Cover photo by Country Life Vlog
There’s something completely magical about cooking over an open flame. Fire brings us together not just for sharing a meal, but for experiencing lasting moments of laughter, love, and community.
In the Common Flame, we discover how cultures across the world are united by a common love of cooking over an open flame. In this edition, we look at rural life in Azerbaijan where Aziza and her family care for their village and share their life with the world with their popular Youtube channel, “Country Life Vlog.”
“We love to share what we do at countryside, engage with nature, and make the most out of village life”— the Country Life Vlog
Meet Aziza and Her Family
If you browse Youtube looking for inspiration for your next recipe, you’re bound to come across the Country Life Vlog. Far from the bustle of Azerbaijan’s capital and nestled beneath the Greater Caucasus mountains, Aziza and her family live a life centered around delicious food and hard work.
The heart of the Country Life Vlog is Aziza and her family. They rise early to tend their garden, chickens, and cows, and gather fresh ingredients for their meals, and sometimes build the oven needed to make the dish! All the hard work is done with a smile. Watching their videos, you can’t help but feel their passion for family and life in the countryside.
Just a year ago, Aziza’s son and professional chef, Amiraslan, was working in a restaurant in their nation’s capital of Baku. Sadly, the restaurant was forced to close due to the pandemic. Amiraslan saw this as an opportunity to share their region’s dishes and way of life with the world. Amiraslan returned to his native village and began to create videos of his family at work preparing cozy and comforting dishes over an open flame. In a year, their Youtube channel has gathered over 450,000 subscribers with many of their videos reaching over one million views.
Cooking the Azerbaijani Way
Open-fire cooking is the cornerstone of Aziza and her family’s heritage. Traditional Azerbaijani cooking is done over wooden coals using an iron pan called a saj. Long ago, Azerbaijani’s ancestors were nomadic. They created the saj to satisfy any types of cooking need and could easily stash in their pack when it was time to get on the move. A saj is a slightly domed pan that resembles a shallow wok used for cooking and bread making, depending on which side of the pad is used. Meat and vegetables can be fried, sear, or stewed when the saj is placed dome-side down. Breads, such as flatbreads, pancakes, and crepes, can be made when the dome-side is placed downward.
The majority of their dishes feature fresh herbs and vegetables that seemingly sprout from the ground wherever they walk.
One of their most watched videos shows how they make a traditional Azerbaijani dish called Ajapsandali. Ajapsandali is a vegetable stew similar to ratatouille featuring tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, egg plant, horseradish leaves, mint, fennel, and even cherry leaves. The vegetables and herbs are washed, cut, and placed in a glass container with salt water and pepper to brine. A campfire fire is struck, the saj is placed above the fire. After onions are fried on the pan with a gracious amount of butter, Aziza adds the brined vegetables to saj and allows the ingredients to stew before serving with flatbread.
The fact that Aziza and her family are vegetable farmers doesn’t mean that meat is off the menu. T-bone steak, and turkey stuffed with carrots, apples, and lemon are just some of the mouthwatering dishes that grace their campfire.
If you’re inspired to make some delicious campfire dishes the Country Life Vlog way, we’ve gathered some recipes using a pan like the saj for you to try at home or on your next adventure.
Saj-Fried Chicken with Vegetables
T-Bone Steak with Vegetables
Recipe by Country Life Vlog
Dutch Oven Lid Flat Bread
Gasimova, N. “Azerbaijani Youtube channel about food and rural life hitting Taste life.” Day.Az, September 6, 2020. https://news.day.az/society/1268289.html
“Life in village. Gusar residents share delicious food recipes.” AzerNews, August 10, 2020. https://www.azernews.az/travel/167841.html