Cook on a Whim: Afghan Scrambled Eggs

0
800
Afghan scrambled eggs. Photo by Anita Parris Soule. Courtesy Cook on a Whim.

It doesn’t get much better than these spicy, fragrant scrambled eggs served alongside fresh, warm flatbread. My favorite recipes are the ones that take a few humble, familiar ingredients and combine them in a way that makes them new and exotic — which is exactly what this recipe does.

Inspired by a very traditional, very delicious Afghan dish that was served to me when I was visiting my father in Afghanistan many years ago, this is a dish I have never forgotten. I hope you’ll love as much as I do.

Afghan scrambled eggs and Afghan naan or flatbread come together in this delicious any-time-of-day meal. As delicious for breakfast as it is for dinner, this meal is truly something special. I was lucky enough to have it prepared for me by one of my dad’s Afghan friends  in  Afghanistan — so, while I might not be an authority on Afghan culture and cuisine, I’d like to think I’m a bit of an authority on this dish.

I was lucky enough to travel to Afghanistan a few times when my dad lived there over the course of about 10 years. He lived in a house in  Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. It was a two-story house with a pretty little yard filled with rose bushes, fruit and nut trees and grapevines, with a thick stone wall surrounding the property.

The rooftop of the house was open and my dad’s bedroom opened onto it. We’d sit up there in the evenings, listening to the calls to prayer and watching the sunsets and the kites flying in the distance. I have such fond memories of the time we spent in that beautiful, ancient city and I realize what an incredible gift it was for me to experience it with him.

My dad’s friend made us these eggs one morning. He chopped, sautéed, scrambled and served them up with some fresh-from-the-local-bakery Noni Afghani — Afghan naan. When he handed us our plates, I excitedly asked him what the dish was called. He kind of laughed and said “Afghan eggs” (like, duh …). I thought he was poking fun at me a little bit, but not until recently did I realize he was actually being serious. The dish he made is quite a common, traditional Afghan dish called Khagina.

What goes into Afghan scrambled eggs? 

  • Eggs
  • Fresh tomato
  • Onion
  • Hot chile peppers
  • Cumin seeds
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Fresh garlic
  • Salt

The cumin seeds and chopped vegetables are sautéed in butter until softened and fragrant before the eggs are added to the pan for a low, slow scramble. Then the creamy, intensely flavorful eggs are served straight from the pan with warm Afghan naan. Forks are optional.

We are all stuck at home right now, but that’s one of the glorious things about cooking. It can transport us to a specific time, place, memory — just like that. The aromas of these Afghan scrambled eggs take me right back to my dad’s Kabul kitchen every time I make them. If you aren’t up for making your own Afghan naan, feel free to use store-bought pita, lavash or naan. Even some toasted flour tortillas will work in a pinch. I do encourage you to try it with the Afghan naan for the full experience though.

Afghan naan is a pretty typical, yeasted flatbread. Traditionally, local Afghan bakers use huge, wood-fired tandoor ovens to bake the bread. This homemade version might not have that signature, wood-fired aroma, but it is still worth making fresh at home unless you are lucky enough to live near an Afghan bakery.

What makes Afghan naan unique are the long indentations that are present in the finished flatbread. To achieve these indentations, wet fingers are pressed down the length of the dough, repeating across the entire surface. These indentations are how I remember the flatbread and how I wanted to create it at home.

Afghan Scrambled Eggs

Ingredients 

For the eggs:

6 eggs, cracked into a bowl and whisked until combined

4 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced

3 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 tomato, seeded and chopped

1 to 2 serrano chiles, thinly sliced (more or less depending on your heat tolerance)

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

For the naan:

2 1/2 cups lukewarm water

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon  kosher salt

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Photo by Anita Parris Soule. Courtesy Cook on a Whim.

Instructions 

For the naan:

Place water, yeast and whole wheat flour in the bowl of a stand mixer, stir with a whisk or a wooden spoon until combined, cover with a kitchen towel and allow to stand until frothy — about 1 1/2 hours.

Next, add salt and all-purpose flour to mixer. Knead with a dough hook for 10 minutes on medium speed. Cover bowl again and let dough rise until doubled in size — about 2 hours (see notes if you want to bake your flatbreads in the morning).

After 2 hours, preheat your oven to 500 degrees with a pizza stone or a baking steel on the lowest rack. Dump dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 8 equal pieces (see photos for reference). Shape each piece into a ball, then roll out into a long, oval-like shape — about 10 inches — using plenty of flour to avoid sticking. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking tray and repeat with remaining dough pieces. You’ll just be rolling away from yourself and toward yourself to make a long, oval shape.

Next, on a piece of parchment roughly the same size as your baking steel or stone, place 2 or 3 rolled-out flatbreads (or however many you can fit — I was able to do 3 at a time). Place a small dish of water near your workspace and with wet fingers make indentations running lengthwise on the shaped pieces of dough (again, see photos for reference). You really want to press firmly, almost all the way through the dough.

Once dough is shaped and indentations are made, using a pizza peel or a thin baking sheet, transfer dough pieces, parchment and all, onto your preheated pizza stone/steel and bake for 6 to 8 minutes until puffed and golden. It’s okay if some of the bubbles get very dark — this will give you a smoky flavor very reminiscent of the tandoor ovens.

Repeat this process until all dough is baked. Serve bread warm with Afghan scrambled eggs or with anything you like! This would go great with soups, stews and curries. Feel free to brush the baked flatbreads with a garlic-and-herb butter for extra flavor.

For the eggs:

Heat a medium sauté pan over medium-low heat with 2 tablespoons of butter. When butter is melted, add onion, garlic, cumin seeds and salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until onion is translucent.

Next, add tomato and chiles and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes until the tomato softens a bit. Push ingredients to outer edges of pan and add 2 more tablespoons of butter to center of pan. When melted, add eggs and allow to sit undisturbed for a minute before gently stirring and pushing ingredients from outer edges into the egg mixture. Leave eggs undisturbed for 30 seconds or so, then give another stir and flip to make sure they are cooking on all sides. It’s very important for the heat to be low or it will all just become watery.

Once eggs look almost cooked, add cilantro, give it one more stir, turn heat off and let eggs sit and continue cooking in the hot pan for a minute or so.

Serve with naan and more fresh cilantro if desired.

Notes 

  • If you really don’t like spiciness, you can remove the ribs and seeds of your chiles, or use a sweet pepper to get the flavor without the spice.
  • I know a lot of us are working with sourdough starter now more than ever and I have no doubt this recipe would work well with sourdough starter in place of the active dry yeast. I have not tried it yet, but it’s on my list. I found this sourdough flatbread recipe and I have a strong feeling it would work just as well here, even subbing some of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat and still making the indentations:  Rustic Sourdough Flatbread
  • The prep time for the eggs is minimal — maybe 10 minutes to chop everything and another 10 to 15 to cook. The naan is a bit more time consuming, of course. Just read through everything, plan ahead and enjoy the process. You could even make the dough the night before and toss it in the fridge after it rises, then just shape and bake the naan the next morning.

Afghan naan recipe adapted from Saveur.

Share this:

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.