I recently read ‘The Little Coffee Shop in Kabul – Deborah Rodriguez’ and it is now on my “favourite books ever” list. I loved how it told the story of 5 very different women, in a cultural setting so starkly different to mine with the perfect balance of heart ache, happiness, tension and a delicate balance of displaying a different culture honestly, yet respectfully. It highlights the beauty and tragedy of a war-torn country with humility but without bias, a rare gift of a writer who has lived this story or one very similar.
Deborah Rodriguez did live in Kabul and has a fascinating life story. I urge you to learn more about her and I’m hungry to read her other books. Amongst many things in her life, Deborah opened the first beauty school in Kabul. A momentous feat in a country where typically woman are illiterate and are rarely given the opportunity to do something for themselves.
There are awful crimes against women happening in Kabul, (and in many other countries, I know) and this book gave great insight into the plethora of layers of prejudice, pride and tradition. Despite all this, this book made me want to visit Afghanistan and it sounds absolutely beautiful. Sadly, visiting Afghanistan is not something anyone is likely to undertake as a tourist anytime soon. A travesty.
I happened across a few news article regarding women in Afghanistan (there are hundreds more online) that I wanted to share, just out of interest, here and here. It is a cause that has really stirred up a lot of feelings of wanting to help somehow, maybe by raising money for charity but part of me feels that many of the problems in Afghanistan stem from Western involvement and that it is a country that should be left to rebuild itself as it wants, with its own values. Do not for a second think I class the abuse and oppression of women as ‘values’ or ‘tradition’, there is a huge difference in tradition and removing a gender’s freedom and dignity but the fundamentalist views of the Taliban, despite quietly ruling the country, are a minority opinion; 40 years ago Afghanistan was a liberal, forward thinking Middle Eastern country.
In the book were several recipes, I was delighted to find them at the end, and I chose to make the Afghan Butter Cookies. The recipe can also be found online on a fantastic Afghan food and culture blog, definitely worth checking out.
- 0.75 cup of butter (~170 g)
- 0.75 cup of white sugar
- 2 egg whites
- 2 cups of rice flour (I used gluten free plain flour because the supermarket was out of stock of rice flour)
- 0.5 tsp of freshly ground cardamom
- 0.25 cup of roughly chopped unsalted pistachios
- 0.25 cup of shelled, whole pistachios
Edit: These can be made vegan but using dairy free ‘butter’ and 2 tsp of chia seeds soaked in 4 tbsp of water and then blitzed in a small food processor (to replace the egg whites)
- Preheat the oven to 180C and grease or line a large (or 2 small) baking tray.
- Beat the butter and sugar until smooth and light.
- Add the egg whites and mix until well combined and smooth.
- Bit by bit, add the rice flour, cardamom and chopped pistachios, ensure the mixture is well combined and smooth (except the pistachio chunks).
- Spoon and flatten tablespoons of dough onto the tray, spacing them apart, flatten them with the back of the spoon or a knife.
- Top each cookie with a whole pistachio and bake for 12-14 mins, you don’t want them to brown.
- Remove from the oven and let them cool. These cookies are quite delicate but ridiculously tasty and they just melt in the mouth. An exotic treat for sure.