Pages 96-99

By Ahmadov Ahmad-Jabir

Flour, cereals and beans add further enticing flavour to Azerbaijani cuisine. The most delicious meals are made of wheat flour ground in watermills. Khingal and gurza are types of pasta, khashil an equivalent to sweet semolina, chudu a sweet or savoury fritter, hadik, a flour and bean-based soup; these and other meals are traditional favourites. Flour-based meals are especially appreciated in winter, but every region has its own particular way of preparing, serving and even naming them. For example: what is a herb qutab in Baku and Shamakhi is afar in the Sheki-Zaqatala region and kata in Qarabagh. A qutab is basically a very thin, flat bread folded around a meat or herb filling, sometimes serving as a fast food, but often one course of a serious sit-down meal. The dough for herb qutabs may be prepared both with and without yeast. Kata is made of leavened dough and, compared to other qutabs, its dough and herb filling are thicker.

There are many kinds of qutab: with meat, with herbs, edible wild herbs, offal (especially from cows and sheep), herbs with cottage cheese, pumpkin and beans. Qutabs containing meat and offal are fried from on sides in butter. The other qutabs are cooked on a saj (an iron disk for baking flat bread) or cast-iron pan and while serving are drizzled with hot butter.


Spinach – 600 g., sorrel – 600 g., onions – 200 g., coriander and dill – 70 g., wheat flour – 600 g., melted butter – 80 g., butter – 80 g., lavashana (sour fruit concentrate) – 40 g., 1 egg, yoghurt – 200 g., pepper – 0.4 g., salt.
Clean, wash and chop the herbs. Add salt and cherry-plum pickles to the herbs and mix. Or steam the herbs together with fried onions. Add salt and pepper and mix in the lavashana. Add the egg, water and salt to the flour to make a stiff dough. Roll the dough to 0.5 - 1mm thickness and cut into circles. Put the prepared herb filling onto the circle of dough, fold into a half-moon shape cook both sides in a pan without oil.
Drizzle with heated butter and serve with yoghurt.
Meat Qutab Meat Qutab


Mutton – 400 g., onions – 80 g., lavashana – 60 g. or pomegranates – 80 g., wheat flour – 400 g., melted butter – 120 g., sumac – 10 g., pepper – 0.4 g., salt.
Make a stiff dough without yeast. Roll it to 0.5 - 1mm thickness, to a circle the size of a small saucepan. Add lavashana or pomegranates to a filling made of minced mutton and onions, place onto the circle of dough and fold into a half-moon shape. Fry the qutabs in butter. Sprinkle with sumac when serving.


Herbs (nettle, wood-louse, coriander, spinach, sorrel, mountain coriander etc.) – 1500 g., best quality wheat flour – 600 g., butter – 120 g., cherry-plum vinegar – 1 table-spoon, salt.
Clean, wash and chop the herbs, then steam them together with onions fried in butter. Add salt, pepper and lavashana and mix. Prepare the dough and separate into small dough-balls after 20 minutes. Roll the dough-balls to 1 mm thickness, place the herb filling onto the dough, fold the afar into a half-moon shape and cook both sides on a saj. Place the cooked afars onto a different plate, butter both sides and place on top of each other.
Serve hot, with yoghurt to taste. The afar is different from ordinary herb qutabs, because the herbs are steamed before being cooked in the afar; it is thicker and includes more herbs. It is cooked mainly in Sheki region.


Mutton offal – 600 g., onions – 80 g., lavashana – 60 g., or pomegranates – 80 g., wheat flour – 400 g., melted butter – 120 g., sumac – 10 g., pepper – 0.4 g., salt.
Steam the cleaned and washed mutton offal over hot water and clean thoroughly, rinse several times in cold water and then mince together with onions. Mix the minced meat with lavashana or pomegranates, place the filling on a circle of dough and fold into a half-moon shape. Fry the qutab in butter on both sides. Sprinkle with sumac when serving.


Pumpkin – 800 g., pomegranates – 100 g., flour – 600 g., onions – 100 g., melted butter – 120 g., cinnamon – 0.4 g., salt.
Clean, cut into cubes and steam the pumpkin. Add butter-fried onions, salt, cinnamon and pomegranates to the pumpkin and place the filling on a circle of dough, fold into a half-moon shape and fry on both sides.
Drizzle with butter when serving.


Herbs – 800 g. (spinach – 300 g., sorrel – 300 g., green onions – 100 g., coriander and dill – 100 g.), cottage cheese – 400 g., wheat flour – 500 g., melted butter – 80 g., butter – 80 g., 1 egg, pepper, salt.
Meat Qutab Meat Qutab
Clean, wash and steam (optional) the herbs with butter-fried onions. Cool the mixture, add cottage cheese, pepper and salt and mix again. Make the dough with the egg, separate into dough balls and roll to 1 mm thickness. Place the filling onto a circle of dough and fold into a half-moon shape. Fry both sides in a pan.
Drizzle the qutab with hot butter when serving.


