Friday, February 8, 2013


For the past week or so it seems that the daytime temperature has hardly dropped below zero.  This after the snowfalls of the week before means only one thing, lots of melting snow and ice, which in turn means puddles and mud. 

With the investment that has been made in paving the side walks over the past two or three years the situation these days is much better than it used to be when walking anywhere meant that ended up caked in thick mud. Now it is more of a case of going for a paddle.

Today I went to Rahat Market to do some shopping before walking the mile or so to Riverside Office to meet Sandra for lunch.
These are pictures of the pavements around Rahat.  The truck is stuck in the hole in the car park which is now full of water.
Walking out along Makhambet Street the side walk was not too bad, but the puddles were sometimes quite deep and the places with orange tiles were very slippery.
I noticed this lady negotiating a puddle which actually did cover the cuffs of her pants, and "snuck" a picture.  Of course the cars are all filthy. There is no way anyone can keep a car clean for more than a couple of minutes.  However the drivers are always very good at cleaning round the door handles so one can get in without getting too dirty.  I took a couple of pictures of passing cars to demonstrate my point, and then realised just how many of the cars in Atyrau are white. I will have to do a quick survey to investigate the car colours further, but my hypothesis is that about half of them are white, and then silver/grey is the next colour of choice.  This makes sense in a country where there are hot summers with lots of sunshine.
The walk along Abay Street to the river path was not bad but there are some slippery places, and the river path itself was pretty good.  Though the puddles were quite deep in places.  The one in the top left picture had little icebergs floating on it!
Like a lot of people here we are looking forward to the temperature dropping, the mud freezing and hopefully some new snowfalls to cover what will otherwise be icy pavements everywhere.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013


So it wasn't actually her birthday but the Saturday a couple of days before, which is much better day for a small party.  We decided just to invite some friends over and I would make the food.  As there were slightly too many people to have a formal sit down meal we decided to have food that was simple to eat buffet style...with fingers if necessary!

We had about twenty guests, and the party went on till after midnight.  

The menu was not very long. 
 Vine leaves which I stuffed with rice, onion, pine nuts, raisins, dill and sumac.
Small quiches with smoked local ham and cheese made with smetana because there is no fresh cream here.                                                                 
Swedish style meatballs of beef and pork with cranberry lingonberries here!

Vegetarian curry puffs with potato, onion, carrot and peas stuffing and mango chutney.   Falafel from dried chick peas, onion, parsley and cilantro.   Raw vegetables and tortilla chips with homous.

 Home made bread with butter.

Crispy spicy chicken wings with hot sauce.  Zucchini stuffed with a soft white cheese, a bit like feta and buckwheat, a bit unusual but OK.
We finished with halva and Turkish delight from Istanbul, and cookies that Marina had made and kindly brought along.

We had a very enjoyable evening, Sandra enjoyed her birthday and we are most appreciative of the friends that came and celebrated with us.


Last week I was invited to join some of the expat. ladies for lunch at a local Kazakh restaurant.  Ester and Mirana arrange these lunches about monthly to introduce newcomers (and old comers who haven't got round to things like me) to genuine Kazakh food.

We were honoured on this occasion by being given the part of the restaurant which was organised as a table from a traditional family yurt.  This was a privilege that I have to confess I met with some trepidation.  I once had a banquet with a client in a restaurant in Seoul, where after sitting on the floor for three hours with bent knees I could barely get up and walk after the meal.
However this was not too formal and there were, to be honest, a number of us that had to do a fair amount of wriggling and shuffling to prevent becoming locked in lotus positions.
The Yurt room was lovely with all the appropriate wall decorations.  There was also a traditional Kazakh wooden crib that Marina showed off.
Marina also took care of the ordering, which was a relief for all.
So these are the dishes that we had, all mainstream, and as delicious as any Kazakh dishes...

Beshbarmak is a dish consisting of boiled horse or mutton.  It is the most popular Kazakh dish. Beshbarmak means “five fingers”, so guess how one is supposed to eat it...we didn't. The essential ingredients are the meat (well boiled), potatoes, onions and pasta all served in a pile along with the broth they were cooked in.  Not surprisingly, as an additional incentive to eat this speciality, it is alledged to have amazing curative powers.  It hasn't fixed my cold though.  I didn't get a phot of the beshbarmak but it looked just about like the dish below.
Manti are dumpings (the stuffed pastry variety) and are popular in all Turkik countries, eating in some form or other across China, Mongolia and south east asia, and are stuffed with all sorts.  Usually here it is meat and sometimes pumpkin as well. They are not very spicy and usually cooked in a steamer.

Baursak are a type of doughnut, that is a fried pastry affair eaten as a savoury dish.  Again they are eaten in different shapes and forms from turket to the pacific ocean...and then as doughnuts across America and Europe as a sweet dish.

Borscht is a beetroot based soup.  It has stock and various vegetables in it, usually shredded, but the deep red colour is from the beetroot.  Sometimes there is some meat, but mot today.
Plov is rice cooked in a stock and sometimes fried onion. In a basic form it is little more than boiled rice, but more interesting versions may contain meat and vegetables.  Again, not exclusive to Kazakhstan.  I didn't take a picture.

Laghman is a popular noodle dish. It consists of thick homemade noodles covered in chopped vegetables and served in a stock.  Sometomes there is meat, and other times little broth.  On menus we often see lagman, but what appears to have some type of noodle as the only common factor.
We also had a clear soup with rice and meat balls in it.  This tasted pretty good.  There were a couple of cabbage pieces in it too, and chopped onions and dill garnish.
There was also a salad which we had to mix at the table.  The ingredients included raisins, canned tuna and a lot of mayonaise.  Once mixed the beetroot did its job and it became an exciting red concoction.
The most elaborate dish was chicken.  The meat had been ground and stuffed back into the skin of the leg and cooked.  A sort of chicken sausage.  It was decorated with tomato ketchup, and served with smashed potatoes.
At the end of the meal the crowd was well satisfied and some of us were a little mis-shapen as well!
It was a very nice way to get out and enjoy a variety of traditional Kazakh dishes.