Meet The “Stans”….
The first “stan” on our list is the largest. In fact, Kazakhstan is the 9th largest country in the world. One example given is the distance from one end of Kazakhstan to the other is the same distance as London to Istanbul. In other words, this is a large place. A large place with a relatively recent history of independence. Kazakhstan has been under rule from the Russian empire in one form or another since the early 1800’s.
A Brief History
The word Kazakh translates into independent nomad. It was used to describe a particular group of people who were living on the steps of Central Asia during the 16th century. During one of Russia’s many expansions, it brought parts of Kazakhstan under the control of the Russian Empire. By 1848, the entirety of Kazakhstan was completely under control of Russia.
Kazakhstan was originally promised an autonomous status by the Bolsheviks in return for their loyalty, but that was short lived and eventually Kazakhstan came under the control of the newly formed Soviet Union. During this time, socialist policies toward food collectivization by Stalin would cause millions of people to die from starvation.
On December 16th, 1991 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan declared it’s independence, and it became official on December 25th. The first President elected was Nursultan Nazarbayev, who still is the elected leader of Kazakhstan making him the only one in its very short independence.
Today we are going to be making Beshbarmak, which is a unique dish made of slow cooked meat and broad noodles. It is probably the most popular dish in Kazakhstan, and is made using everything from Mutton to Lamb and especially with horse meat. Today we are making a version with Lamb. This is an extremely time-consuming and detailed dish but it is also an amazing dish to eat, and a rewarding dish to cook!
ingredients: Serves 4-6
For The Stew:
About 1 Kg Lamb (I used rump steak cuts)
2 Medium Onions
4-6 Bay Leaves
Salt and Pepper
2 cloves of garlic
Enough water to fill the pot
For The Noodles:
300g all-purpose flour
100ml of the stock from the stew
1/2 Teaspoon salt
For The Sauce:
2 Medium onions, sliced into rings
600ml of the stock from the stew
small bunch of parsley
small bunch of dill
3-4 Small Potatoes
2-3 Large Carrots
Method: About 3 1/2 Hours Total
The first thing to do is to prepare the stew. Place all of the lamb pieces in a large pot. Also place the two onions with skins and everything on them, as well as 4-6 bay leaves and salt and pepper to taste. Crush 2 garlic cloves and place them in as well. Cover with water and fill the pot with water leaving just enough room so it won’t boil over. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for about 2 and 1/2 hours or until Lamb is very tender (or falling off bone if it is boned meat).
Pre-heat oven to it’s lowest possible setting (about 95 Degrees C)
After the lamb stew is done you will need to scoop out the meat from the stew and place into an oven safe dish along with the whole onions and cover. Place this dish in the pre-heated oven to keep warm.
It is now time to prepare the noodles. Scoop out 100ml of the broth from the stew and strain it so that only the liquid remains. Sift the flour and add the salt. Beat in the egg and then add the stock. Work this with your hands about 4-7 minutes or until combined. Wrap this in plastic wrap and set aside to rest for about 30 minutes.
Wait about 25 minutes.
Next peel your carrots and wash the potatoes and put them into the pot of stock and boil until soft. This should take about 20 minutes. Once you put them in and bring them to boil, its time to prepare your noodles. Cut about 1/3 of the dough and leave the rest covered. Roll it out on a heavily floured surface and then slice it into strips roughly the size of lasagna noodles (see pictures). Make sure to flour both sides and then do the same with the other two thirds of the dough. Make sure to leave them out on the counter top separated and let them sit out until the veggies are done.
Once the veggies are soft, pull them out of the stock and cut them up. Add them to the dish with the lamb and place that back into the oven to keep warm.
Now it is time to prepare the sauce. Pull about 600ml of the broth and put it in a small saucepan. bring that to a boil. Once it is boiling let it cook down about halfway.
While you are waiting on it to cook down, slice your onions into rings. Fry the onions in a pan with some vegetable oil until soft. Add to the cooked-down stock and immediately remove from heat and cover. Let this set about 10-15 minutes.
Now it’s time to cook the noodles. If you need to add more water to the stock pot that is perfectly ok. Boil the noodles about 7-10 minutes or until soft.
While the noodles are cooking, chop the parsley and dill and add to the onion sauce mixture and stir through.
Once the noodles are cooked, drain and then place a bed of them on each plate. Cover the noodles with the veggies and lamb pieces, and then cover that all with the sauce You are ready to enjoy!
Some Interesting Facts:
- Kazakhstan people celebrate three New Years. Two official ones, which are the 1 January by the Gregorian Calendar and the 22 March, “Nauryz”, the spring equinox or renewal of nature. 14 January by the Julian Calendar is the legacy of the Soviet times. This day is called “the Old New Year”.
- Although Kazakhstan is a landlocked country it still has its own navy.
- Out of 110 elements from the Mendeleev’s table of chemical elements 99 were detected on the Kazakhstan territory.
- The weather in various parts (a few streets up or down) of Almaty can differ quite significantly, due to its altitude from 600 meters (aprx. 1970 ft) to 1500 meters (aprx. 4920 ft) above the sea level.
This recipe was a slight adaptation of a very detailed recipe found on the blog Pinch of Cinnamon.