You are never too old or too knowledgeable to learn something news.
Recently, I learned about an Afghan dish called Qorma e khawar. Qorma is the common name for all Afghan meat or vegetable dishes that are slow cooked in a sauce. However, I had never heard of khawar. I called my mom, Jeja, my Afghan food encyclopedia.
This is how our conversation went in Farsi.
“What is khawar?”
“The tiny green things.” Jeja responds.
“Oh, you mean mawsh (mung beans)?”
“No, the other thing. It ‘s small, green, and soft. I don’t know what its called in English.”
“Do you mean karam (Brussels sprout)?”
I spent sleepless nights, as this mystery loomed unsolved. Finally, I got a call from Jeja that she found a jar of khawar in Trader Joe’s, which turned out to be capers.
I always associated capers with smoked salmon, that is where my knowledge of capers ended. I had no idea that capers are native to Afghanistan and that they are used in Qorma. Fresh capers are bitter but once they are dried and pickled, the bitterness dissipates.
It turns out that my aunt makes the best Qorma e khawar. She lives in Orange County so I got a rudimentary recipe from her and then went to work on creating this dish. After a few tests and tweaks I settled on the best combination of ingredients and techniques. If you love capers, try this recipe.
Afghan Qorma e Khawar
Creamy Chicken, Caper and Yogurt Stew
3 ½ cups jarred capers (four jars of Trader Joe’s capers)
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 large yellow onions diced
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
1 1/2 lbs. skinless boneless chicken breast cut in thin strips
½ cup chicken broth
½ tbsp. ground coriander
½ tbsp. ground turmeric
½ tsp. ground black pepper
1-cup full fat Greek yogurt at room temprature
Rinse capers in fresh water and soak for an hour in warm water to remove the vinegar and salt taste.
Heat olive oil in a sauté’ pan on medium-high heat. Add diced onions to the oil, sauté on high for 10 minutes until they are lightly brown. Add garlic, chicken strips, coriander, turmeric, and pepper to the pan. Stir well, cook for five minutes until the chicken is slightly brown. Add the chicken broth, stir well, cover pan with a lid, and simmer for fifteen minutes until the sauce thickens.
Add 2 tbsp. of the chicken sauce to the yogurt; stir until creamy smooth. The warm sauce will neutralize the yogurt so it won’t curdle when it is added to the pot. Add strained capers and yogurt to the sauté pan; stir well so the yogurt is distributed evenly. Simmer for five minutes without the lid until the sauce is fully heated.
Even after rinsing and soaking, the capers retain much of it’s salt. I felt the dish was seasoned perfectly without additional salt. You may add some salt to your taste.
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