Azerbaijan / Cooking


Azerbaijan culinary specialists say, that cuisine of the South Caucasus peoples-is a number of own brothers, given to upbringing in different families. Indeed, community of the south Caucasian cuisines is incontestable. Thus, for example, specialists believe, that it's high time to give separate names for, seemingly, such a general Caucasian dish, as shashlik- if it's prepared in Baku, Tbilisi and Yerevan absolutely following different recipes.

The principal meat product in Azerbaijani cuisine is mutton, and a young lambs meat is preferred. Along with mutton meat products widely used are veal, beef, fowl. Meat dishes are garnished with rise, vegetables, fruits (cornel, cherryplum, pomegranate, and cornel is usually served with beef, cherry-plum with mutton, pomegranate juice with fowl). A wide spread occurrence got dishes from chopped meat. Such creations of Azerbaijani culinary as, piti, lula-kebab, tava-kebab, dushbara, gutabs and others, got deserved recognition all over the world.

Fish in Azerbaijani cuisine occupies a more important place, than in other trans-Caucasian republics. Many dishes are prepared from fish, such as: shashlik from sturgeon, Azerbaijani cutum, balik-pilaff,lavangi and others.

Azerbaijani cuisine is famous to be rich with vegetables, and especially root crops (beetroot, carrot, radish) are rarely used, but mostly used are above-ground vegetables: eggplants, tomatoes, sweet pepper (biber), cabbage, potatoes, spinach, sorrel, onion, cucumber, string beans and etc.  

It should be noted that in Azerbaijani cuisine, as nowhere else in other Caucasian cuisines, spices and various kinds of verdure are widely used, for instance: bitter pepper, fragrant pepper, cinnamon, cloves, dill, parsley, ginger, coriander, mint, sumac (powder barberries), reykhan, cumin, cevar, and also purely national spices as, saffron, fennel, anise, bay leaf, coriander. From all of these flavouring-spicy plants saffron is cultivated in CIS only on the territory of Absheron peninsula and more than 50 national dishes and more than 10 national confectioneries are cooked with this ingredient. From the other herbs more often in use are: meadow and mountain pepperwort(vezari), leek(sogan),tarragon(Tarkhun), basil(reykhan), mint-melissa (naane), thyme(kek-otu), ajowan caraway(zira), cumin(jira), fennel(razyane). Red pepper and other pungent spices in Azerbaijani cuisine are very rare in use.

In order to improve taste properties of dishes widely in use are: lemons, olives, food acids, cherry plums, dried apricots, lavashana, albukhara, akhta-cornel, abgora, sumac and etc.

Limited use of salt is typical for Azerbaijani cuisine. Even meat is preferred either unsalted or slightly salted, but more often a sour zest is added to it with a help of extraction-sauces made of fruits and nar-sharab, pomegranate, cherry plum, plum juices.

Cold snacks are popular in Azerbaijani cuisine. Especially these are- salads made of fresh vegetables, cut in very small pieces, and these salads are served with the principal dishes. Widely spread from them are: "Khazar" , "Azerbaijan", "Bakhar", "Choban salati" , "Red caviar salad", "Sheki salad", "Kuku from verdure", "Kuku from cutum", "Kuku with nuts", "Fisinjan from haricots".

Cold snacks separately served with various watery, second meat and fish dishes are pickling and marinades: marinated garlic, capsicum, eggplants, khefta-bejar, bump onion marinated with berk, tomatoes, cucumbers and etc.

There are more than 30 names of first courses in Azerbaijani national cuisine.

They include different meat courses (piti, kufta-bozbash, shorba and others), courses made of sour milk and verdure (dovga, ovdukh, dogramach, bolva and etc.). During the preparation of some of the dishes each portion is cooked in separate tableware (for example piti) or a small quantity of portions is prepared (dushbara, sulu-khingal and etc.). Unlike ordinary soups Azerbaijani first courses in their consistence are more concentrated and thick, as they usually contain a little broth. Characteristic feature of Azerbaijani cuisine is that some watery dishes substitute first courses as well as second ones. For instance, piti, kufta-bozbash and others. Meanwhile broth is served separately from the rest part (meat, peas, potatoes)- as the second course, though they are boiled together. Another characteristic feature of watery dishes is the use of fat of sheep's tail during their preparation, which is put into the dish minced. Seasoning first courses tomato paste is hardly used. Instead of it fresh tomatoes are used at summer time, but in winter- dried cherry plum (to add sour zest) and spices with colorants (zaferan-saffron, sarikok-turmeric, sumac and etc.) are used.

The main Azeri folk national dish is pilaff. About 40 recipes of preparing this dish is known. It's names depend on the nature and types of additives: govurma pilaff (with stew mutton), sabza govurma pilaff (with stew mutton and verdure), toyug pilaff (with chicken), shirin pilaff (with sweet dried fruit), sudli pilaff (rise is boiled in milk) and etc.
Azerbaijan pilaff is different from the central Asian pilaffs. Thus, its rise is cooked and served quite separate from the other components (meat, fish, eggs, fruit, herbs, named in aggregate "gara alti", not mixing them even during the meal. Meat-fruit part of the pilaff is served on quite separate tableware and spicy herbs are served singly. It comes that Azeri pilaff consists of three separate parts, compiling, actually, one dish.
Rise is never served very hot, but warmed in order not to get the meat cold. Rise is ate after meat and then spicy herb is eaten.

From the second floury courses widely spread ones are khashil, khingal with meat, suzma khingal, yarpag khingal, gutabs (with meat, pumpkin, and verdure), chudu and others.

Popular and favourite dishes are those made of fresh and sour milk (gatikh), such as for example, firni, sudlu siyig, dovga, kalkosh, ovdukh and etc.  

Traditionally taking meals in Azerbaijan (breakfast, dinner, supper) finishes with sweets. Sweet (third) courses in Azeri cuisine almost are not cooked and their assortment is extremely limited: firni, sujug, tarakh, kuymag. But these sweet dishes are successfully substituted by national sweets: floury, caramel-shaped and candy-shaped products. Floury ones are: shaker-bura, pakhlava made in Baku, Nakhchivan, Sheki, shaker-churek, Baku kurabye, Kuba tikhma, Lenkaran kulcha, Shamakhi mutacks and etc.

Their component parts are: flour, sugar, kernel of nuts, dairy butter, egg-whites and spices. From the caramel-shaped sweets mostly in demand are shaker-pendir, pervarda, nuts-and-honey bars, nogul made of coriander, khalva, and etc. The most notable from candy-shaped are rakhat-lukum, jellied fig, feshmek, girma-badam and etc. One of the most widely spread drinks in Azerbaijan is sherbet.

Next ingredients are used for its preparation: sugar, lemon, saffron, mint and basil seeds and different fruits.

Azeri people are fond of tea.

They usually drink black, rather strong tee, using not china tableware (bowls and cups), but special narrow pear shaped glasses- "armudi istakan", resembling tiny vases. Different kinds of jam are served with tee, for example quince jam, fig jam, watermelon peels jam, apricot jam, bird-cherry jam, sour cherry jam, peach jam, plum jam, cornel jam, walnut jam, strawberry jam, blackberry jam, grape jam, mulberry jam and etc. While brewing tee sometimes a small quantity of dried leaves is added, these are leaves of thyme, cloves, cardamom, that add a special fragrant to the tee.



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