Friday, April 8, 2016

Chef Rafael.

Chef Rafael.

We spent the rest of our only day in Qabala in our guesthouse.  As far as guesthouses were concerned, we only checked out one place.  We probably should have checked out a couple more but I think we were feeling really lazy and the first place we went to got Pat's thumb of approval so that's where we ended up.  The owner, his wife and their young son were there to greet us when we arrived.  They were so friendly and hospitable from the get go that even if the accommodations turned out to be so so, I would have stayed just because they were so kind.

We got settled into our rooms and made some adjustments (e.g., Pat got my space heater since I prefer to sleep in a cold room) to make ourselves comfortable. 

Pat's room.

The bathroom that's attached to Pat's room.  The toilet and shower are behind the door on the left.   kitchen is on the other side of the window.

Looking from the kitchen back into Pat's bathroom and bedroom.

My room.  I think it used to be (or still is?) the living room.

The kitchen which I thought was nicely appointed.  Rafael was going to sleep on the sofa.

The front yard.  That's our car.
We had chickens in the front yard.

A small wood burning stove in the kitchen. Kept the room warm.....

....kept the tea warm too!!

Then, we headed to the kitchen where Rafael was already getting down to doing some cooking.  I had a feeling he enjoyed cooking and if he's like me, it's a very therapeutic activity.  As much as I would have loved to help him out, I stood back and let him go at it.

He started by cooking up the morel mushrooms for Pat and I to have as a snack.  We hadn't had lunch today so we were both ready for something to tie us over to dinner time.

The morels.  Nuggets of deliciousness just begging for me to eat them!!

Ack!!  He's washing the mushrooms!  I would have just brushed off the dirt.

Had a hard time focusing my lens with just one hand but I wanted to take this photo to show the size of this mushroom!

Our hostess, a very lovely woman.  She would come into the kitchen to check on the fire.  Otherwise, she left us alone.

Our hostess had the prettiest knife set I've ever seen.  I don't know how sharp they were but Rafael was okay using them.

Rafael also prepped dinner which as best as I can describe it is a lamb stew.

Washing the veggies for the stew.

Layering the meat and the veggies into the pot.  Rafael salted the dish as he went along.


He topped off the meat and veggies with a layer of cilantro, dill and purple basil.
The stew pot is on the stove. 

Rafael melted some butter in a skillet and added the mushrooms to it.

The mushrooms cooked away on the stove, next to the stew pot.

It didn't take long for the mushrooms to cook and thankfully so as we were hungry.  We tore off pieces of the loaf bread that our hostess in Qaraqaya had given us to go with the mushrooms.  It was the perfect vehicle to hold up a piece of morel or to sop up that delicious mushroom sauce with.  The mushroom flavored butter sauce was to-die-for delicious!

The mushrooms shrunk a bit after cooking but they were still big!

Pat and I enjoyed the mushrooms - meaty, slightly spongy in texture and full of flavor.  I kept thinking if only I had an aged bone in rib eye steak to go with them, the meal would truly be complete!!  Rafael had never had morels before so at my urging, he tried a teeny, weeny bit. The guy's not a very adventurous eater :-). He said he like it though....not sure if he really meant it or said it just to get me off his back. Selfishly, I'm glad he really didn't like them all that much - more for Pat and I to enjoy :-)

A very meaty morel and big enough that it would take at least two bites to eat.

About 2 hours after Rafael put his pot of lamb stew on the wood burning stove, it was ready for eating.

The usual tomato and cucumber salad with a side of cilantro.  You can't have an Azeri meal without this salad.

Rafael opened a bottle of hayva kompote. Hayva is quince and kompote is simply water and sugar. Like the feijoa one we had last night, this basically tasted like a sugared water with a light flavor of quince. Personally, I would water it down some more to lighten up on the sweetness.


I was still a bit full from our snack of morels and bread so I didn't have a big portion but it was delicious! I have to say that Rafael added just the right amount of salt and pepper to the dish. 

Proudly dishing out his stew for his two guests.

While I enjoyed the lamb stew, I have to admit, I much prefer the barbecued lamb.

After dinner, Pat and I relaxed in the kitchen while we sent Rafael out to meet up with a friend.  Before leaving, Rafael kindly set up his phone as a hotspot so we could use the internet if we needed to.  That was a very thoughtful gesture on his part as I am sure he has to pay for data.

Rafael returned a few hours later, apparently looking to Pat as if he was drunk when he entered the house. In fact, he had stumbled on a rock on his way back to the house and had sprained his left ankle!! Yes, his left ankle!! The same ankle I had sprained!! I could not believe it when she came to my room to tell me the news.

When I got to the kitchen, the poor guy was sitting on the couch, very much in pain. I know the feeling all too well!!! Immediately, I started to look for something in the fridge or freezer that I could put on his ankle to chill it down. The only thing in the freezer was a small chicken. That wasn't going to do. Rafael put a wet paper towel in the freezer and I knew that wouldn't work either as the paper would simply stick to the bottom of the freezer. I managed to find two kitchen towels so I dampened them and put them in the freezer for a few minutes. I then alternated applying them to his ankle so we could keep it cold.



When our hostess entered the room, Rafael told her what happened and had her put together a home remedy that he would apply to his foot. Apparently, it was a concoction that his mother used when he was a young child and sprained his ankle. It was essentially a dough made from flour, water and some of the butter we had bought earlier today. I continued to chill down his foot as the woman worked on the concoction.


Then the host of the house appeared with a first aid kit. Inside was a roll of gauze. Under instruction from Rafael, the man stretched the piece of dough and draped it around Rafael's injured foot. He then wrapped the gauze around the foot. When he was done, Rafael, Pat and I all had to take photos of the foot. My photo came out a bit blurry but we were all amused at the sight! Two left ankles, in bandages.


By the time we left Rafael, he seemed to be in better spirits though I'm sure he was still in some pain. I hope he's better tomorrow as unlike me, who can just sit back and relax, he needs to use his left foot to drive our manual transmission car. If he's still in pain, I think a visit to the clinic is in order. Gabala is a big enough town that they should have a clinic here. Never a dull moment :-)

Twinsies.  I stuck my left photo next to Rafael's so we could take a photo.

Tomorrow, we hit the road to Sheki.  Hopefully, Rafael will be able to get us there :-)

Goodnight from Gabala!!