Parwana: Recipes and Stories from an Afghan Kitchen, written by Durkhanai Ayubi with recipes by Farida Ayubi, features an amazing assortment of generational recipes from everyday meals to celebratory feasts alongside family memories, personal stories, and the history of Afghanistan.
A few highlights include Kabuli Palaw (Rice with Carrots and Raisins), Qaymaq Chai (Clotted-Cream Chai), Naan-e Roghani (Naan Bread with Extra Oil), Kebabeh Sikhi (Lamb Skewers), Khajoor (Fried Cardamom Cookies), and so much more. I will also be sharing their recipe for Bolani Kadoo (بو لانی کدو Afghan Pumpkin Stuffed Flatbread) following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Interlink Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Durkhanai Ayubi created this book with Farida Ayubi’s recipes and assistance from Fatema Ayubi. Her family opened the restaurant, Parwana, in 2009 in Adelaide, Australia as a way to preserve the customs and traditional food of Afghan cuisine in their new home.
She is involved in the day-to-day responsibilities at Parwana and their newer Kutchi Deli Parwana (opened in 2014, two years after their visit back to Afghanistan). She is also an Atlantic Fellow of the Atlantic Institute and writes freelance opinion-editorial pieces for newspapers and websites.
Parwana is not only a book for fantastic recipes, but it is also filled with the family’s heart and memories that surround the food. Durkhanai states on the very first page, “This book pays homage to the peals of laughter, the tears of loss, the staunch pledges and sacrifices, the lost potential, the ethereal memories and, above all, the dreams of the people of Afghanistan. Of all those who have gone before, and all those still to come.”
I was particularly mesmerized by the incredibly detailed history shared before each chapter spanning from the region’s beginnings (estimated to have been populated by the indigenous people of Afghanistan from at least 50,000 BC) to the Silk Road, how the country “was host to numerous great empires that rose and fell on its lands- Achaemenid Persians, the Greeks of Alexander the Great, Mauryans of India, Turkic tribes, and the Mongols of Genghis Khan, to name a few” and all the way to current day and hope for the future.
This history has influenced and shaped Afghan cuisine over the centuries with spices from India, green herbs from Persia, and noodles/dumplings from China and Mongolia, and nutty desserts from Turkey alongside the already prominent flavors of pistachios, almonds, cherries, figs, pomegranates, and more.
The chapters are divided according to the following: Before Parwana, Roots & Belonging, The Dissipation of a Dream, The Plight of the Displaced, and The Movable Feast of Culture. Each section has a theme either devoted to specific cultural celebrations and/or notable recipes and their meaning to the family.
The photography is provided by Alicia Taylor with styling by Deborah Kaloper. Most of the recipes are accompanied by at least one beautifully styled, full-page photo of the finished dish. I love the personal touch of the family photos in each chapter. You will even find step-by-step photos with numbered instructions to help demonstrate techniques such as how to fold Mantu (Steamed Dumplings) and form Jelabi.
Measurements are listed in US Customary and Metric. Titles are written in the original language with the Arabic script underneath and the English translation in the upper right corner. Each recipe includes a headnote with background information, personal stories, serving size, and menu ideas.
Bolani Kadoo (Afghan Pumpkin Stuffed Flatbread)
I had such a difficult time narrowing down which recipe to feature and every single one I tried was incredible, but I ultimately decided on the Bolani Kadoo (بو لانی کدو, Afghan Pumpkin Stuffed Flatbread).
Bolani are hand-rolled flatbreads that are filled, folded into a semicircle, and pan-fried until golden (traditional on a tawah- a flat iron frying pan). While I picked the Kadoo (pumpkin) stuffing, the book also includes options for Gandana (a type of Afghan leek that has been substituted with garlic chives), Kachaloo (potato), and Morgh Kofta (chicken).
The Kadoo filling comes together easily while the yeast-based dough is rising. Peel and cut a winter squash such as kabocha or acorn into 1/2 inch (1 centimeter) cubes. Place the pieces in a small saucepan with water and simmer over low heat until tender and all the water has been absorbed. Mash until smooth with garlic, coriander, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
The Bolani Kadoo is best hot from the pan. I paired them with the Jaan-e-Ama (Yogurt and Cucumber Dip), but they can also be served with Chutney Morcheh Sorkh (Red Chili Chutney) or simply plain thick yogurt and alongside a cup of sweet tea.
I also made Tokhme Banjanromi (Afghan Breakfast Eggs), Jaan-e-Ama (Yogurt and Cucumber Dip), Shir Yakheh Gulab (Rose and Pistachio Ice Cream), and Shir Chai (Milk Tea).
