential.

Apyrpylchapa

 

 


 

Recipes

Apyrpylchapa

The original recipe can be found here

  • 6 large, sweet red peppers
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 2 tbs Adjika
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tsp  cayenne pepper
  • 4 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbs oilve oil
  • 5 tbs pomegranate juice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Thinly slice 1 clove of garlic and add to a pan on medium high heat, together with 1 bay leaf, 1 level tsp of cayenne pepper, 1 tsp of sugar, and 1 tsp of salt. cook for about 30 seconds.
  2. Add 2 tbs of oil, 5 tbs of white wine vinegar (or pomegranate juice) and 200 ml of water. Bring to the boil. Cook for about 1 minute.
  3. Slice the peppers in half and remove the seeds.
  4. Parboil the peppers for 5 minutes
  5. Pour marinade and peppers in a ziplock bag for at least 1 hour.
  6. Finely chop the fresh cilantro and garlic and add to a mortar. Crush and pound the herbs and garlic.
  7. Grind the walnuts and chop the onion. Add to a bowl, together with the crushed coriander/parsley/garlic, cayenne ( add more if not spicy enough), 2 tbs of adjika, and salt. Add 4 tbs of white wine vinegar, and 1/4 of water and mix thoroughly.
  8. Once the red peppers have marinated for sufficient time, spread the filling on each slice of pepper.
  9. Garnished with a little cilantro

 

Abkhazian chicken

After trying abkhazura and adjika  I was excited about this hobby. I was ready to cook in my own kitchen. The next dish I picked was a chicken dish which included two sauces to make the dish. The name on the recipe was Abkahazian Chicken. I looked for what the more traditional name could be, but couldn’t find it. The recipe described it as the national dish.

The first step is to make purpuliga sauce. Which is a bland, salty, and spicy white paste.
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The next step is a Walnut sauce, again I’m pretty sure their has to be a traditional name, but failed at finding that too. The purpuliga is added to the walnut sauce. I thought to toast the walnuts to give extra flavor. The sauce tasted like walnuts with a slight hint of onion. There was some spice that carried through from the purpuliga sauce but over all fairly bland.

Walnut sauce

 

Next step is to boil the chicken and cook some onions, at this point I realize this is not getting better, but I have to stick with it as its my dinner. I dilute the walnut sauce with chicken stock and pour it on the onions and chopped boiled chicken. The final step is to add olive oil and Cayenne pepper.  I tried it and it tasted like spicy walnut oil. I let it cook while I made Abysta again and prayed it would get better.

At the store I couldn’t find fine cornmeal. So I made it with the medium grain. Knowing the water to cornmeal ration now the Abysta came out better. However the chicken didn’t improve with cooking time.   The result was a bland mushy meal.

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Thankfully I had some Adjika left over from the meal the night before, so I wasn’t going to starve.With the addition of the Adjika the meal was savable. Actually with a day of sitting, the Adjika had improved its taste. The meal may be appreciated by the the Abkhazian old world, but isn’t by this girl. I hope the next dish is better.


 

Recipes

Purpuliga Sauce

Original recipe can be found here

1 dozen hot red cayenne peppers, dried
3 Tbsp sea salt
½ cup shelled walnuts
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp coriander seed
½ tsp oregano, crushed
3 slices day old bread, soaked in water and squeezed gently
¼ cup water

Beginning with the hot peppers, put all items one by one into blender. After adding each ingredient whip until fine. Add enough water to make a thick paste.

Walnut Sauce

Original recipe can be found here

½ lb. shelled walnuts, crushed in blender
1 small onion, quartered
1 clove garlic
1 Tbsp Purpuliga
4 slices day-old bread, soaked in water, squeezed dry
Water

Mix altogether in a bowl. Add water to thin just enough for the mixture to be properly whipped in blender. Put in blender and whip in quantities according to the size of the blender until no lump is left in it. You will obtain a sauce with the consistency of an ordinary porridge.

Abkhazian Chicken

Original recipe can be found here

1 chicken, 4-5 lb.
2 Tbsp salt
Water to cover
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 Tbsp butter
1 lb. Walnut Sauce (2x recipe)
1 cup chicken stock
¼ cup olive oil
Cayenne pepper or paprika

Cover chicken with water, add 2 Tbsp salt, put lid on pot and boil gently until cooked. Cool. Strain, retaining stock. Debone chicken and break into bite-sized pieces.

Saute the onion in the butter for 5 minutes, or until cooked. Add the chicken pieces and stir well.

Make a sauce by diluting 1 lb. walnut sauce (double the recipe on page 53), with 1 cup chicken broth. Blend thoroughly, adding more chicken broth as required, until the consistency of a normal white sauce is reached. Pour the sauce on the chicken in the cooker. Stir once. Leave on medium heat just to start bubbling. Take it off to the serving bowl. Let it cool.

In a small bowl mix olive oil and cayenne pepper. Blend thoroughly. (Paprika may be substituted for cayenne.) Pour over the dish, and serve.