South of Russia, Azerbaijan is on the west coast of the Caspian Sea with the Caucasus Mountains in the northwestern border of this republic. The oil rich capital is Baku, with a population of c. 2m. Marco Polo visited Baku in 1264 and witnessed the oil being collected, he said “there is a fountain from which oil springs in great abundance”. Azerbaijan gets its name from Atropates, a Persian nobleman. He ruled over the present-day Azerbaijan. His name evolved over a millennia, and in modern Persian translates to “The Treasury” and “The Treasurer” of fire or “The Land of the Fire”.
Azerbaijan is home to the first known fireplace, discovered in Azikh Cave, the largest cave in Azerbaijan, and also one of the ancient proto-human habitations in human history, that dates back to 700,000 – 500,000 years ago.
In 1879, the Nobel brothers, founders of Nobel Prize, set up their oil company in Azerbaijan; The Nobel Brothers Petroleum country. The Nobel brothers from Sweden acquired much of their wealth from Azerbaijan’s oil industry.
The former world chess champion Garry Kasparov hails from Baku.
Tea is the most popular drink in Azerbaijan. Traditionally served in a pear shaped glass, the drink is often consumed through lumps of sugar or jam, held in the mouth.
A few of the popular dishes in Azerbaijan cuisine include Plov (saffron covered rice), Dolma (minced and spiced lamb wrapped in vine leaves), and Dyushbara (meat dumplings). Also very popular are kebabs, which is what I opted to cook – Lyulya (lamb kebab). There is an Azerbaijan restaurant near Ravencourt Park, where they serve ‘Lulle’ kebab for £9.49.
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Serves 2 as a large starter
220g lamb neck fillet
1/2 onion chopped
Salt & pepper
Blend the lamb, suet and onions in food processor. Add salt, pepper and then leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Rinse your hands in salted water, mould into 6 sausages and skewer.
Preheat the grill and cook for 10-15 minutes, turning so they are brown on all sides.
Serve with flatbread and chutneys.