The full story
The quote ‘The night before the ship left for Australia, our family cooked together for perhaps the last time. But the meal was too salty from everyone’s tears’ was based on the story of a Afghani woman who migrated to Australia in the 1990s. This is her story.
One day I was walking to my niece’s home. Like all women, I was wearing a burkah. As I walked past a soldier he yelled, “I can see your feet! When are you going to be a true Muslim!” I knew that speaking up to a soldier was dangerous but in that moment I decided ‘this is no life’, so I shouted back: “It’s not your job.” The soldier pushed me down and hit me many times.
When I told my brother, he became very worried for our family’s safety, so he helped me escape. Everything was prepared for me. I was to leave my family, my two children and travel on my own to Pakistan, Indonesia and then to Australia where I believed I would be safe. The night before my departure my mother and my sister in-law made orange pollou. That evening there was extra salt in the recipe because of our tears.
Orange Pollou (Orange Rice)
3 cups of basmati rice
4 cups of water
750g meat (trim beef or lamb)
half cup sultanas
1 cup pistachios or blanched almonds (either or both)
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 orange or 70g of dried orange rind
5 threads of saffron
2 tsp caraway seeds or to taste
Peel orange and cut rind into julienne strips. Leave rind to dry for 2 days. Boil and drain rind twice to reduce the bitterness. Fry in oil. Before removing orange from pan, add sultanas and let them go “plump”. Add nuts and sugar to the mixture. Set to one side.
Before cooking rice, add saffron to water. Cook rice for 10 minutes. Stir in caraway seeds.
Cut meat into small 1 inch pieces, place in pan with lid and cook slowly until juices have evaporated. To serve, lay down layer of meat followed by a layer of rice and repeat a number of times, and scatter orange rind and nuts on top.
Cooking Stories was an exhibition that explored the significance of food in the culture and life of 19 individuals from refugee communities. The stories revealed the witty, tender and sometimes painful experiences of the journey to Australia. Elements of the exhibition, together with recipes also formed part of a cookbook titled ‘Cooking Stories’, edited by Julie Shiels and published by Museum Victoria.
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