Updated: Nov 17, 2019
Article by Alyssa Pankau | Edited by James Rashid | Photos by Dawn Shimura
Fatima remembers her life in Dushanbe with fondness—the surrounding mountains, an exquisite botanical garden, its walk-ability. The capital of Tajikistan isn’t without its problems though. Poverty and corruption run rampant. But Fatima cherishes the memories of people’s hospitality and friendliness and the family she left behind instead.
Love Knows No Bounds
Now in the U.S., Fatima lives with her husband and son—the two most important people in her life. Fatima and her husband had something of a fairy tale love story. Even though he was from a different country, they fell in love and wanted to marry. But they faced opposition in the form of cultural pressure and governmental restrictions on marrying foreign nationals. After jumping through a number of hoops, however, the two were finally wed. Yet they still had to spend two long years apart before relocating to the U.S. where they raised their son.
A Taste of Home to Share
Like most people, one of Fatima’s strongest ties to her home country is the food she grew up with. She loves cooking with greens and dill and prefers to use all natural and organic ingredients when possible. She’s delighted to share her recipe for Tajik plov, a rice dish with beef, carrots, and onion. It’s traditionally served with two side salads and an invitation for guests to eat as much as they’d like. It pairs nicely with green tea. Most of the ingredients can be found at your local grocery store.
(A rice dish with beef, carrots, and onions)
Recipe by Fatima Nazhmudinova
1 lb beef* | 1 ½ cups vegetable oil | ½ apple | 1 onion, sliced | 15 oz shredded carrots | 1 whole peeled bulb of garlic | Pepper | Salt | 1 can garbanzo beans | 4 cups rice | Salt & pepper
*Beef can be substituted for either chicken or lamb
Cucumber and Tomato Salad
2 tomatoes, chopped | 2 cucumbers, sliced | ½ onion, sliced thin | 1 cup cilantro, chopped
Radish and Dill Salad
6-7 radishes, chopped | 1 cup cilantro, chopped | 1 tbsp fresh dill | Salt & pepper | ¾ cup plain yogurt
1.) Cut beef into bite sized pieces.
2.) Heat vegetable oil in a large pan with half an apple. This method takes away the flavor of the oil. Remove the apple when the edges start to brown.
3.) Fry the beef for 10 minutes or until fully cooked.
4.) Add half a sliced onion to the pan and mix. Cook until the onion yellows.
5.) Add shredded carrots but don’t mix. Cover mixture with water until about 1 cm above carrots.
6.) Add an entire bulb of garlic to the mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add a handful of cumin seeds. Cook mixture on medium-low heat until water boils, about 10-15 minutes.
7.) Add 1 can of garbanzo beans and let the mixture sit for 20 minutes.
8.) To make the rice, pour 6 cups of boiling water over 4 cups of rinsed rice in a large bowl. The water should cover the rice by at least 1 cm. Let the rice soak for 10 minutes.
9.) Add soaked rice but don’t mix with the beef and vegetables in the pan. Add water .The rice should be covered with about 1 cm of water. Do not stir. Cook on high for 15-20 minutes. Once the water has been almost completely absorbed turn the heat down to medium. Poke holes in the mixture with a spatula if the water isn’t absorbing quickly enough.
10.) Once the water has been fully absorbed, cover the mixture with a plate, a hand towel, and a lid and cook on very low for 15-20 minutes. When you serve the dish first you need to put rice on a plate, then carrots and then meat.
11.) While the mixture cooks, make the two salads. For the first salad, mix cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, salt & pepper in a large bowl and serve.
12.) For the second salad, mix radishes, cilantro and dill in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in yogurt and serve.
13.) When you serve the dish, first you need to put the rice on a plate, then top with the carrots, and then meat.