Bolani e kachaloo, unleavened bread stuffed with potato, scallions and cilantro is one of my favorite Afghan snacks. It’s in complete opposition to Mr. Atkins’ dietary rules: starch on the outside, starch on the inside. Maybe that is what makes it so delicious. Bolani can also be filled with other delicious stuffing: Chinese green onions (gandana) , spinach, lentils, butternut squash or whatever you like.
Afghans make bolani for special occasion such as birthday parties, engagement parties or holidays. Nowadays most Afghans in the East Bay order their bolani from the many local Afghan restaurants. The most popular source is Fremont’s beloved hole in the wall De Afghanan restaurant which is reminiscent of kebab houses in Kabul. Some of my non-Afghan friends have discovered bolani sold by the folks at East West Gourmet Foods who set up shop at many of the Bay Area farmers markets.
On a field trip to Little Kabul last spring, Katie and I watched in awe as the cook at De Afghanan brought out a piece of bolani dough the size of a large pizza, spread a generous amount of potato mixture on it and then browned it as we watched. Somehow the two of us managed to eat most of this flavorful bread, along with a huge order of chicken kebab. In the Afghan community the De Afghanan version of bolani is now lovingly called Fremont style.
Although in Afghanistan everyone makes their own dough, over the years my mom Jeja and her fellow Afghan ladies have developed short cuts to making bolani . They use a bread dough bought from Costco or flour tortillas, the latter of which we think is the best and easiest way to go. For this post I’m sharing both a recipe for the homemade dough and also the method using tortillas. I have to confess once they were cooked it was hard to distinguish one from the other. Both tasted great.
We like to make bolani as an appetizer, an elegant addition to a dinner instead of bread, a yummy sandwich alternative in our kids’ lunch boxes or a quick snack to reheat in the toaster.
Bolani: Afghan Potato and Scallion Turnover
Bolani e Kachaloo
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup water room temperature
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. olive oil
1 lb. russet potatoes (about 2 medium-size potatoes)
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions white and green parts
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp. olive oil
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Slowly add the water and the teaspoon of oil and mix the dough together, kneading it a little until it forms a ball. If the dough is too dry to come together, add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Once the dough is formed, knead it for 10 minutes on a lightly floured cutting board. If you are impatient like us, set the timer so you won’t reduce the kneading time. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with a cloth and let it rest for one hour.
In the meantime , boil the potatoes until soft in the center when pierced with a small knife. Remove from the water and when cool enough to handle, slip the skins off the potatoes. Put the potatoes, cilantro, scallions, 2 tbsp. of the olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl and mash together with your hands or a potato masher until thoroughly combined. Some lumps are ok. You can also make this the night before and keep it refrigerated until ready to use.
Take a small amount of dough the size of a small apple and roll into a smooth ball. Spread some flour on the wood board and roll out the dough using a rolling pin. Continue to flatten the dough until it takes a round shape, is as thin as a tortilla, and about 10-12 inches across. The thinner the dough the better. If you have trouble rolling the dough to the shape you want, use a lid from a pot to trace a perfect round shape.
Spread ¼ cup of potato mixture on one side of the dough, leaving a 1/4 inch border around the rim. Fold the other half over and press the dough together with your finger to form a seal.
Heat the remaining ¼ cup of oil in a medium-size sauté pan over medium-high heat. Brown the bolani, two at a time, until golden on both sides. The bolani should sizzle when they hit the pan. Lay cooked bolani on a paper towel. Add more oil to your pan if your oil starts to reduce. These are best served warm but are tasty at room temperature.
Serve with plain yogurt
If you don’t want to make the dough use flour tortillas instead, it always turns out well and saves time.
2 tbsp. flour
2 tbsp. water
6 6-inch flour tortillas
In a small dish, mix together the flour and water to make a paste. Set a tortilla on your work surface and spread ¼ cup of the potato mixture on the tortilla, leaving a half-inch border around the rim. Using your finger spread a small amount of the paste around the edge of half of the tortilla. Fold the tortilla over, encasing the potatoes into a half circle. Press the two sides of the tortillas together firmly to form a tight seal. Brown the bolani following the instructions in the recipe above.
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