By Fikret Dolukhanov (Baku)
Azerbaijan has long been famous for its national cuisine. The abundance of vegetables, fruits, fragrant herbs and spices inspired Azerbaijani cooks, who created a wide variety of national dishes, which cannot be confused with the dishes of other national cuisines.
Even the most sophisticated gourmets, who come to Azerbaijan from all over the world, admire the unique taste and delicate aroma of these dishes.
Azerbaijan is a country of long-livers. Scientists explain this phenomenon, firstly, by a favorable climate, secondly, by a way of life and, last but not least, by healthy food and proper diet. The Azerbaijanis are proud of their cuisine and have no doubt that guests do enjoy it very much.
Let’s start with the first courses.
Azerbaijani first courses are prepared on the basis of strong meat broth, which by its consistency is more concentrated than ordinary soups. A variety of spices, as well as a special cooking method, give them a peculiar flavor. Some national dishes replace both the first and the main courses. For example, piti, kufta-bozbash and others. At the same time, broth is served separately with the rest (meat, peas, potatoes), which is served as a main dish, but cooked together.
One of the most common dishes in Azerbaijan is rice pilaf, exquisite in taste and decoration, with a variety of meat, fish, fruit and other additions. Depending on the nature and type of such additions, a certain name is given to the pilaf: kaurma-pilaf (with stewed lamb), toyug-pilaf (with chicken), shirin-pilaf (with sweet dried fruits), sudlu-pilaf (rice cooked in milk), etc. There are about 40 recipes for this dish.
Of particular note are the kebabs: kebab-basturma, kebab of fillet, amateur kebab, which is made from natural meat, as well as lyulya-kebab, tava-kebab, prepared from minced mutton with the addition of fat. These dishes are very popular in the country.
Many dishes are made from fish. The most common of them are sturgeon shashlik, kutum in Azerbaijani style, stuffed fish, balyg-pilaf, pilaf with stellate sturgeon, balyg-chygyrtma.
Such dishes of Azerbaijani cuisine as pilaf, piti, lyulya-kebab, fish stuffed in Azerbaijani style are recognized worldwide.
The order of serving dishes in Azerbaijan is peculiar as well: tea is traditionally served in the beginning, before the main dishes. At banquets and celebrations, first courses are usually not served at all. On the table there should be all sorts of greens, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers (salted or pickled in winter). Often, after lunch (especially pilaf), dovga is served. Azerbaijanis claim that dovga, made from sour milk and greens, contributes to a better absorption of previous food. The dinner ends with the most favorite drink in Azerbaijan, sherbet, or sweets.
The symbol of hospitality in the country is fragrant Azerbaijani tea. Jam from quince, figs, watermelon peels, apricots, cherries, peaches, plums, cornels, walnuts, strawberries, blackberries, grapes, and mulberries is usually served to it.
We introduced you to the most common dishes of the unique Azerbaijani cuisine.
We also offer culinary recipes for some of them (the number of products is calculated for 1 portion).
The unsurpassed taste of these dishes will certainly be appreciated by your entire family. It is worth trying! We sincerely wish you bon appetite!
Dovga is a liquid dish made from sour milk. To prepare dovga, mix yogurt or yogurt with sour cream, flour and egg, add rice. Boil the mixture with continuous and smooth stirring, so that the yogurt does not clot. After boiling the mixture, add finely chopped greens, salt. Bring the mixture to full readiness.
Dovga is cooked with and without meat. For the preparation of the former, peas are cooked in a separate saucepan until half cooked, minced meat is made into meatballs, which are cooked with peas. The peas and meatballs are then combined with the main mass of dovga.
To prepare kufta-bozbash, boil broth from bones with presoaked peas, mince lamb with the addition of onion. In the minced meat add rice, salt, pepper, mix thoroughly and form meatballs at the rate of 1-2 balls per serving. In the middle of each ball place 2-3 pieces of washed dried cherry plum. When the peas are cooked, put the meatballs into the broth, with potatoes, finely chopped and toasted onions, and 10-15 minutes before the end of cooking, add pepper, saffron infusion, salt and bring to readiness. When serving, sprinkle with herbs – fresh cilantro, and in winter – dried mint.
Stew some fruit with sugar in butter. From flour with egg knead the flatbread, put on the bottom of the cauldron and cook pilaf from the rice until half cooked, mix with the prepared fruit, grind and bring to readiness. When serving, place on a plate the rice, on the side of the plate – kazmag crusts (toasted crusts from flatbread), on top of the rice – plum.
Mutton with onions and fat is passed through a meat grinder, minced with pepper, salted and then stirred well. To cool the stuffing for 20 minutes, put it in the refrigerator. The stuffing is then strung on a ramrod, having a width somewhat larger than for a kebab, forming it in the wieners. Lyulya-kebabs are roasted over hot coals in the grill. When served on the table, the kebab is wrapped in pita bread. Lyulya-kebab is served with a side dish of chopped onion rings, sumac, or grilled tomatoes.
Cut up the sturgeon in the usual way, into pieces of 4-5 centimeters, salt, pepper, smear with sour cream and fry in the grill for 7-10 minutes. The finished fish is put on a dish, garnished with fresh tomatoes and chopped onions. Narsharab and sumac are served separately.
Yarpaq dolmasi (dolma of grape leaves)
Mutton and onions are passed through a meat grinder. Rice, chopped greens (cilantro, dill, mint), salt, pepper, and sometimes peas, soaked in cold water, are added to the mince. Fresh grape leaves are scalded with boiling water. The stuffing is thoroughly mixed and wrapped in a leaf at the rate of 25 grams per one dolma. Put the dolma in a saucepan with a thick bottom, pour water up to half and stew for an hour until cooked. Yogurt is served separately to the dish.