‘For too long, the dominant narrative surrounding Afghanistan has been trapped in the idea of its conquest, taming and manipulation by those who seek to control it. Images of violence and catastrophe almost always prevail,’ writes Durkhanai Ayubi in Parwana, the eponymous cookbook of her family’s restaurant. Its pages are an antidote to such images, picturing rice dishes studded with jewel-like fruit, rich meat curries and golden dahl, and sweets dusted with sugar so delicate they could float off the paper.
The recipes come from Parwana Afghan Kitchen in Torrensville, a mile west of Adelaide, which opened in 2009 – 22 years after Durkhanai’s parents, Zelmai and Farida Ayubi, fled from Afghanistan with their young family at the height of the war with the Soviet Union.
‘Parwana began with my mother Farida and her intuition that, as migrants to Australia, it was increasingly important that we preserve the customs, flavours and essence of our Afghan cuisine, and also share it with those in our new home,’ Durkhanai writes. ‘She carried with her a love for her traditional food and the rituals that sit alongside it.’
Mantu (dumplings intricately folded to conceal a stuffing of cabbage and carrot), hand-rolled flatbreads and kofta, often served with layers of sauces and dressings, made it on to the menu; in the book, Durkhanai weaves recipes for them (her mother’s) through the story of her native country’s history, its rulers, conflicts and culture.
Along with tales of her own family (her grandfather’s apricot, apple and pear trees, which he planted ‘mostly for the beauty of their blossoms’; their kebabs being cooked ‘over hot coals during the celebrations of Eid’), she shares the dishes – including those below – that have shaped their lives and which will bring beauty to any kitchen around the world.
‘Parwana: Recipes and Stories from an Afghan Kitchen’ by Durkhanai Ayubi (Murdoch Books, £20). Order a copy from books.telegraph.co.uk