Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Dish #1: Afghanistan - Qorma Lawand with Naan

The first country in my A-to-Z cooking project is Afghanistan.  I chose to make Qorma Lawand, which is an onion-based casserole made with chiles, yogurt, a curry-like blend of spices (including cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon, and allspice), and cilantro.  Qorma Lawand can be made with a variety of proteins.  I used skinless, boneless chicken breast cut into chunks.  The chicken is marinated in a pureed mixture of cashews (almonds can also be used), ginger, minced garlic, and water before the chicken and marinade are added to the caramelizing onions with the yogurt and some chicken broth.  Then the casserole is simmered until tender.

To go with the Qorma Lawand, I made naan, a leavened flatbread that is typical in a lot of Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines.  My husband really enjoys homemade bread and has been encouraging me to make it more often to build my skills at producing tasty bread.  He gave me a Panasonic bread machine for Christmas, and he eventually wants me to use the spent grains from his beer brewing to make loaves.  I used the bread machine to make the dough for the naan, and it worked great.  The recipe I used may not be the most traditional recipe (there are many minor variations on how to make naan, thanks to regional differences and personal preference as to the best way to make bread of any kind - which, as I have learned from studying bread recipes, can vary very widely), but I chose it because it called for yogurt in the dough.  We don't usually keep plain yogurt in the house, so I was able to use the leftover yogurt from the Qorma Lawand in the naan dough and not waste anything.

I served the Qorma Lawand over rice (I made plain long grain white rice in the rice cooker as I always do - we are not picky about rice and I like to be able to "set it and forget it" plus not take up a burner on my small stove) and with plenty of naan on the side to scoop up the sauce.  The nutty flavor the marinade brought to the sauce was different and made the dish into an interesting twist on a spicy garlic chicken dish I make often.  We thought the chicken was dry; in the future, I'd use boneless, skinless thighs instead of breasts to avoid that.  My husband's eyes lit up when he bit into a piece of the naan I gave him to taste; he absolutely loved it.

Qorma Lawand (recipe from Whats4Eats)

1/2 cup cashews or almonds
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons ginger, minced (I used ground ginger)
1/2 cup water

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 bay leaf
3 yellow onions, thinly sliced
3 chile peppers, minced and seeded (I used green chiles)
1 cup plain yogurt
Chicken broth, as needed to keep sauce from getting dry
Salt and pepper, as needed
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

Place the nuts, garlic, ginger and water into a food processor or blender and process to a puree. Put the cut-up chicken in a plastic Ziploc bag and season with salt and pepper.  Pour the puree into the bag and distribute the puree over the chicken, then seal.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to marinate.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high flame. Add the turmeric, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and bay leaf and saute in the hot oil for about 30 seconds. Add the onions and chiles and sauté for 8 minutes.

Stir in the chicken and its marinade and simmer for another 5 minutes, or until the liquid has cooked down and reduced.

Stir in the yogurt and 1/2 cup of chicken broth and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to very low.  Simmer for 40 minutes. Add chicken broth as necessary to keep the dish from drying out. Keep the heat very low to avoid curdling the yogurt.

Adjust seasoning and stir in the chopped cilantro. Serve hot with rice.

Naan (recipe from Taste of Home)
3/4 cup warm milk (I used skim)
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
In bread machine pan, place all ingredients in order suggested by manufacturer. Select dough setting.

When cycle is completed, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into six portions; shape into balls. Roll each ball into a 1/4-in. thick oval. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Brush tops with water. In a greased large skillet, cover and cook dough, wet side down, over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Turn dough; cover and cook for 30 seconds longer or until golden brown. Repeat with remaining dough.  Keep warm in a 140 degree F oven until ready to serve.

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