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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Resources for the study of the Azerbaijani language

Food and Drink

Azerbaijani food combines Turkish and central Asian elements. Baku has an excellent selection of Western style restaurants. In the chaikhanas (tea houses), men linger for hours drinking sweet black tea out of tiny glasses and playing nard (backgammon). A special place in the cuisine belongs to lamb kebabs of which there are many different varieties. Salads are served together with main course.

Specialities: 

• Lyulya kebab (spiced, minced lamb pressed onto skewers).
Dograma (a milky potato, cucumber and onion soup served cold).
• Piti is (a mutton and chickpea soup).
Kutab (pancakes stuffed with spinach, herbs or pumpkin).
Badimjan Dolmasi (mutton served with aubergine, tomatoes, basil and sour cream).

Things to know: 

Although the majority of Azeris are nominally Shia Muslims, alcohol is widely available.

Regional drinks: 

Wines and brandies are produced locally.
Sherbets are popular soft drinks made of sugar, lemon, saffron, seeds of mint and basilt.
Tea served accompanied by various jams such as quince, fig, apricot, white cherry and plum. Sometimes dried leaves or flowers of savory, clove, cardamom and other spices are added to tea.
Tea with darchin (cinnamon), ginger and, occasionally, rosewater.

Rice

Rice is almost sacred; it is considered "saint's food." It is used in a wide number of dishes called plov, which are components of all Muslim celebrations. It is believed that if a person dreams of the deceased, he or she should cook plov and recite "Ya Sin" (surah 36) from the Koran (considered spiritual food for all living and dead souls). Mutton is the most widely consumed meat, especially during Kurban. Traditional foods take on a religious character when consumed in tandem with religious celebrations.

Azerbaijan

Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices

Ed. Thomas Riggs. Vol. 2: Countries: A-L. Detroit: Gale, 2006. p59-63. Maya Iskenderova

Recipes

LAYERED RICE PILAFF WITH DRIED FRUITS & CHESTNUTS
Parcha-Dosheme Plov

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour
Servings: 4 to 6

INGREDIENTS
3 cups long-grain white Basmati rice (you can also use long-grain American rice)
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup peeled chestnuts*
½ cup pitted dried apricots (you can half them, too, if they are too big)
1 cup dried sour plums, pitted
½ cup pitted dates
½ cup golden raisins
1 ½ (700g) pounds skinless, boneless chicken cut into 2-inch (5cm) cubes
1 medium onion, peeled, cut in half lengthways, then thinly sliced in half-circles
1/3 teaspoon ground saffron threads*, dissolved in 3 tablespoons hot water
salt
ground black pepper

VARIATION 1: You can also use lamb in this recipe instead of chicken. Boil the lamb it in a pan with water for about 5 minutes, skimming the froth with a slotted spoon, then drain and use as directed in the recipe. This is done to remove the unpleasant smell and to get rid of the excessive froth lamb releases.

VARIATION 2: You can substitute dried sour plums with dried barberries (in Azeri: zirinc) or dried pitted sour cherries.

1. Pick over the rice carefully, removing any stones or other extraneous particles. Place the rice on a fine-mesh strainer or colander and wash thoroughly under lukewarm water until the water runs clear (as close to clear as possible). The rinsing process removes the starch so that the rice grains will remain separate after cooking.

2. Soak the rice in a large container filled with lukewarm water mixed with 1 tablespoon of salt.

3. While the rice is soaking, prepare fruits and chestnuts. In a medium frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add peeled chestnuts and stir-fry for about 3 minutes. Add dried apricots, plums and dates and stir-fry for another 3 minutes. Add raisins (add them last because they brown fast and can be easily burned) and stir-fry for 1 more minute. Remove from heat.