The Tokhme Banjanromi is a traditional Afghan-style breafast eggs dish with onion, tomatoes, and chili. It is especially perfect with fresh naan served on the side and Shir Chai (milk tea). Durkhanai’s mother would have this meal for breakfast during family day trips and it would be prepared in a copper karayee over a portable kerosene burner.
I made the Jaan-e-Ama (Yogurt and Cucumber Dup) to go with the Bolani Kadoo. I love how the cool, refreshing flavor balanced nicely with the Bolani hot from the pan. Grated cucumbers are combined with homemade or Greek-style yogurt, garlic, and fresh/dried mint.
It may now be Autumn, but we have still had a few heat waves here in Los Angeles and the Shir Yakheh Gulab (Rose and Pistachio Ice Cream) was the perfect way to cool off. Cream, condensed milk, and green food coloring (I used pandan powder) are processed until stiff peaks form, then folded with cardamom, rose water, and pistachios before transferring to an airtight container and freezing until solid. It is served with a striking scattering of slivered pistachios and rose petals.
I made the Shir Chai to serve alongside the Tokhme Banjanromi. This Afghan sweet milk tea can be enjoyed at breakfast time with hot naan and sweet preserves or in the afternoon. Durkhanai states, “with its delicate spiced aroma, it has become a favorite at our Kutchi Deli Parwana, where it’s served either hot or iced.”
Parwana is an incredible pick for those interested in Afghan cuisine and its history. Every single recipe I tried came out perfectly with no adjustments. Many come together easily with just a handful of ingredients, while others require a longer list of ingredients, the use of a pressure cooker, and more prep work.
The variety spans from breakfast favorites and drinks to mains, stews, dumplings, breads, vegetarian sides, desserts, and everything in between. There is even a recipe for a homemade Chaar Masalah (“Four Spices” mix) that has been fine-tuned in the kitchen at Parwana over the years “to create a delicate balance of warmth, flavor, and fragrance, designed to bring out the best natural qualities of the ingredients to which it is added.”
Most of the ingredients are readily available in the average American grocery store. A few that may require further searching include chickpea flour, nigella seeds, fenugreek seeds, golden raisins, rosewater, Qaymaq, dried rose petals, dried plums, cardamom pods, basil seeds, and curry leaves.
Bolani Kadoo (Afghan Pumpkin Stuffed Flatbread) Recipe
Excerpt from Parwana
Bolani Kadoo (Afghan Pumpkin Stuffed Flatbread)
- 3 3/4 cups (1 pound 1 ounces, 485 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 1/2 cups (375 milliliters) lukewarm water
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil plus extra for frying
Kadoo (Pumpkin) Filling:
- 14 ounces (400 grams) winter squash such as kabocha or acorn, seeded, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch (1 centimeter) cubes
- 1/2 cup (125 milliliters) warm water
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds crushed in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the Bolani:
- In a medium bowl, stir the flour, yeast, and 2 teaspoons salt to combine. Create a well in the center and slowly add only enough warm water to just wet the ingredients, mixing with your hands in a circular motion to distribute evenly, then add the oil.
- While continuously mixing, slowly add the remaining water (you might not need it all, only enough to form a firm dough) and knead until the dough is firm. You may need to slightly adjust the amount of water or flour to achieve the right consistency.
- Shape the dough into a ball, place in an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel, and set aside to rest for about 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.
- Divide the dough into 6 equal-sized portions and shape each into a small ball with your hands.
- Place them on a tray lined with parchment paper with 2 inches (5 centimeters) between them, cover with a tea towel, and set aside to rest for another 10 minutes, or until doubled in size.
To make the Kadoo (Pumpkin) filling:
- Place the squash and water in a small saucepan and cook over low heat for 15 minutes, or until the squash is soft and the water has been completely absorbed.
- Mash the squash in a bowl with the garlic, coriander, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, and mix the ingredients together well. Set aside until you are ready to fill the bolani.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out one ball of dough into a circle 4-4 1/2 inches (10-12 centimeters) in diameter. It might take a bit of practice to roll it evenly into a perfect circle, but working from the center outwards is generally a good technique to achieve the right shape.
- Once rolled, place 4 tablespoons of filling on one half of the circle and spread it evenly to cover half, leaving a 1/2 inch (1 centimeter) border. Fold the other half over the filling to form a semicircle and press the edges together to seal. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
- Add enough oil to cover the base of a tawah, griddle, or heavy-based frying pan, and heat over high heat. In batches, lift the bolani carefully into the pan and fry, turning once, for 4 minutes each side, or until golden brown and crisp.
- Transfer to a board lined with paper towels to soak up any extra oil, then serve immediately with chutney and/or yogurt for dipping.