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Laily cooks … Afghan style

Students tend to go for food that can be easily and quickly prepared. Trainee teacher Laily Moradi has a different philosophy. She favors slow cooking – rich stews with rice, freshly baked bread and handmade cheese.


”Preparing an Afghan meal takes time,” says Laily (38), who has Afghan roots but grew up in Munich. Eating together is a central element in Afghan life, “and Afghans are mad about cooking,” she adds.

Certainly the varied menu she has prepared for her family and friends this evening cannot have been rustled up in a half-an-hour! We begin with burani kadoo – pumpkin in a sweet and spicy tomato sauce. “In Afghanistan burani kadoo is a festive dish,” she explains. The pumpkin is seasoned with freshly ground cardamom, coriander and rose-water. No matter what Laily cooks, she is very fastidious about seasonings, tinkering and tasting until she is satisfied that the blend of flavors is just right. “Afghan dishes generally don’t follow fixed rules – we prefer to follow our instincts,” she says.

Then Laily starts to make the cheese which she intends to serve this evening for dessert: In a large pot, she brings a mixture of milk, cream and yogurt to the boil and then adds lemon juice – to separate the proteins and the fats from the water. “That’s something one learns in elementary biology.”

At LMU Laily is studying biology and doing her training as a primary-school teacher, while also taking courses in Islamic Religion at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. She has just taken a semester off, but continues to attend lectures. For Laily has three children – the eldest is 16, her youngest 6. “Having three children means being a mother for much of the day,” she says as she dashes about in her kitchen. “I study in the evenings and at night.” And in contrast to other students who take a semester off, those who have children can attend seminars during their period of leave. “It will take me a little longer – but everyone knows that I have kids, so that’s OK.”

And she also needs, and takes, time when she’s cooking. She’s now occupied with the main dish for this evening – a lamb stew with Basmati rice and cumin, accompanied by khorma kachalu (potatoes in a tomato sauce flavored with ginger, and freshly baked naan bread. She mixes the ingredients – flour, dried yeast, salt and water – for the bread, carefully kneads the dough and sets it aside to rise. An hour-and-a-half later, the dough is portioned out, carefully flattened and placed in the pre-warmed oven. The result is worth the wait: When Laily takes the bread out of the oven, the kitchen is redolent with the scent of the sesame and black cumin seeds she had sprinkled on top of the dough.

Apart from cooking and eating the results, there is one other thing else that is tremendously important for Afghans, and for Laily: Hospitality – guests are always welcome. That means that her cousin can bring along a friend who just happened to come by. “There’s enough for everybody,” she says, as she sits down with all of her guests. “And I’m happy as long as everyone enjoys what I put on the table!”

If you are an international student at LMU and you enjoy cooking, you too can be one of our Cooks on Campus. Just drop us a line (, and we will reimburse the cost of your menu (up to a maximum of 100 euros).

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