Thursday, November 15, 2012

Eat: Afghan Bread from Akhavan

If you have ever been to Akhavan Supermarket, you already know what a treat it is to peruse the aisles of wonderful Iranian, Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern delights. Whenever I go, I feel like a kid in a candy shop; I can never leave without buying an item or two that I have never tried before. I highly recommend that you check out the following items/sections:

  • Meat & Cheese: Akhavan has an amazing selection of marinated meats ready for grilling,not to mention some cuts/meats that are difficult to find at Loblaws (ground lamb, shanks, etc). They also have akawi and halloumi cheese, some of the most delicious, salty goodness I have ever had. They also have a variety of 4-6 types of tzaziki sauce (Iranian, Greek, etc.); I always have a hard time choosing just one.
  • Nuts: If you like nuts, they have the freshest selection that I have seen. They also use many different roasts and seasonings, and the prices seem better than most elsewhere. I can't wait to have my braces removed so I can get back to shelled pistachios! The lemon pepper roast is so delicious.
  • Desserts (Baklava): The variety of baklava, halva and Turkish delight is astounding. Again, I find it hard to leave without buying some. I start out rationalizing just a piece or two but somehow walk out with a dozen.
  • Akhavan House brand dry products: Their house brand packaged beans, legumes, rice, spices, etc. couldn't be cheaper or fresher. Nothing looks like it sat on the shelf for years, aging away. I will often pick up something new (Hello Sumac!), because the prices are so reasonable that I feel safe to experiment
  • Akhavan House brand Frozen goods: Fruits and vegetables are packaged in clear, vacuum-sealed bags with no labels on them, so you can what you are getting, no surprises. They also have items that just aren't commonplace at the other stores (lima beans, passionfruit, yucky okra, etc.)
  • And finally, the bread.The whole reason for this post. First off, there is a great selection from many different cultures. Naan, pita, sourdough, challah; you can find most everything you are looking for and then some.
Akhavan is where I discovered Afghan bread. It caught my eye immediately but how could it not; the bread is about 4 feet long. It's hard to explain why it is so good, since on paper it would seem quite ordinary. But when it is fresh, the exterior has a soft chewy bite to it while the inside has an almost sweet challah-like egg bread quality. It is greatly superior to pita; I am sure pita would not be so popular if more people tried afghan bread. We buy afghan bread for something we call 'meze night'. When Marc & I are too lazy to cook, we head to Akhavan (or sometimes Tranzo, Le Maitre Boucher, or Atwater market) to get some charcuterie or sausage, cheese (such as grilled halloumi), tzaziki and/or hummus, a vegetable salad or slaw, some afghan bread and a bottle of wine. Zero effort, but a huge pay off. Honestly one of my favourite meals at home for a fraction of the cost that most these ingredients would command in a restaurant.

Also worth noting: the bread comes in a bag which has drawings and writing on it, advertising that Afghan bread is also good toasted,  as a pizza base, or in a sandwich. Normally I am rather sceptical of claims made on packages (Nutella is a healthy breakfast!) but once I tried toasting the bread with peanut butter and jam, I was sold. I love having leftover afghan bread now, since I know exactly what I am going to do with it.



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