Wild herbs (mallow, shepherd’s purse, sorrel, nettle, wood-louse etc.) – 1500 g., wheat flour – 600 g., melted butter – 80 g., lavashana – 40 g., 2 eggs, yeast – 40 g., yoghurt – 200 g., butter – 80 g., pepper, salt.
Clean and wash the herbs and fry lightly in butter. Add lavashana, salt and pepper to the herbs and mix. Add the eggs, water, salt and yeast to the flour to prepare the dough. When the dough is ready, separate it into dough-balls and roll into small circles to 2 mm thickness. Place the herb filling onto the dough and fold into a half-moon shape. Cook both sides in a hot frying-pan.
Drizzle the qutab with hot butter and serve with a side dish of yoghurt.

Yoghurt the coolest summer drink

An amazing variety of drinks appear in the hot Azerbaijani summer to slake the parched throat; not only thirst-quenching, many are healthily yoghurt-based:- ayran, atlama, milk sorbet, honey ayran, fruit ayran and more. Despite the local suspicion of cold drinks on hot days, these are often cooled with 50-80 grams of ice or in the refrigerator. Milk and cream cocktails are also concocted, but let’s concentrate on yoghurt (qatiq) for now.


Ayran is a refreshingly tart summer drink and has probably accompanied herdsmen to their pastures for millennia. It was prepared by churning yoghurt or sour cream to separate butter out (the liquid remaining being ayran). It contains little fat, but has proteins, up to 0.7-0.8 per cent lactic acid and is good for the digestion. It is used to make dovga and karakoosh, to prepare doghramaj and ovduq, shor (curd) and suzme (yoghurt strained into solid, cheese-like form).
To prepare ayran at home from yoghurt or suzme, you should add an equal quantity of water to yoghurt or 500 ml of water per 100 g. to suzme and mix until it is a smooth liquid. Add chopped dill and salt according to taste.

Nowadays ayran is prepared industrially with special technology. In this process, milk is heated to 85 °C and pasteurized. It is then cooled to 35-45 °C and sourness is controlled to between 75 and 108°, extra salt is mixed in according to the recipe. The mix is then pasteurized and made more liquid by adding water, then mixed smooth so that no sediment forms in storage.
Ayran is packaged in 0.25, 0.5 or in 1 litre bottles for sale. It can be up to 1.4 per cent fat and 1.6-1.8 per cent salt. The perfect thirst quencher!
Ayran with cucumber Ayran with cucumber


To prepare atlama, mix yoghurt with an equal quantity of boiled water and add a little salt. It is best served with a main dish, especially pilaf, as a refreshing drink.
Atlama is even more delicious and aromatic with added chopped dill, mint or grated fresh cucumber. Atlama was prepared in the past by pouring yoghurt and water into a wineskin and tying it to the back of a young boy. The boy would ride a horse for a certain time and when he returned he had ready-mixed yoghurt and water. This explains the drink’s name (atlanmaq means to mount a horse in Azerbaijani). Sometimes atlama is also called qatiq ayran, because it is a substitute for ayran. It is called atlama in the western regions of Azerbaijan and ovduq in Nakhchivan.
If by chance you don’t have a young boy on a horse, you might settle for preparing atlama with an electric mixer.


Ayran – 1 litre (or yoghurt – 600 ml, water – 400 ml), honey – 100 g.
Add the honey to the ayran, mix, cool and serve. If you are using yoghurt, add the boiled and cooled water and mix until smooth. Then add the honey, mix and cool the drink.


Yoghurt – 100 ml, mineral or sparkling water – 100 ml.
Prepare this drink immediately before drinking. Mix the yoghurt until it is smooth, then add cooled sparkling or mineral water, mix again and serve in tall glasses.


Ayran – 900 ml (or yoghurt - 500 ml, water - 400 ml), one medium size cucumber, dill - 4-5 sprigs, salt - 1 teaspoon. Wash the cucumber and grate it, complete with the skin, chop the dill and add to the ayran made of yoghurt and water. Add the salt, mix thoroughly, cool and serve in bowls or tall glasses.
Ayran with tomato and carrot Ayran with tomato and carrot


Ayran – 700 ml (or yoghurt – 400 ml, water - 300 ml), tomatoes – 500 g, dill – 4-5 sprigs, salt - 1 teaspoon.
Grate the tomatoes and heat to 70-80 °C, add the finely chopped dill and salt and mix well. Serve cool.


Ayran – 700 ml (or yoghurt – 400 ml, water - 300 ml), carrots – 500 g (or carrot juice – 300 ml), dill – 4-5 sprigs, salt - 0.5 teaspoon.
Prepare the carrot juice, cool and add to the ayran. Add the chopped dill and salt and mix well. Serve in tea glasses or cups.