Knowing that their families in Kabul were struggling to put food on the table provided a strong incentive for the women to make some extra money to send home. It wasn’t more than a few days after settling into their new lives that the women turned their focus back on their families and the struggles they would face.
While they were waiting for their work permits to be fast-tracked they were unable to seek regular employment, so they decided to use this time to lay the groundwork for their new business venture.
Their business idea was a simple one: they would sell Bolani, a traditional Afghan flatbread stuffed
with potatoes, fresh cilantro, and peppers, to the local neighbourhood. Although referred to as a bread, bolani is generally served as a main meal and not just as an accompaniment. It is very much part of the staple diet of the Afghan people.
Parwana was nominated as head chef. Although she was the youngest of the group at only seventeen, she had great confidence and passion for cooking. As the oldest in her family back in Kabul, she had learned how to cook by the age of ten. Her bolani recipe was derived from an old family recipe handed down over generations and assigned to her memory a long time ago.
Their first task was to find out if the Irish people’s palette would stretch to include this tasty but spicy flatbread so a message went out to the entire WhatsApp group.
On Friday there would be a sampling of bolani to anyone who would like to try it. If the orders were in by 5pm then bolani would be delivered to their doorstep. Before long the orders began to fly in. It seemed that everyone wanted to sample this Afghan specialty and to support the ladies’ new venture. The final order for Friday was over fifty bolani and all to be delivered.
Parawana had never made bolani on such a mass scale before so, with her room mate Zari, they set about planning the list of ingredients and quantities they would need.
Their host’s house was filled with the delicious aroma of home cooking. The other women rallied around them to drink tea and to help where they could. Six hours later they had kneaded and pan-fried fifty-six bolani and transferred them into insulated food bags to keep them warm for their journey.
After a long night of going from house to house, the ladies went home and put their feet up. The WhatsApp messages were already coming through. The bolani was ‘delicious’, ‘fantastic’, ‘so tasty’. Parwana and her sous chefs were over the moon with the wonderful feedback. This exercise gave them the confidence to broaden their horizons and take the next big step.
They are now scheduled to make bolani every Friday evening in a fully equipped industrial kitchen in their local town. They will be selling bolani to the local community who have already heard so much about these wonderful people and their delicious Afghan bread.
This income is earmarked to go back to their families. It’s not a huge amount of money in our terms, but it will certainly help put bread on their tables back in Kabul.