Azerbaijan! It’s about time we got serious about this cuisine which is rich and varied! It is said that Azerbaijani cuisine is so rich it features approximately 2,000 different dishes!
We recently welcomed Feride Buyuran as the Azerbaijani cuisine expert on 196 flavors. She was born in Azerbaijan and is the author of award-winning “Pomegranates & Saffron: A Culinary Journey to Azerbaijan” and author of the food blog AZCookBook, a blog where she shares the recipes and secrets from her homeland.
In the interview that Feride gave us, she talked about a soup called dovgha (yogurt soup with fresh herbs) that is one of her favorite recipes. And you know by now how excited I get when I hear the word soup!
After Feride’s appetizing tandir bread, dovgha is therefore the first recipe that I chose to prepare for our Azerbaijani series.
Azerbaijan is a country that lies between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to the south.
One can easily imagine the richness and diversity of the cuisine for such a small piece of land located at the crossroads of so many countries. The cuisine of Azerbaijan is a mix of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Indian cuisines which also shares many similarities with the cuisines of Armenia and Turkey, with dishes that often share the same name or the same root.
Location is not the only factor influencing the cuisine of a country. The culinary tradition of each country is also linked to its climate. Azerbaijan is under the influence of nine climatic zones. The result is a richness and variety in the flora and fauna of the region, which constitutes favorable conditions for the life of many species of animals and plants.
But let’s go back to our dovgha!
Azeris also call it dovğa qatıq şorbası, or dovgha yogurt soup. But there are also fresh herbs, which are a major component of Azeri cuisine.
We tend to associate soup with winter. Big mistake! There are also quite a few cold soups like gazpacho for example.
Dovgha can be served hot or cold. It is popular all year round. In the summer for its refreshing lightness and in the winter for its comforting warmth. This soup is really a staple of Azeri cuisine. The key to its flavor lies in the combination of herbs, which can vary seasonally but almost always include cilantro, dill, spinach and fresh mint. Depending on the region, it can also include chervil and sorrel. In the Qabala region, it has a distinctive taste with the addition of cabbage.
The cooling effect of yogurt is used in many cuisines especially in the Middle East. Also, Indians drink their minty lassi on hot days and consume their raita as a condiment to cool off the spiciness of some curries. Similarly, Greeks mix yogurt, garlic, cucumber and fresh herbs to make a refreshing cocktail known as tzatziki. Obviously, in Azerbaijan, a hot summer day inevitably means a bowl dovgha. Some people even drink it in a glass to cool off!
A variation of this soup, called abdug, is very popular in Southern Azerbaijan and Iran. This version does not include rice and is served in the summer with ice. It includes raisins, chopped nuts and rose petals and, people typically add toasted lavash in the soup at the table. Lavash is the Armenian bread that is as thin as paper, which is widespread in < a href = "https://www.196flavors.com/category/continent/asia/iran/">Iran, Turkey, and the Middle East.
And what if we were talking about yogurt?
Yogurt is milk that is fermented by the development of lactic bacteria. It is originally from Turkey . It was born thanks to the nomadic tribes of Central Asia who wanted to store milk and transport it easily. Yogurt was introduced in the eleventh century in the Middle East, and then by the Ottomans in the Balkans in the fourteenth century.
The origin of the milk clotting process dates back to even earlier times. Probably discovered by chance, it proved to be a valuable method of preservation. Its origin dates back to the beginning of agriculture and livestock, about 12,000 years ago.
In France, yogurt was introduced by King Francois Ier. In 1542, as we was suffering from digestive disorders, the king learned of a mysterious dairy product, which seemed to make wonders at the Court of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, ruler of the Ottoman Empire. His Turkish doctor who traveled by foot with his sheep, healed him in just a few weeks. It didn’t take much more to convince Francois Ier and his royal court. But, as his sheep were killed by the Parisian cold, the doctor traveled back to Constantinople, taking with him the secret of making his beverage: sheep’s milk yogurt. Yogurt was therefore forgotten until it resurfaced three centuries later.
Today, yogurt is a consumer product available worldwide that is even often homemade in the Turkic countries, the Balkans but also in the Middle East.
Yogurt is a very healthy, nutrient-rich dessert that offers many health and beauty benefits.
Among the benefits of yogurt:
– Good for digestion
– Good to soothe rashes and small burns
– Can help prevent diabetes
– Can protect bone health
Finally, ladies, keep in mind that yogurt nourishes all! You can even use it to nourish … your skin and your hair when they are dry, brittle or dull. A yogurt mask can give you a great complexion and gorgeous hair!
I loved this soup! I followed Feride’s recipe that is quick to prepare and quite simple. The longest part is to wash and chop the fresh herbs!
- 3 cups plain yogurt
- 8 oz. chickpeas (canned)
- 1 bunch cilantro , finely chopped
- 1 bunch dill , finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery , finely chopped
- 5 leaves mint , finely chopped
- ¼ lb spinach , finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic , minced
- 4 cups water (or more if the yogurt is too thick or to obtain a lighter soup)
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 egg
- ⅓ cup medium grain rice , rinsed and drained
- Black pepper
Place all the chopped herb in a colander and to drain the green juice, wash in cold water without squeezing them.
In a large pot over medium heat, combine yogurt, water, flour and egg until smooth.
Add rice and mix all ingredients, stirring constantly (very important) to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Continue stirring and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Add the fresh herbs, garlic and celery, stirring regularly. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes over low / medium heat, or until rice is cooked.
Finally add the chickpeas, stir well and take the pot off the heat.
Cool at room temperature or in the refrigerator to get a cold soup.
Add salt and pepper before serving.