by Jeyran Bayramova
Summer in Azerbaijan is usually hot, very hot. If you are in the capital, Baku, then the southern Caspian breeze Gilavar should bring some relief. If you are up in the mountains, a dip in an icy pool will revive you. But whether you are in the city or up a mountain, you should seek not only to cool your skin, but to cool your stomach as well! Through the ages, Azerbaijanis have paid close attention to what they eat and drink in the different seasons. On cold winter days they prefer flour and meat-based dishes, whereas in warmer weather vegetables and herbs are the order of the day. Dovgha, though, is loved all year round – in summer for its refreshing lightness and in winter for its comforting warmth.
A herb and yoghurt soup, dovgha is a staple of Azerbaijani cuisine. The key to its flavour lies in the combination of herbs, depending on the season: coriander, dill, chervil, sorrel, wild leek, mint, spinach and many others.
The recipe we have for you is a distinctive variation from Qabala region. What makes Qabala dovgha special, and extra healthy, is the addition of cabbage. Don’t be put off – we’re not talking piles of limp, overcooked cabbage leaves, but crisp and crunchy greens.
Dovgha is simple to make. The most time-consuming part of the process is washing and chopping the herbs. Once that’s done, it’s a question of mixing yoghurt, egg, flour and rice and bringing them to a very gentle simmer. Add the herbs, simmer a little more, then enjoy your delicious dovgha.
1.5-2 litres thick plain yoghurt
0.5-1 litre of water, depending on how thick you like your dovgha
1-2 spoons of flour
50g short grain rice
Half a small white cabbage (for Qabala dovgha)
50-100g cooked chickpeas (also optional)
1. Wash and finely chop the herbs and cabbage (though some Azerbaijani cooks prefer more roughly chopped herbs).
2. Pour 1 cup of yoghurt into a bowl, add the egg and mix well. Add the flour and rice and stir until all is combined. (The more rice and flour, the thicker the dovgha.)
3. Pour the rest of the yoghurt into a heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the flour mixture and water and stir well.
4. Place the pan over a medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring all the time.
5. When the mixture has reached boiling point, add the chopped herbs, and precooked chickpeas if using, and mix well. Simmer on a low heat for 10-15 minutes until the rice is soft. Stir frequently.
6. Add the chopped cabbage, stir and bring back to a rolling boil, at which point remove from the heat.
7. Add salt just before serving. Note: Do not add salt while the dovgha is cooking or it may curdle.
8. Serve dovgha warm or at room temperature, depending on your taste. It can be eaten at the start of a meal or at the end of savoury courses. It is considered an aid to digestion, keeping your insides in top condition.
Nush olsun! Bon appétit!
Visions would like to thank the Dasharasi Kebab Restaurant in Qabala for their help with this recipe.