Friday, July 27, 2018

Geography Unit: Afghanistan

This year (and for the next few years), we'll be studying World Geography. Choosing to study them alphabetically rather than by continent, we're beginning with Afghanistan!

Afghanistan flag, colored by the 4-year-old

We began our week by adding the very first "stamp" (flag sticker) to our passports!

Then we located Afghanistan on the map and marked the capital city of Kabul with a star sticker.

Afghanistan map worksheet by the 6-year-old

Throughout the week, we listened to traditional Afghan music (I found a YouTube video here), read about the land, their history, the language, people, education, agriculture, and faith. I was also able to find a few books at the library that gave us more insight into the country and its people. 

Books We Read...

Bridget's (8) favorite was Nasreen's Secret School, while the boys liked The Wooden Sword best. There are many more children's books available on Amazon about Afghanistan, but this is what our local library had to offer:

Nasreen's Secret School by Jeanette Winter
The Wooden Sword by Ann Redisch Stampler
Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg & Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

Food We Ate...

I have scheduled Thursdays (the last day of our school week) for us to prepare a dinner and/or dessert from the country we've learned about. My oldest and I had previously studied Afghanistan, and so we still had the recipes and prepared all of the same dishes, as they were all so yummy. The first thing we prepared were the cookies. First the children tried pistachios (a rare treat, as they are so expensive here!), and then we got busy baking.

When it was time to prepare dinner, I assigned each child to help with one dish, rather than having all three of them crowding the kitchen. Liam (4) helped make Kabuli Pulao, George (6) helped make the Tomato Chickpea Stew, and Bridget (8) helped make the spinach (this was her favorite dish when we made it before). This is what our final meal looked like:

My plate of food from Afghanistan!

I started the children off with much smaller servings, but a little bit of everything. Bridget enjoyed everything, just as she had before. George liked the flavored rice and chickpeas, but hated the spinach and plain basmati rice, even though he did finish eating his servings. Liam surprised me by his favorite dish being the spinach, and he also loved everything else. Everyone cleaned their plates, with the exception of Bridget whose eyes were bigger than her stomach when it came to the spinach. She tried so hard to finish it all!

Here are the recipes for each dish we prepared! Not every dish was originally vegan (our choice of diet in our household), so I made the necessary modifications which are reflected in the recipes below.

Kabuli Pulao 

Kabuli Pulao is Afghanistan's national dish. It is a rice dish, with spices, carrots, raisins, almonds or pistachios (optional) and meat. The meat is most often either chicken, lamb, or beef. We opted to skip the meat and just prepare the rice. This cut off about 30 minutes of prep time and the rice was still delicious. 


2 c. cooked basmati rice
1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
1/4 c. dark raisins
2 Tbsp. vegan butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/2 Tbsp. ground cardamom
1/2 Tbsp. ground cumin
black pepper, to taste
Healthy pinch of saffron, soaked in 2 Tbsp. vegetable broth
1/2 c. vegetable broth
slivered almonds (optional)
chopped pistachios (optional)


1. Prepare basmati rice as package indicates.
2. Fry matchstick carrots in 1 Tbsp. butter. Once softened, add raisins, and cook for another minute. Drain and set aside.
3. Brown onions in remaining butter, then remove from heat.
4. Add cardamom, cumin, black pepper, and saffron liquid to the onions and mash until it forms a paste.
5. Return pan with onion and spice paste to the stove. Add vegetable broth to the paste and simmer for 5 minutes.
6. Add basmati rice and stir until rice is coated.
7. Put the rice into a casserole dish, then top with carrots and raisins. Cover with tin foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
8. Remove foil, add almonds or pistachios if desired. Serve hot.

Sabzi (Afghan Spinach)


3 cloves garlic
1/2 c. olive oil
2 lbs. frozen chopped spinach
2 Tbsp. dried dill
3 Tbsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
sea salt, to taste


1. In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until golden brown.
2. Add spinach and cook until the spinach defrosts and water begins to boil.
3. Add dried dill, coriander, black pepper, cilantro, lemon juice, and salt.
4. Simmer for 20 minutes.
5. Serve hot with basmati rice or flatbread.

Khorisht Nukhut (Tomato Chickpea Stew)


2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2-15 oz. cans of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. chili powder
1/2 c. water


1. Add all ingredients to a pot.
2. Cook at medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Serve hot.

Awb e Dundawn (Afghan Cookies or Biscuits)


3 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. vegan butter, melted
3/4 c. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. ground pistachios


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Set out two large baking sheets.
2. In a stand-up mixer, combine flour, powdered sugar, baking powder, cardamom, and salt.
3. With the mixer on low, add melted butter and oil to the flour mixture. Add water.
4. Mix the dough on medium speed for about 10 minutes.
5. Form the dough into smooth, round balls, about the size of a whole walnut, and place on baking sheet. (If the dough is too dry and not able to maintain form, return to the mixer and add a tsp. of water until dough can be easily handled. If the dough is too wet, add more flour.)
6. Using your thumb, press down on the center of each cookie, making a distinct imprint.
7.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the bottoms of the cookies are lightly browned.
8. As the cookies are baking, ground pistachios using a mortar and pestle (or grind in a mini food processor, or chop them finely with a knife).
9. Remove cookies from oven and sprinkle the ground pistachios into the imprint in each cookie.
10. Let cookies cool on pan before serving. Store in airtight container.

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