Azerbaijan is a diverse country with plains, mountains (Caucasus Mountains), and coastline (Caspian Sea), and the climate is temperate. The cuisine is very rich and colorful, but traditional cooking has changed considerably over the past century due to external political influences. During the Soviet period, many changes were made to the society at large. Azerbaijani cuisine went through a considerable transformation when a number of Russian dishes were imported into the local cooking, including stolichniy (potato salad), pirozhki (stuffed dough), or blinchiki (pancakes stuffed with meat or cheese). All these dishes are now accepted and considered as local.
Today, Azerbaijan, like the rest of the world, is subjected to a wave of imported fast foods that imitate European and American styles. Despite these trends, you can still find many dishes in Azerbaijan that belong to the traditions of the past. Shekerbura is one of the traditional pastries usually baked for Novruz, one of the most important holidays in Azerbaijan. It’s not a religious holiday, but the celebration of the coming of spring, and the renewal of nature. Novruz was celebrated in pre-Islamic times, and according to tradition, originates in Babylon. Shekerbura consists of nuts and sugar wrapped in pastry dough. The outer surface is then intricately decorated using a special tool. The recipe for Shekerbura traditionally passes from generation to generation, and each family adds its own special touch. Considering the surprising simplicity of the ingredients used in the recipe, the final result is just spectacular.
It is an Azerbaijani tradition for girls to learn cooking in their families. Born and raised in Baku, Bahar watched and learned as her mother prepared meals. Later, Bahar was busy with her studies in college and did not have very much time to devote to cooking until she finished university. After she got married she started cooking for her family and her skills were heightened by her passion for traditional Azerbaijani cuisine.
She moved to Los Angeles when her husband was invited to work as a university researcher, but she did not forget her cultural background, and she still cooks traditional Azerbaijani dishes. Here are a couple of her favorites.