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Afghan refugees

Recipes from Home: Hafeza’s delicious Afghan Bolani recipe

Earlier this year, the International Rescue Committee in Greece hosted cooking workshops that brought together refugee and local women living on the Greek island of Lesbos. Some of the women who took part talked to us about their experience and shared the recipe of the dish they made for group. Below, Hafeza presents her recipe for Afghan Bolani.

Wearing an apron, Hafeza stands in front of a building holding a plate of Afghan Bolani.
Photo: Stefania Mizara/IRC

Since fleeing Afghanistan four years ago, Hafeza, 26, has been living with her two children in Mytilene, a village on the island of Lesbos. Sixty-three percent of the refugees and asylum seekers trapped on Lesbos are from Afghanistan, which is experiencing an escalating political and humanitarian crisis 

“My mother taught me the recipe,” Hafeza told us. “When she was in the kitchen, I went to check what she was doing. I asked her what she was cooking, and she told me “Bolani,” and then she taught me how to make it.” 

“It's delicious and I like it a lot.” 

Follow the recipe to learn how to make Afghan Bolani.

Ingredients (serves six):

  • 4 cups flour  
  • Pinch salt 
  • 1½ teaspoons dried yeast 
  • Chili powder and/or chili flakes to taste
  • 4 medium potatoes
  •  ¾  cup chopped spring onions
  • 1  tablespoon oil (plus oil for frying)
  • Plain Greek yogurt
Ingredients for Afghan Bolani arranged a on a table with a green tablecloth. They include potatoes and salt.

This Afghan Bolani recipe serves approximately six people.

Photo: Stefania Mizara/IRC

Steps:

  • Mix together flour, yeast and salt in a bowl. Slowly add warm water and the tablespoon of oil until the dough comes together in a ball. Knead the dough several minutes until firm, then wrap the bowl in cellophane and set aside.
  • Boil the potatoes. Test by piercing with a knife, and when tender, rinse in cold water. When cool enough to handle, peel.
In a kitchen, two women, both masked, talk to one another as they mix flour and spices in a large bowl.

The workshops were held in Nan restaurant in Mytilini on the island of Lesbos.

Photo: Stefania Mizara/IRC
  • Put the potatoes in a bowl and mash with a spoon, adding the chopped green onions. Season the mix with pepper and chili spices to taste.
  • Separate dough into six equal pieces. Press each piece into an even, flat circle. Place a spoonful of the potato mixture in the middle of each circle and distribute evenly, leaving space at the edges. Fold the circles in half.
In a kitchen, Hafea stands next to one woman and shows her a technique while two additional woman sit on the other side of a counter watching.

"The refugee women were excited to have a proper kitchen with all the utensils to cook in and to learn about Greek ingredients and food," said Martha Roussou, senior advocacy manager for the IRC. "The local women were also impressed by the combination of spices, intricate techniques and flavors from the refugee women’s cooking,"

Photo: Stefania Mizara/IRC
  • Heat cooking oil in a frying pan.  When very hot, add one or more of the folded half circles to the pan (be careful as the oil may splatter). Turn and cook until both sides of the Bolanis are brown and crisp (like the photo). 
  • Remove the Bolanis from the pan as they cook and rest on paper towels to soak off excess oil.
  • Serve with Greek yogurt and enjoy!
A dish of Afghan Bolani on a grey table. The dish consists of a fried piece of dough made of flour and potatoes, cheese and green herbs.

Recipes from Home

This recipe is the first in our Recipes from Home series. These recipes were shared by refugee and Greek women who took part in the IRC’s cooking workshops held at Nan restaurant on the Island of Lesbos in Greece. The aim of the workshops was to bring together local and refugee women to promote common experiences and mutual understanding through the universal language of food. 

The cooking workshops were supported by the Western Union Foundation.

Learn more about the IRC's work in Greece.