Pilaf is a dish very widely popular in Middle East, mid-Asia, India… There are hundreds of versions, recipes and even names for this dish, but its essence stays the same – it is rice cooked with vegetables, spices and meat. Here’s my take on it, as I learned from a friend coming from the city of Fergana, in Uzbekistan.
- 7 oz of lamb fat, cut into 1/2″ cubes
- 2.5 lb of lamb meat, cubed (preferably – leg or shoulder)
- 2.5 lb carrots, cut into matchsticks
- 4-5 onions, chopped
- 5-6 garlic cloves, chopped
- 3 cups of long grain rice, such as Persian or Basmati
- 1/2 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tbsp whole black peppercorns
- 1/2 tbsp allspice, whole
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 3-4 bay leaves
So, first of all, pilaf is traditionally made in a dish called “kazan”. In simple, it’s an older brother of a wok, made of cast iron.
In a way, it’s an Asian version of a dutch oven. You can, of course, cook it in a saucepan, but do make sure it has a heavy bottom.
So, here goes:
Step 1 – heat the pot on a very high heat without any oil or fat. When it’s hot, place the lamb fat cubes in and let it melt. When you see the bottom side became golden brown, flip the fat cubes so the other side melts as well. Once done, take the golden brown fat cubes out and either discard, or … you may want to add some salt and taste it. It’s a very interesting taste, you may like it.
Step 2 – place the chopped onion and garlic into the hot fat in the pot. Fry it, stirring from time to time, until golden.
Step 3 – add the meat cubes and fry them until they change color, about 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Step 4 – add the carrots, in a single layer over the meat. Do not mix just yet! Let the carrots steam for about 3-4 minutes.
Step 5 – add the salt, pepper, peppercorns, allspice, bay leaves, cumin seeds and 1 tsp of ground cumin, mix well and fry for another 2-3 minutes.
Step 6 – add boiling water to cover the meat about 2″, bring to rolling boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and cook for about 1 hour.
Step 7 – after 1 hour, taste and correct seasoning. Then lay out the rice in a single layer and cover with water to reach about 1.5″ on top of the rice. Do not stir.
Step 8 – bring to boil, then lower the heat to medium and cook, half covered, until all water is absorbed.
Step 9 – cover tightly, lower the heat to minimum and let steam for about 25-30 minutes, or even 1 hour.
When serving, it’s best to put a big tray on the pot and then simply turn it over. That way we will get the meat on the bed of rice, just like this: