Hope For Afghanistan.
The brokenness of our world seems to be more apparent than ever over the past few years. We are now in our second year of a global pandemic. There have been an increase in natural disasters fires, floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Social injustice and political strife have polarized many nations from within and torn apart families and communities. However, what has troubled me the most over the past few years is what’s currently happening to the people of Afghanistan. After 20 years of War along with countless lives lost and trillions of dollars of investment, the Taliban have now taken over the country in the wake of the Western Forces withdrawal.
Seeing the desperation of the Afghan people fleeing from the Taliban has been deeply troubling for anyone who believes in justice, equality and basic human rights. The Taliban are ruthless in their treatment towards woman, ethnic minorities and anyone who won’t fulfill their specific religious requirements.
Thousands of Afghani people are desperate to escape the ruthless grip of the Taliban. The Afghani’s hope for a free, democratic society has been smashed on the rocks of the hopelessness of religious tyranny. As this terrible news unfolded in front of my eyes. I wanted to create a dish that communicated hope for the people of Afghanistan.
After a quick online search, I discovered that during the former reign of the Taliban, any traditional celebrations that were not considered Islamic were banned. This included the Afghani’s traditional New Years celebration called Nowroz.
Nowroz – which literally means new day – is celebrated in March on the day of the Spring Equinox as it’s about the hope that comes with the new blossoms of spring. This traditional holiday is filled with symbolism including 2 dishes that are only served on this holiday.
Haft Mewa, is a traditional Afghan dessert dish made of seven fruits and nuts that represent the seven elements of life: fire, earth, air, water, plants, animals and humans.
The ingredients are pistachios, walnuts, red raisins, yellow raisins, dried apricots, almonds, and dried cherries. The fruit and nuts are soaked in water for a few days with a little rose water, ground cardamon and vanilla. The water turns into a sweet fragrant syrup. Haft Mewa is shared with family and friends as way to bring hope and good fortune for the new year.
Another dish that is only served on Nowroz are called Kulche Birinjee. They are delicious Afghan Butter Cookies made with rice flour, cardamom and pistachios. They also have a splash of rose water and vanilla making them incredibly unique, crumbly and very tasty.
I combined these two authentic Afghan New years dishes into a Chocolate tart, using the cookie as the crust for the tart, and the Haft Mewa fruit, nuts and syrup to make a dark Chocolate Ganache.
Red Tulips are the national flower of Afghanistan. Many streets in Afghanistan are lined with a labyrinth of tall concrete blast walls as a form of protection against Taliban suicide bombers and various other acts of war. Local artists called "Art Lords” have been sharing their voice of hope by painting murals on these blast walls.
Afghan youth paint red tulips on blast walls and concrete barriers around Kabul in a photograph posted to the ArtLords Facebook page on August 9. [ArtLords/Facebook] (click on image above to go to original post.)
The latest mural project Art Lords have undertaken is to paint one red tulip for each and every Afghan civilian killed in the war -- some 35,000 since 2001. Each red tulip is a story of someone who died in their fight for freedom, painted at the scene of the explosion or attack that claimed an innocent life.
This Tart is my prayer for the people of Afghanistan. A Prayer inspired by hope of a new year for when they can freely celebrate Nowroz and enjoy Haft Mewa again.
I have included the recipes for the Haft Mewa and Kulchi Birinjee Cookies below.
Afgani Nowroz Cookies
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened to room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 egg whites
2 cups white rice flour
1/2 tsp. freshly and finely ground cardamom
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pistachios divided into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla extract
1 Teaspoon Rose Water
1/4 cup crushed rose petals (optional) The rose petals add a beautiful color to the dough and connect to the subtle flavour from the rose water.
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the softened butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and creamy. Add the egg whites, vanilla, and ground cardamon, mix on medium low speed until smooth. Gradually add the rice flour, and pistachios until well blended. Scrape with a spatula to be sure all the ingredients are mixed well.
These cookies are very delicate when they are hot and can break very easily. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone matt. Using parchment or a baking matt will help you remove the cookies and prevent cracking until they are fully cooled.
Take a pinch or spoonful of dough and gently flatten it with your hand onto the lined cookie sheet.
Add a pinch of chopped pistachios, and a pinch of crushed rose petals (optional) to the centre of each cookie. Gently press the pistachio’s into the cookie dough.
Bake at 350F for 12 - 14 min.
Gently remove the cookies and let fully cool.
