Posts in Azerbaijan
2018 Azerbaijan GP: Chicken Kebabs, Dolma, and Chopped Salad

Baku!!!! What a crazy race! As soon as you thought the drama was over something else exploded, someone ran into someone or something else, and all hell broke loose. Some major disappointments, but it sure did make it exciting! I, for one, am glad to see teams allowing their drivers to race each other and be ambitious and aggressive out on the race track. Every race is a learning experience for the drivers and the teams. I hope to see even more wheel to wheel racing in the upcoming races, and more crazy Max too! 

On a personal note, the past couple weeks and weekends have been so busy I haven't been able to keep up in life or on here, my apologies for the delay on this post. On that note, I am also going to take a break from writing up pre-race posts. I'm going to focus that energy on creating awesome meals and including desserts and drinks for as many races as possible. I promise I'll make it delicious. Let me know if there are specific dishes you'd like to see included, or ones you've cooked and would recommend! 

For this meal we went simple summertime (I know it's only May, but I am ready!) with some grilled chicken kebabs, chopped veg salad, and dolmas with grape leaves from my Mom's garden. 

Grape leaf for Dolma

The kebabs were super easy to prepare and turned out really tender and juicy. They would go great with rice, green salad, or grilled veggies.  The dolmas took a little work but were well worth it. I'm thinking I might even try out a vegetarian version this weekend. I discovered that we have a volunteer grape vine growing on the side of our house that is just begging to be made into dolmas! 

Chicken Kebabs

Toyug kebabs (Azeri sour chicken skewers)

Adapted from SBS Recipes by Adam Liao

1 ½ lb chicken thigh fillets ( approx. 4 fillets)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ small brown onion, roughly chopped
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 pinch of sugar
6-8 skewers (bamboo or metal)

To serve
¼ cup finely shredded coriander or mint
¼  cup finely shredded flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp sumac
lemon wedges (optional)

1. In a large bowl or ziploc bag, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, onion, salt, pepper and sugar. Add chicken and marinate for 2 hours or overnight.

2. If using bamboo skewers, soak them for at least 10 minutes before using.

3. Skewer the chicken evenly onto 6 or 8 skewers (depending on their size).

4. Grill over medium-high heat on a grill or grill pan.  Cook until chicken reaches 165 degrees F or until juice runs clear.

5. Serve with herbs scattered over top and lemon wedges (if desired).


Dolma, Azerbaijani-Style Stuffed Grape Leaves

Adapted from AZ Cookbook by Feride Buyuran

½ pound ground beef
½ medium onion, grated
¼ cup medium-grain white rice, thoroughly rinsed (do not use long grain rice)
¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup finely chopped fresh mint
½ teaspoon salt
pinch ground black pepper

About 20-30 medium-size fresh grape leaves
1 ½  tablespoons butter

Garlic Yogurt Sauce
½ cup Plain Yogurt
2 garlic cloves, crushed

1. Combine first seven ingredients to make stuffing. Mix until well combined.

2. Blanch grape leaves. Boil a small saucepan of water, blanch the fresh grape leaves in batches of about 10 at a time, for about one minute. Remove from pot with a slotted spoon, drain on a plate with a paper towel, and allow to cool.

3. Prepare a medium saucepan by spreading a few leaves to cover the bottom.

4. Stuff the grape leaves. Hold a leaf shiny side down in your hand, place about a tablespoon of the stuffing in the center of the leaf. Fold the top down, then the sides over the filling and roll tightly into a round ball or cylindrical roll. Set seam side down in the prepared saucepan. Arrange dolma snuggly next to each other. Continue until all leaves or stuffing are used up.

5. Dot the top with butter, pour water in until it reaches halfway up the dolmas. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Simmer for one hour or until leaves are tender and filling is cooked. (If liquid completely absorbs during cooking, add a little more and continue to simmer.)   

6. Serve with Garlic Yogurt Sauce: Combine yogurt and crushed garlic to make sauce.


Chopped Vegetable Salad

Chopped Vegetable Salad

Inspired by NPR Recipes

1 bell pepper, chopped in large chunks
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, partially peeled and chopped
5 radishes, quartered

juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Mix all vegetables in a large bowl. 
2. In a mason jar or small container, combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Shake to emulsify and make dressing. 
3. Pour dressing over vegetables and mix until just combined and dressing is distributed. 

Azerbaijani GP - Beef Plov

The more I follow the races in F1 and read blogs about the races and the locations, the more I realize I do not know about the world. Geographically speaking I am probably a little more savvy than I give myself credit for, but I could not have named the sea which Baku sits on (The Caspian), or the neighboring countries that surround Azerbaijan (Georgia, Armenia, Iran and Russia). I could point to it on a map though, and I do know the food is flavorful and deserves to be tried! 

Beef Plov

From Natasha’s Kitchen

1 1/2 lbs good beef stew meat or beef chuck
1/3 cup canola oil, or extra light olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks or chopped
1 tsp salt for the meat and veggies + 1 1/2 tsp salt for the rice
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
3-4 bay leaves
1 3/4 cups hot water for braising meat
3 cups long grain rice (Basmati or Jasmine rice work great!)
4 cups hot water when cooking rice
1 head of garlic
1 tsp ground coriander

1. Trim beef of excess fat, pat meat dry with a paper towel and chop into ½" to ¾" pieces.

2. Preheat a dutch oven to high heat. Add ⅓ cup canola oil. Once oil is hot, add chopped meat and saute uncovered about 7 min over high heat until meat is browned, stirring every minute or so. (Note: it's important to preheat the dutch oven first for the meat to sear over very high heat, otherwise it will juice out and become dry.)

3. Reduce heat to medium and add chopped onion, stirring often until onion is softened (5 minutes). Stir in chopped carrots, 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp cumin, 3-4 bay leaves and continue to cook over medium heat 5 minutes until carrots are softened.

4. Add 1¾ cups hot water, cover and simmer over medium/low heat 45 min or until meat is tender.

5. Meanwhile, rinse rice until water runs clear, then drain and set aside (this gets rid of the starch so you won't end up with a sticky rice).

6.  Spread rice over the meat and add 4 cups hot water. Sprinkle the rice with 1½ tsp salt (DO NOT STIR), bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium and let cook uncovered until most of the water is absorbed (10 min).

7. Cut off the head of a garlic head to expose the cloves. Put head of garlic, cut side down into the center of the rice and sprinkle the top of the rice with 1 tsp ground coriander.

10. Poke 7-10 holes through the rice to allow steam to escape to the surface, reduce the heat to low then cover and cook an additional 15 minutes or until rice is cooked through. Remove the garlic head and bay leaves and stir everything gently to combine.


Ok, so a few disclaimers and additional info... this is a Plov, which basically is a Pilaf.

Apparently, Plov is a very popular dish in Russia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan,  pretty much all of Central Asia and indeed Azerbaijan. However, I’m pretty sure this is more of an Uzbek and/or Russian version than Azerbaijani. It is nonetheless, delicious and I would highly recommend you make it.

The only thing missing are some veggies, so I recommend serving it with a salad or some roasted broccoli (which I will serve and eat with ANYTHING).

I found a website recently, called Flavors of Baku, which I think I will have to look into a little more for next time!

So as not to disappoint, here are Ferrari and Renault's posters for the race!