A Picnic Potato Salad in the Afghan Manner: Borani Kachalu

Baba tells me that Bobby Darin’s Dream Lover would play repeatedly at picnics with his friends in 1960s Lahore. But for real affectation, there had to be some Françoise Hardy. Baba also tells me that if you didn’t know her hit La maison où j’ai grandi, or at least pretend to know it, then you were essentially a nobody.

And there were no picnic invitations for nobodies.

Françoise Hardy

Françoise Hardy

For a March picnic in Lahore, the dastarkhan would be laid out under the shade of the mango trees, and everyone would tuck into spicy beef kebabs, dipping them into a verdant yoghurt and mint sauce. The girls, with their Twiggy-esque hairdos and aquamarine dusted eyelids, would take delicate sips of coca-cola with the straws bobbing up and down in the small bottles. There would be finger-thin cucumber sandwiches with just the right amount of slathered butter and a waxy, creamy potato salad made by my grandmother, Mader with her homemade mayonnaise.

As the kebabs and sandwiches disappeared, a bowl full of chikoo and a paring knife would be placed on the dastarkhan. Brown and potato skin-like on the outside, the knife would slice through each chikoo revealing its malty sweetness. Everyone would take a half of the chikoo and suck out the caramel-sweet flesh.

The flasks containing sabz chai-green tea- would emerge, poured into small glass mugs, the fragrance of cardamom mingling with the Spring air of Lahore. Everyone would drink the tea while biting into thumb-size pieces of dried apricot as Bobby Darin played on in the background.

Wishing my Baba a very Happy Father’s Day.

Borani is a a cold yoghurt-based Afghan dish. Borani Kachalu is a dish of potatoes sautéed in a garlic and ginger-infused tomato sauce. A creamy yoghurt with aromatic dried mint is poured over it and mopped up with naan. I find this to be the perfect picnic food- a sort of Afghan-style potato salad if prepared with small fingerling potatoes (or other small boiling potatoes), slathered with yoghurt instead of mayonnaise.

Photo credit of chikoos: The Famous Tourist Destinations

Serves 4 as a side dish

*1-2 tbsp olive oil
*1/2 tsp fresh minced garlic
*1/2 tsp fresh minced ginger
*1/2 cup (8 tbsp) tomato sauce/passata or crushed tinned tomatoes
*1lb fingerling potatoes, sliced into 1/8 of an inch thick disks
*1/8 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
*1/8 tsp cayenne (add up to a 1/4 tsp if you so like)
*3/4 cup yoghurt thinned with 2 tbsp water (not of the thick Greek genre)
*1 tsp dried mint + extra for garnish

*Place large frying pan on medium heat and add olive oil.
*Once the oil is heated through, add garlic and ginger and sauté 30 seconds till fragrant.
*Add tomato sauce, turmeric and cayenne and stir for one minute and add potato disks.
*Stir for 2-3 minutes, ensuring that each disk is coated with oil and tomato sauce.
*Sprinkle some water on top of potatoes, and cover pan with a lid or with foil and turn the heat to low.
*Allow potatoes to cook in their own steam for 15 minutes. At the 10 minute mark remove the lid/foil and insert a knife into the potato to test for doneness.
*When done, a knife should slide through freely. The tomato sauce should look thick, coating the potatoes.
*Allow potatoes to come to room temperature. In the meanwhile, prepare the spiced yoghurt.
*Add 2tbsp of water to yoghurt and whip. Add dried mint and salt to taste.
*When ready to serve, arrange potatoes in your dish and drizzle with yoghurt. Dust with dried mint.



  1. Love this. Such a flavorful and healthy take on potato salad. This gives me the perfect excuse to buy fingerlings at the farmer’s market. Thanks, Shayma. Xoxo.

  2. What a wonderful post ! I want to try your potatoes ! Ciao !

  3. This looks so much nicer than the usual mayonnaise based potato salad (though I still have a soft spot for a Japanese potato salad!).

  4. Shayma

    I can’t believe my eyes! I grew up humming Françoise Hardy’s tunes!
    Love that potato dish, so refined and full of flavor.
    When will I ever get to go to Lahore?

  5. Beautiful post, as always. xxx

  6. What a wonderful post and a delicious sounding recipe. Brava! xoxoxo

  7. Our parents are so lucky to have seen Pakistan in the 60s, the stories I hear make it sound so swinging and cool. Love the blue eyelids and dramatic eyeliner and big bouffants.

    Lovely potato salad, nice and refreshing. Delicious, could use some right now!

  8. Ah, my husband taught me this music! And I love this potato dish with the yogurt sauce. Beautiful and certainly the perfect summer sidedish! Lovely post.

  9. i LOVE this story and i am looking forward to trying this recipe.