Haft Mewa (Afghani Seven Fruit Soup)
1 cup red raisins
1 cup dried Apricots - chopped into quarters
1/2 cup blanched walnuts
½ cup blanched unsalted pistachios
½ cup yellow raisins
½ cup dried cherries (not sour cherries)
½ cup blanched, slivered almonds
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1 tsp. rosewater
1/2 teaspoon finely ground cardamom
5 cups cold filtered water
1. Bring about 3 cups of water to boil. Blanch the walnuts and pistachios by putting them separately into a heat proof bowl, cover and let it sit for 20 minutes.
2. In a large bowl add mix the raisins, cherries and apricots. Then Rinse three times in cold water to remove any residue.
3. After about 20 min, strain the hot water from the nuts and add cold water. Using a small table knife or pairing knife, gently peel the skin off the nuts Make sure all the skin is removed from the pistachios and the walnuts. Other wise the nut skins will end up in the syrup.
4. Add the rinsed fruit, pealed nuts vanilla, cardamom and rose water to a container with a lid. Add the water to fully cover all of the ingredients. Cover and let it soak in the fridge for at least 24 hours. It will be good for up to 7 days. The longer it soaks, the better it will taste.
5. Serve the Haft Mewa with the syrup. It’s a wonderful fragrant dish that’s great for a snack or for breakfast.
Haft Mewa Chocolate tart:
Prepared Haft Mewa
Prepared Kulchi Birinjee cookie batter.
300 grams Dark Chocolate
200 grams strained Haft Mewa, reserving the syrup
100 grams reduced Haft Mewa syrup
100 grams Heavy Cream
100 grams of Red Modeling Chocolate
120 grams of Green Modeling Chocolate
Modeling Chocolate recipe:
100 grams Candy melts
20 grams light corn syrup
Using a 4 to 1 ratio, in a MW safe bowl, melt 100 grams of Candy melts in the MW for 2 - 3, 30 second intervals. Stirring between each time until fully melted. Add the 20 grams of corn syrup to a separate bowl and gently warm up the corn syrup for 10 seconds. Stir in the warmed corn syrup to the melted candy melts until just incorporated. Kneed a little by hand and wrap it up in plastic wrap to set.
Place in in the fridge for 20 min until firm. Kneed to warm and loosen up using a paper towel to blot any access oil.
Making Tulip Petals:
Roll a 4 small balls of Modeling chocolate in your hand. Using a folded piece of parchment paper flatten each ball with your hand or a rolling pin into 4 elongated petals.
Wrap the petals one at a time around the washed and hulled strawberry to create a tulip.
Create the green leaves and stem by rolling out the modelling chocolate and using a rolling pin to form the leaves as you wish.
Store the modelling chocolate in the fridge to let it stiffen up.
Make your Haft Mewa according to the recipe 12 - 24 hours before you want to serve your tart.
Prepare the Kulchi Birinjee batter as per recipe above a day before you need your tart. Put in the fridge until it is fully chilled
Using a metal fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Evenly line the tart pan with a 1/4 inch of cookie dough. Place in fridge to be fully chilled before blind baking in the oven. You will need some parchment paper and Pie wights or drained beans to blind bake the tart shell until it is cold and firm, about 30 min in the fridge.
Blind bake the tart shell at 350 F for 20 min then remove the beans and bake for another 10 - 15 min until fully baked.
Let the tart shell full cool
Make your Haft Mewa Ganache. Strain the syrup from your Haft Mewa separating the fruit and nuts from the syrup.
Pour the syrup into a sauce pan and on medium heat. Reduce the syrup by half to intensify the flavour. Add some Cinnamon, ground Star Anise, and ground Cardamom. Add 1 teaspoon of Vanilla and 1 teaspoon of Rose water.
Chop the chocolate and mix it in with the warm reduced syrup.
Mix in the strained Haft Mewa (nuts and fruit into the ganache.
Pour the warm ganache into the tart shell and let it set in the fridge for a few hours.
Top it with the modelling Chocolate tulips.
Here are a few of my favourite quotes and scriptures about hope. Hope for those left behind in Afghanistan. Hope for many new beginnings. Hope for a brighter future.
God promises that one day, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:4, New Living Translation).
Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.
Job 5:15-16 He saves the needy from the sword in their mouth; he saves them from the clutches of the powerful. So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
“Hoping does not mean doing nothing… It is the opposite of desperate and panicky manipulations, of scurrying and worrying. And hoping is not dreaming. It is not spinning an illusion or fantasy to protect us from our boredom or our pain. It means a confident, alert expectation that God will do what He said He will do. It is imagination put in the harness of faith. It is a willingness to let God do it His way and in His time.”
–Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1980/2000), 144.
The biblical view of things is resurrection, not a future that is just a consolation for the life we never had, but a restoration of the life we’ve always wanted. This means that every horrible thing that ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even greater.”
- Timothy Keller