Dominated by the Qizilqum desert, Uzbekistan is Central Asia’s most populous country.  About 80 percent of the country is flat desert, with mountain ranges rising in the far southeast and northeast.  The world’s largest open-pit gold mine is at Muruntau in the Qizilqum desert.
The oldest cities of Uzbekistan are more than 2,750 years old, and the most famous of them – Samarkand, is one of the oldest cities in the world.
Uzbekistan, along with Liechtenstein, is one of the only two doubly landlocked countries in the world.
Tashkent, the capital, has a metro station featuring chandeliers, marble pillars and ceilings, granite, and engraved metal. It has been called one of the most beautiful train stations in the world.  Along with Tashkent, some of the key highlights of Uzbekistan include The Ark at Bukhara (a royal town within a town dating back to the 5th century), the turquoise-tiled Kalta Minor Minaret, the desert citadels of Khorezm and Samarkand’s Registan Square, one of the world’s great architectural feats.
Under Soviet rule there was intensive production of cotton and grain leading to overuse of agrochemicals and depleted water supplies.  The land has been left degraded and the Aral Sea and certain rivers half dry.  Since it’s independence in 1991 the country is seeking to gradually lessen it’s dependency on cotton, while developing mineral and petroleum reserves.
Bread and noodles are of significant importance in the cuisine of Uzbekistan, thanks to much grain farming.  Mutton is the most popular meat choice due to a large sheep population.  Recipes I came across include Plov (pilaf of rice, meat, carrots & onions), shorpa (soup of mutton & vegetables), dimlama (stew) and manty (dumplings).  I opted to cook Samsas (savoury filled pastry, similar to samosas).
Rating: 7/10 – even though I thought I’d filled them well, I might be tempted to make less and fill them more!
Makes 8 small samsas
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
225g ground meat (I used ground lamb, but you can use a mixture of beef & lamb)
1 medium sized onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp salt
1 sheet of ready rolled puff pastry dough
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon olive oil
In a medium frying pan, cook the onion and garlic with 1 tablespoon of olive oil on a low heat until the onion is soft.
Add the ground meat to the frying pan, and cook the meat until browned about 5 minutes and take it off the heat.
Add the coriander, salt, ground cumin, and rub the cumin seeds between your fingers.
Let the meat & spices cool for 30 minutes (or more) before forming the samsas.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Roll the puff pastry so it is slightly thinner and cut into 8 equally sized pieces.
Mix the egg yolk with a few drops of water in a bowl.
Divide the meat into 8 portions.
Put one portion of the meat onto half of each piece of pastry. Brush the edges with the beaten egg mix.
Fold the dough in half and push the ends of the dough together to close the pastry.
Coat the tops of the pastry with beaten egg mix.
Cook for about 25-30 minutes until the dough is brown.
Let them cool a little and serve warm.

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