For too long now, Central Asia has been overlooked as a viable travel destination. Despite being at the heart of the ancient Silk Road trade for millennia and profoundly shaping the world we live in today, Central Asia remains one of the earth’s most misunderstood places. This book seeks to use food to provide you with a unique window into these fascinating, and largely unexplored cultures, and then equip you with the knowledge to cook up a little of Bukhara or Mary in your own kitchen. I want to help you use your taste buds to explore the richness of Central Asian history and tradition, and provide a gastronomic tour around cities that have played, and will continue to play, a key role in the region’s drama-laden narrative.
You might be thinking, “Hang on, isn’t that Turkish?”, and given that the dish takes its name from its Turkish creator, Iskender Efendi, you would be right. The fact that a dish so quintessentially Turkish has gained such popularity in Azerbaijan’s capital says a lot about the extent of the cultural influence exerted from the west. Make sure you order this with a frothing glass of Ayran.
450g beef tenderloin/steak
4 medium tomatoes
2 green chili peppers
1 cup tomato sauce (or can of crushed tomatoes)
2 tbsp of melted butter
Salt, pepper and garlic (to taste)
3-4 pieces pita bread
Season the meat with salt and pepper and fry with butter on medium-high heat. Leave in the pan when done. Turn your grill to medium-high heat (or preheat
the oven to 205°C). Cut tomatoes in half and grill with the chili peppers. Put canned tomato sauce in a saucepan, add salt, pepper, one tablespoon of butter and two finely chopped roasted tomatoes. Cook over low heat (5 minutes).
Take the meat out of the pan, and slice it as thin as possible. Place pieces of meat back in the frying pan and mix well with the residual juice. Crush the garlic, and mix into the yogurt with salt. Mix well.
Warm up the pita and cut into diamonds before layering on plate. Spread the meat evenly over the layer of pita. Pour the tomato sauce on top and place a few spoons of yogurt on the side. Garnish with the grilled tomatoes and chili peppers.