I like to cook. During the past 10 years or so, I have enjoyed trying new dishes either to help our family eat more healthy or because the dish sounded delicious. So when we moved here, I knew it would be a fun challenge to find a good balance between fixing familar dishes that my family likes to eat and adapting to the area where we live.
My first challenge each week is figuring out a meal plan with a balance of easier to cook meals and others that take more time. I also look at what I have on hand, what I know I can get and what I might be able to get with some help from my husband. Mostly I try to adapt my recipes to what I can find unless someone in our family is craving a certain dish. For example, a lady on our team found cream cheese and bought me one. The recipe that came to mind was a cinnamon roll recipe with cream cheese frosting. Noel motivated by the lure of a good breakfast went on the hunt for powdered suger. It took him three stores before he hit the jackpot but he says the rolls were worth the extra work. In the states, we would often go to different stores to get better deals. Here we go to a different store or bazaar to get different items that are available. I actually think Noel likes the adventure of finding things for me and it gives him lots of good language practice. I couldn’t be quite as creative with our meal planning if it wasn’t for him.
Another challenge is the food preparation. If I plan ahead on what I am fixing for supper, one day a week Gulzoda, our house helper, will help me by chopping, peeling and grating the fruit and veggies that need prepped. All the fruits and vegetables need to be soaked in a water/ idoine solution especially if they are going to be eaten raw. I also often will brown a whole kilo of ground beef or cook extra rice to freeze for an upcoming meal. Right now I am needing to get some tomatoes in the freezer before they are out of season. We won’t have fresh vegetables this winter except for potatoes, carrots, and cabbage. Since all of the cooking is from scratch, I budget more time for the actual cooking but I find the time in the kitchen to be relaxing. I have also enjoy help from my kids and even Noel at times which makes for some great family time. Our oven is small and doesn’t regulate heat very well so rotating dishes halfway through seems to help things get more evenly cooked. Luckily I have only burned one item because of the oven and that was because I forgot to use the timer. So really it is not too difficult to cook here, I just have to think ahead. My family actually eats things here that they wouldn’t in the states. Overall Noel thinks food tastes better here.
Some interesting things to note:
1. Cinnamon, vanilla, and baking powder are sold in little packets so I have to usually get three or four at a time.
2. All labels on items in the grocery store are in Russian. Luckily the pictures are pretty good.
3. If the store doesn’t have the correct change to give you, they give you a piece of gum or an instant coffee.
I know this has been a long post but I thought some of you might enjoy a recipe for a Tajik dish that we had at our neighbors house. Start with a big frying pan. Add some oil and beef cuts and cook until no longer pink. Next add cut up potatoes, onions, green peppers, carrots, egg plant. Add more oil if necessary and fry for a couple of minutes. Add a little cumin, salt and pepper for some flavoring. After a few minutes add some water and cut up tomatoes (or a little tomato paste). Simmer with the lid on for an hour. It is ready when the potatoes mash easily with a spoon. Eat with bread.