Monday, December 26, 2011

Kazakhstan - 2nd February 2003

In the spirit of documenting the past, I have recently (like a year ago...) started to post all the recipes of the alphabetical dinners I prepared and hosted before I started the blog.  When I first started I didn't write about the dinner itself but after a while I started to send an email to a few faithful Italian friends and to my sisters and slowly the list grew.  Below is a translation of what I wrote about dinner from Kazakhstan:

"Finally, after 4 weeks of silence, I have finally found the time to continue my culinary journey around the world! I forgot how hard it is to find the time to dedicate to the things we love when one has a job - note: I didn't really have a real job, I was helping an Italian guy set up a database - Anyhow, even if slowly, I am pretty sure I will reach Z! And then naturally I'll go back to A.

We are at K. And it is therefore the turn of Kazakhstan. Although it is rather easy to find sites that list recipes from Kazakhstan, the choice was not easy. It appears that the main dishes are primarily based on horse meat... honestly not my favorite choice! It is my opinion that one should try everything in life, but if I have to taste horse meat, I'd rather have someone else cook it. 

What's to say about Kazakhstan? Aside from the fact that it took me a few days to master the correct pronunciation (the accent is on the first A rather than on the second and I struggled with this), the thing that amazed me the most is the fact that I recently noticed on a map in the doctor's waiting room that Kazakhstan is an enormous country.  If one excludes Russia, it is almost as big as the whole of Europe. 

Another thing I discovered is that in Kazakhstan, the guest is sacred:  should he/she turn down the offer of food, it would be rude not to force him/her to eat.  Sounds almost like a scene at my home in Italy.  My mother: "Would you like something to eat?". Me: "No, thanks". Mother: "Should I make you a sandwich?" Me: "No thanks, I am not hungry (or I've already eaten, I'm on a diet, I have stomach ache)". Mother: "Perhaps some pasta...?".  There just isn't anyway that one can get away without eating at my home in Italy.  Could it be that the Rocchini are really originating in Kazakhstan?

Moreover, there is to say that one wouldn't necessarily want to be the guest of honor in Kazakhstan.  Here is what I found out:  To the guest of honor ranking high among the others the host handed over the sheep's head cooked in a special way. This guest had to distribute it among those present observing a certain ritual which reflects the ancient custom of respectful regard for guests - old men, children, close and distant relatives. The fragrant meat is eaten with rolled and boiled small pieces of dough.

Moving on to the menu and the scores (this was something I adopted very early on...)
My guests for the evening were Eric, Joanne & Nancy. Nancy is Eric's boss and she typically only eats Japanese, Chinese or Italian.  Joanne is a bit more flexible as long as there is good wine...
Kespe with meat (lamb soup with homemade noodles). 
This was a very simple recipe and had very few ingredients but it was delicious. 8+

Main Course
Kazakh Lemon Chicken
This was quite a difficult recipe from Chef Nurdamanbye who works at a hotel in Almaty. A delicious flavor I thought.  Recommended if you like lemon flavored chicken.... 8--
I served it with a simple salad

Despite the simplicity of the dish this is one of those desserts that can get you hooked.  They are little pieces of fried dough covered in honey.  I couldn't stop eating them.  The others found them OK.  Eric gave me a 4 (note how Eric's taste on desserts has not changed much).  6-

Joanne kindly bought some lovely Zinfandel (Seghesio - Sonoma 2001).  It was very good. 

Next stop: Laos.

Stay tuned....

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