Kazakhstan is the world’s ninth largest country and the largest landlocked country (though it borders the Caspian Sea), located in Central Asia/Eastern Europe. The former Soviet state is ethnically very diverse, though over half of the people are Kazakhs. Religious diversity and tolerance is also very big, though 2/3 of the people practice Islam. The Kazakh Steppe grassland area makes up one third of the area. There are also vast basins of oil and gas. Historically Kazakhstan was a country of pastoral nomads and horseriding remains very important.
Russian and Asian cuisines have influenced the Kazakh cuisine, but it has some distinct features. Traditional Kazakh cuisine has been heavily based around mutton/lamb, horse meat and milk products (also made with camel, sheep and horse milk). Because the Kazakhs used to be nomads, most meat was salted and/or dried and dairy was usually soured to preserve them for longer. Food is often cooked on an open fire or in a tandoori oven. Desserts are mostly simple baked goods. Tea has replaced sour milk as the most popular drink. The presentation of food is important, especially the use of beautiful serving dishes. Breads may be decorated by painting with berry juices.
I chose this lentil sauce recipe which was easy to veganize, because the large amount of fresh herbs made it seem interesting. Peculiarly the dill and cilantro aren’t really overpowering or even that strong, but I think the amount of parsley is a bit much. (I used flat-leaf parsley as in the original recipe, but perhaps the milder curly leaf parsley would work better?)
Lentil sauce with herbs
150 g/1/3 lbs brown lentils
450 g/1 lb minced beef substitute (e.g. about 1 cup/2.5 dl TVP reconstituted with water)
1 large onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
440 g/1 lbs canned, chopped tomatoes
1,2 dl/0.5 cup water
60 g/2 oz fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
60 g/2 oz fresh dill, chopped
60 g/2 oz fresh coriander leaves, chopped
Cover the lentils with water and bring to boil. Lower the heat and simmer covered until done, about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onions and fry for a 5 minutes or until soft and translucent. Now add the “meat”, lentils, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin and cinnamon. Stir to mix then add the tomatoes and water. Bring to a simmer then mix in the parsley and dill.
Mix thoroughly to combine and allow the mixture to simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Take off the heat, stir-in the coriander leaves and serve on a bed of rice or noodles.