Welcome to Samarkand, one of Central Asia’s oldest inhabited cities.
Located in modern day Uzbekistan, a large number of ethnic groups still call Samarkand home. Thus, it is a city of preserved history and culture of not one group, but many groups – and is even recognized by UNESCO as the “Crossroads of Cultures.”
While your feet can’t always travel, your tastebuds still can. Thus, we continue this series sharing some of the traditional (and might we add – delicious!) recipes from Samarkand, found in Carline Eden and Eleanor Ford’s book, “Samarkand.”
Tajik Bread Salad
Crisp shards of flatbread give crunch to this dish, which lies somewhere between a Greek salad and Levantine fattoush. Typically, it is served in Tajikistan on a large communal wooden platter along with hot, flaky non bread for everyone to scoop up the salty cheese and fresh vegetables.
More authentically, Tajiks make a cheese from yogurt simmered with salt until thickened to warm curds, but feta makes a good substitute.
You’ll need a good, heavy-bottomed pan with a close-fitting lid to make plov. In Uzbekistan, a cast-iron ‘kazan’ is used; a large cast-iron casserole makes the perfect substitute.
Main Ingredients (Serves 2-4):
- 2 pitta breads
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 6 cucumber, halved lengthways, deseeded using a spoon and sliced
- 3 spring onions, thinly sliced
- a small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
- a small bunch of dill fronds, chopped
- 85g feta
For the Dressing:
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar or cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 85ml extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt
- non bread to serve
For the dressing, mix the lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, and ground coriander in a bowl. Gradually whisk the olive oil until well blended and season with salt.
For the salad, preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5. Split and open the pitta breads into four halves and cut these into thin triangles. Brush with the olive oil. Toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, until golden. They will crisp as they cool.
Put the tomatoes, cucumber and spring onions in a large serving dish and mix with the dressing and herbs. Crumble over the feta, then add the pitta shards. Toss once and serve straight away with hot non.
Recipe and photos from Samarkand – written by Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford, published by Kyle Books, photography by Laura Edwards. Priced £25.