  10. gourmand says:

    As always a touching story woven around a great recipe…where ‘nobodies’ not invited…hmmmmmm! Quite snooty this Lahori crowd eating grilled stuff, swinging to Boby Darin and Ricky Nelson, and shaking their hips to Elvis the Pelvis!!!

    Keep them rolling, Spicey…these mouth watering delicacies.

  11. Love the 60s, les annees yéyé, a la francaise! Evocatively written post ….x

  12. Such a beautiful potato salad! 😀

  13. That looks properly delicious. None of that horrible mayonnaise monstrosities most picnics have!

  14. Shayma – I’m always looking for a different kind of potato salad to try, especially ones not drowning in mayonnaise (my wife’s request, I must say), and this one looks to fit the bill perfectly. And what of Francois Hardy…I am in Paris for a visit and must look for some of her music while I’m here. Cheers – S

  15. What a delicious post! I haven’t had a chickoo since I was last in Bangladesh. I really want Francoise Hardy’s fringe…

  16. Nice picture and recipe for potato salad. Here are some more suggestions: http://idahopotato.com/potato_salads?gclid=CJS3x_SKxKICFQMTawodllvB3A

  17. What a gorgeous take on potato salad! It looks so elegant, but then that is what the tale of picnics past lends itself too. I’m definitely going to need to make this.

  18. Shayma, more than your recipes I really love your nostalgia and recollection of days gone by, as well as the loving references to your family. A beautiful blog.

  19. First the recipe, I like the sound of this very much. I often cook potatoes in thick slices stove top, part fry, part steam, sometimes with artichokes, it is probably one my favourite ways to prepare them actually. I have made a note of this recipe. You paint such a good picture of the picnic. My granny kept Bobby Darin’s dream lover on her pub juke box for years.

  20. Javaid R. Shami says:

    I remember those picnics well as I do the music, even though O’ forgot to mention Frank Sinatra’s Strangers in the Night and The Stones’ (I can’t get no) Satisfaction!

  21. Brinda Srinivasan says:

    Shayma,Loved your Baba’s blog-such nostalgia as Francoise Hardy’s songs were universally loved by us all-sentimental and romantic that they were!Beautiful times they were the 60’s!The recipe was ofcourse delicious and soon to be experimented with!

  22. Your writing is as beautiful as your recipes. You continue to be one of my favorite foodie blogs.

  23. maya kumar says:

    Among all the many fruits of South Asia fruits, the chikoo holds a special place for its sweetness and texture. Totally unavailable in Michigan!

  24. Thanks for sharing the recipe! Afghan dishes are always yummy and wonderful. I ate Yoghurt based Borani Kachalu during my winter trip to Afghan. I loved the taste!

  25. How beautifully you capture memories and <les temps perdu. I love this story about your father’s picnics in 1960s Lahore.

    I made a double batch of this Potato Salad, hoping I could enjoy it over several days. To no avail: It disappeared very quickly from the fridge.

  26. This salad was delicious. I had trouble stopping myelf eating it when it was hot, it was so good.

  27. Christina says:

    I am trying this for supper tonight! I’m already looking forward to having the left-overs for tomorrow’s lunch 🙂

  28. A bored reader says:

    Dear Shayma,
    I read a lot of food web sites and I came across your blog through a link. I started reading with some interest and soon I realized that this is a blog where you get to talk about YOU. The recipes are mildly interesting … but it is all about you and your childhood and your snooty attitude … and good grief … pictures of yourself. I understand a lot of people blog because they are too self-involved but for g-sake, get over yourself. And if you are all that, please use correct grammar.
    Sincerely – Too Bored About Shayma Reader

  29. I was brought up to believe a very simple concept: if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say it all.

    There really is no lower form of pond life than the anonymous troll, who holds such a strong opinion yet is so weak as to hide behind a screen of anonymity. Unless they have the balls to use their real name, then their comment is as naught.

    The very nature of blogging is personal. To take exception to a blogger talking about their life is utterly pointless. If you just want recipes, buy a recipe manual.



  30. Maria S. says:

    @bored reader:

    Sweetheart, the “about me” section of this blog clearly states this is a food MEMOIR. Perhaps before advising someone to use proper grammar, you should first learn how to read?

    @spicespoon: keep up the great work – there’s a reason you were named one of the Independent’s top 50 food blogs!

  31. Christopher E. Kulbeda says:

    Sounds quite good although I am not a fan of mint in my cooking. I might go with some fresh Cilantro instead!

    • @Chris Thank you- I suggest the use of fresh cilantro in many of my recipes, and I know there are a lot of people who don’t like cilantro- everyone should feel free to substitute with whichever herbs they prefer 🙂 Best wishes, shayma


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