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Uzbek Plov (or Pilaf as it’s called here)

November 9, 2013

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A long time ago, when I lived in Moscow, my hometown, our family friend from Uzbekistan taught me how to cook genuine Uzbek Plov. I do not recall that generous man’s name, but I have never forgotten his lesson. Indeed, it was quite an experience! We were cooking with the kitchen window wide open, because everything was becoming obscured by the smoke coming from the oil that was heating on the stove. People, I noticed, began to gather beneath our window (we lived on the third floor), no doubt thinking a fire in the building had started. Our friend informed me that the oil should be heated for about one hour (?)! If you ask me, that oil was way overheated! Doubtless, in Uzbekistan, the pilaf is cooked in a more healthful atmosphere, on an open fire outdoors, but I remained mute, not complaining, because I did not want to risk not tasting the pilaf. It turned out that the pilaf was breathing in the smoke, as it was fabulous! I made it a few times after that as instructed to do, but later I adapted it for an indoor kitchen. Here is my adaptation.

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  • 1 lb meat, cut into 1 inch cubes (any kind you like – lamb, beef, pork. I use lamb, it’s traditional and I like its special flavor)
  • 4 cups rice (any kind, long grain is nice)
  • 3-4 carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 3 onions, peeled, halved and thinly cut
  • 1 head of garlic, upper skin shelled off.
  • 1 tbsp of dried barberries (you can find them in European or Middle-eastern stores) (Optional)
  • 1 tbsp of spice (mix of coriander, cumin, black and red peppers, dill seeds) (Optional)
  • Salt, pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Cooking Instructions:

First wash rice a few times in cold water and let it sit for 30 min in a pot filled with cold water. Meanwhile brown meat in hot olive oil until it’s half done, for about 20-30 min.  Add onions, carrots and spices and cook it all together for a few minutes. Add  rice and barberries to the pot, add salty water so it would cover the rice by 1/2 inch. At this point you can either leave it as is – with rice on top, for a classic plov version, or you can mix it all together (that’s what I do), cover the pot, turn the heat down after the water starts boiling, and let it cook. When the water evaporates a little, and rice is exposed, place a head of garlic on top of the rice, cover the pot again and let it cook until done (for about 1 hour all together).

It’s best served with sauerkraut on the side. That cooked head of garlic is not bad either, try it. Enjoy.


From → Lamb, Main course

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