The Afghan diet includes liberal amounts of yoghurt – either spooned onto plates alongside a main meal or whisked together with garlic and salt, and drizzled over savoury dishes to balance out other flavours.
This home-made yoghurt is rich and frothy, and tastes much earthier than shop-bought yoghurts. After the initial batch is made, keep a portion aside to use as the starter culture for your next batch.
Afghans also use yoghurt to make a special type of dairy product called chaka: the yoghurt is wrapped in muslin (cheesecloth) and hung up to drain for 4–5 hours. Once dried, the yoghurt hardens into chaka, which will keep for a week or so, refrigerated. Before serving, it is mixed with a trickle of water until it is thick and creamy again, and seasoned with salt to taste. Chaka has a sharp flavour and distinctive aroma. It can be used in place of yoghurt for aush soup and braised vegetable dishes such as banjaan borani and kadoo borani.
Bring the milk and bay leaves to the boil in a small saucepan, then remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool to 50°C (122°F) or until still hot, but not scorching or lukewarm, to touch.
Whisk the yoghurt into the milk until frothy, then pour into a clay pot or other suitable container, such as a glass or stainless-steel bowl. Cover the container with a clean tea towel and place a lid securely on top. Wrap the whole thing in a thick blanket and place it somewhere warm or at room temperature where it won’t be moved for 10 hours – it is important that the yoghurt is left undisturbed, or it will not set.
After the 10-hour setting period, place the yoghurt in the fridge, where it will keep fresh for 2–3 days.
© 2020 All rights reserved. Published by Murdoch Books.