I went to visit my Azeri friends a few weeks ago. It was such a treat for a preg chick. I have a bit of a problem, as I don’t really cook; but, since I got pregnant, I crave homemade, Azeri/Russian food more than ever. Oh, what wouldn’t I give for some dolma, or a proper shashlik right now! But, not only my mother is back in Baku for a while now, but also the only Azeri restaurant in London is now closed. Disaster!
So, imagine my happiness when I got invited for lunch at my friends’ place. I knew I would be fed some beautiful food, just like my mum would make for me. As soon as I walked in, I was overwhelmed by the cooking smells. Salads, Borsch and pirojki...I cant even describe how good it all tasted.
It was such an Azeri visit. Not only I ate an awful lot, but was told to relax on the sofa afterwards and take a nap. I laughed, but after a few minutes of sitting still staring at some (very) bizarre Russian stand-up comedy show on telly, I ended up snoozing away. Only to be woken up to have some freshly brewed tea with lovely jams and cookies.
As I got ready to leave, the host shouted for me to wait. She quickly gathered some things for me to take home. My friends often do that. Not only do you eat for 10 when during your visit; you also get to take some of the food with you. When I unpacked the bag later that night, I discovered:
- Two kotletas ( Russian pan-fried burgers)
- A large plate of plov
- A plate full of special dumplings originally from Kazakstan ( Manti) and, finally...
- A little blue box with two white sponges in it.
I was of course, very grateful, don’t take me wrong. However! I had to ask.
‘Please, tell’ I asked. ‘Why would you give me sponges? Is it some sort of a hint that my house needs a good clean? I know I have a dog and am not the best housekeeper in the world...'
My friend laughed. ‘No, no no!’ She said. ‘I just wanted you to experience these amazing sponges! Honestly, they clean without any soap or cleaning solution! You can clean absolutely everything you can think of with them! You must try!’
So I was not really that surprised when another Azeri girlfriend brought a box of chocolates, a lovely gift for my child and a pack of Russian chocolate butter when she came for lunch at my place.
‘What is this for?’ I pointed at the butter, and she shrugged ‘Oh, I just thought you might fancy it?’
‘Fair enough’ I said. Who knows? I just might.
But, speaking of this Borsch addiction. Maybe it is the cold outside, maybe it is the hormones...But I got desperate enough (especially after having tried some borsh at my azeri friends’ house) to attempt to make my own. And so I spent the whole day yesterday chopping, grating and boiling a tremendous amount of vegetables and meat. ‘I am sorry’ I told husband, ‘but there is enough for at least three days now’
‘Great’ said husband, ‘Vegetables and meat. Boiled in water. Hmm... My favourite. ‘