4. In a large non-stick saucepan, combine 10 cups of water and 2 tablespoons salt. Bring to a boil. Drain the soaked rice (do not rinse) and add it, in batches, to the pot. Boil for about 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, to prevent rice grains from sticking to the bottom. Watch the rice closely so as not to overcook. The rice is ready once it surfaces to the top. Try one grain to see if it’s ready - it must be barely done - not fully cooked and not too soft (VERY IMPORTANT). Drain the rice in a large fine-mesh strainer or colander. Set aside.

5. Rinse the pot you boiled the rice in. Melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Tilt the pan to distribute it evenly. Arrange meat in one l layer at the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and pepper, to taste. Follow with the layer of sliced onions. Simmer over medium heat uncovered, without stirring, for about 3 minutes to let the flavors develop.

6. Place half of the rice in the pot over the onion. Arrange the dried fruits and chestnuts in one layer on top of the rice. Pile the rest of the rice on top of the fruits, mounding the rice nicely in the shape of a pyramid. Pour 1 tablespoon melted butter over rice.

7. Place a clean dishtowel or 2 layers of paper towel over the pot and cover firmly with a lid to absorb the steam. Lift the corners of the towel over the lid as shown in the picture below.

8. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 30 minutes. Then open the lid and sprinkle the saffron water on top of the rice.

9. Cover again and simmer for another 30 minutes. When ready, meat should be cooked and lightly golden on the bottom. The onion will almost melt into the meat and will not be that visible. Rice grains should be separate and fluffy, and not sticky.

10. When ready to serve, gently take 1 spatula full of rice, fruits and meat at a time, placing it on the large serving platter. This Pilaff is delicious served with pickles, vegetable salad or fresh herbs. Nush Olsun! Enjoy!

One of the Russian foods that were imported to Azerbaijan when the country was a part of the Soviet Union, is the Russian pancake called blini, also known as blinchiki (plural for blinchik) in the Russian  speaking world, and as crêpes elsewhere. Blinchiki are great plain, or with a dollop of honey or jam on top. They are also delicious when stuffed with various savory and  sweet fillings. Stuffed blinchiki make for a perfect appetizer, or a breakfast dish, or just a go-to snack any time of day.

This particular recipe is for blinchiki stuffed with meat. I usually fry the beef that goes inside the blinchik, but you can also boil it then grind finely- great for when are counting calories. Once the blinchiki have been stuffed with the filling, they are typically browned on both sides in a little bit of butter. Or, if you like, skip the frying part altogether for a leaner blinchik.

Meat Stuffed Blinchiki

Makes 16

For the Pancakes:

2 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk (reduced fat milk is OK)
1  1/5 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the Stuffing:
2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 pound (450 g) ground beef
salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste

Method:

To prepare the stuffing, heat the butter or oil in a frying pan. Add the onion and beef. Cook, stiring frequently, until the meat is golden brown. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and allow to cool while you prepare the blinchiki.

To prepare the blinchiki, in a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and stir until fully combined and the mixture is smooth and there no lumps left.

Heat a lightly greased small griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour the batter into the griddle, using approximately ¼ cup or a small ladleful for each pancake. Tilt the pan slightly to spread the batter evenly. Cook until lightly brown on one side and turn and lightly brown the other. Repeat with the rest of the batter. Stack the cooked blinchiki on top of each other on a plate.

Now stuff the blinchiki. Put about 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center of each pancake. Fold the sides and then roll up to obtain an envelope.

Heat a lightly greased griddle or a frying pan over medium heat. Cook the stuffed blinchiki until light brown on both sides. Drain the blinchiki on paper towel lined plates. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Here are more recipes, which by following the link on the pictures below, you will find stories surrounding the food and particulars about the culture are included in the narrative on the website:

 Azerbaijani Pasta with Meat and Yoghurt Topping (yarpag khengeli)

 

Home-made Yogurt

 


The website for the recipes above is http://www.azcookbook.com/, and it has many other delectable recipes from Azerbaijan.  You can also click on the pictures of the dishes to find that specific recipe with more pictures of the steps to serve as guides.

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