- Lamb shoulder
- Red onion
- Tomato paste
- Garam masala
For survival cooking in an Afghan kitchen in winter you will need a 1970s inspired lamb skin vest, kashmir wrap, woollen jumper, thermal underwear, fingerless gloves, Campari (neat), as pictured below.
Mutton dressed as lamb
The first time I made a korma it started out as a lamb roast. By the time the meat was roasted in a tiny electric box, it was too tough to chew and grey, and it was clear this lamb was no spring chicken. The resident guesthouse cook took pity on me and turned it into a korma simply by hacking up the nasty mutton and throwing it into the pressure cooker with some tomatoes and pumpkin.
Afghan sheep are tall furry beasts that feature a massive deposit of fat that swings over their bottoms. For months I thought sheep were goats because of their habit of grazing on plastic bottles and garbage. This should explain why the meat is completely inedible.
While you think you will be buying fresh succulent lamb from the butchers’ market..
..you will actually buy a 14 year old sheep covered in detritus.
- Don your thermals, woollen jumper, fingerless gloves, lamb vest and big Kashmir scarf (as above) as it should be around minus ten degrees celsiusin your kitchen. Pour a Campari, get a little toasted, and get your lamb out.
- By now you should have realized the lamb shoulder you bought from the market is actually a very very old sheep. It should be difficult to cut through the flesh, so try to keep the pieces small as you cube it. Throw this into the pressure cooker, along with twice as much cubed pumpkin, two roughly chopped onions, ten chopped little tomatoes, a tablespoon of tomato paste, a cup of water and a splash of oil. Add a teaspoon of salt, and a teaspoon of garam masala, and some pepper if you want to be fancy. Don’t stir it, Afghans never do. Screw the lid on, and place over a powerful industrial strength flame that threatens to set your fingerless gloves on fire.
- Let it pressurize the meat and vegies for fifteen minutes or so, then release the steam and open the cooker to add chopped parsley and more water. Another five minutes and there you have it, one of many variants on the Afghan korma.
- Serve with some dahl, yoghurt, champagne, Afghan naan and an increasing feeling of isolation.
The Afghan Pressure Cooker
The Afghan pressure cooker is a solution to all cooking disasters - you can load it up with overcooked flesh or over-salted veges, and it breaks that mess down into a delicious golden stew in minutes. A large metal urn-like contraption, you fill it up, screw the lid on, bang it on the raging industrial strength flame, and watch it shoot out jets of steam that smell like a sheep. Of course, Afghans also like to steam their vegetables in the pressure cooker, revealing a preference for a diet with minimal colour and nutritional value.