Afghani Proverb: Give graciously; even an onion 

With a population just over 33 million, there are 2.7 million Afghani refugees living in Pakistan, Iran and Bangladesh alone. Due to a number of civil wars in the 1970s and subsequent internationally led wars since, Afghanistan is now one of the least secure countries in the world with frequent internal violence and the third highest rate of child malnutrition. Taliban factions continue to terrorise many parts of the country, and life for women and children in particular is extremely difficult with poor access to health and education, as well as extreme limitations on their freedoms.

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Kabuli Palau and Bourani Banjan


With evidence of civilisation since the neolithic period Afghanistan has a long, rich history; including it’s important part in the trade and presence on the ‘Silk Road’ not least because it was almost exactly half way between the ‘East’ and the ‘West’. Once an extremely wealthy country, in part because of it’s strategic geographical location on the Silk Road, and because of it’s rich agricultural (both crops and animals) and mineral abundance.

This abundance led to an equally impressive food culture, still centred around grand banquet dishes and the sharing of food with both friends and strangers. The national dish – Kabuli Palau is a classic example of this. In Afghanistan rice, is and was, considered to be the most important element of any meal and royal families would invest time and money to impress their guests with beautiful platters of the grain. The sultanas and nuts ( and sometimes pomegranate seeds, as can also be found in Iranian rice dishes) symbolise scattered jewels and the golden hue of the turmeric emulates the precious metal gold.


Serves 6

Kabuli Palau

  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 6 medium carrots (grated)
  • 300g fatty lamb (chopped into chunks)
  • 1 mug of rice
  • 100g of nuts and sultanas
  • 2 tsps turmeric
  • 2 tsps fenugreek
  • 2 tsps red chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsps celery salt
  • 1 tsps ground ginger
  • 2 tsps sugar
  • 4 shallots
  • Ghee or vegetable oil
  • Coriander stalks (chopped)
  • Salt & Pepper

Borani Banjan

  • 2 large aubergines (sliced length ways)
  • 1 medium onion (very finely diced)
  • 3 garlic cloves (finely diced)
  • 250g lamb mince
  • 1 tsps cinnamon
  • 1 tsps sugar
  • 2 tbls tomato puree
  • 250g natural yoghurt
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1/2 bunch fresh coriander
  • Salt & Pepper


Kabuli Palau

Add the diced onions to a pan with ghee and sweat until soft and golden. Once the onions are cooked, add the lamb and brown followed by the chopped coriander stalks, turmeric, fenugreek, chilli flakes, celery salt and ground ginger. Once the mixture has become aromatic, add a little water and allow to simmer until the lamb is tender. Add the rice and seasoning then stir in boiled water until it covers about an inch above the rice. Transfer the covered pot into a hot (200 degrees C) oven.

While the rice is cooking (around 15 minutes) finely slice the shallots and crisp up in oil, sprinkling a bit of sugar over them to bring out their sweetness. Toast the nuts and sultanas then put both aside till the rice is cooked.

Once the palau is ready stir in the toasted nuts and sultanas and half of the fried shallots. Serve with the remainder of the fried shallots on top of the rice.


Borani Banjan

Sprinkle a generous amount of salt over the sliced aubergines and leave to one side. To a medium hot pan with oil add the onions and leave to sweat until soft and golden. Once cooked, add the garlic and stir until golden then add the lamb mince, cinnamon and seasoning and simmer for around 10 minutes. Once cooked through stir in the tomato paste and sugar with a splash of water and leave to simmer on a very low heat.

Rinse the salt off the aubergines and pat dry. Fry on each side in  a little oil until browned and soft in the middle. remove from the heat and place on a serving dish. spoon the mincemeat sauce over the top of the aubergine slices and finish with yoghurt and fresh coriander.


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