uzbek plov

Traditional Uzbek Lamb Plov (Pilaf)

Plov (pilaf) the king of Uzbek cuisine is served as a wedding feast and during all major celebrations as well as within the family circle. Dishes made of rice are known almost in every country of the region, but the Uzbek Plov, the recipe for which was created in ancient times, is claimed by locals to be a masterpiece of culinary art. It was handed down, not only from generation to generation, but from merchant to merchant and traveler to traveler, along the Great Silk Road.

I made this Plov the traditional way, with lamb, carrots, onions, and very little spices, but altered a little to suit my family’s palate. I didn’t use the rendered fat of a sheep’s tail to sauté the meat and vegetables.  As delicious as I’m sure that is, I opted for vegetable oil.

Uzbek Plov differs from other preparations of Plov as in Uzbek Plov the rice is simmered in a broth of meat and vegetables, uncovered, called Zirvak until the liquid evaporates. It is traditionally cooked in a Kazan, a sort of large cast iron pot, over an open fire, but cooking in a Dutch oven over a gas flame works just fine. Rice is to be washed thoroughly and sometimes it is steeped in water. In the well heated bowl (heated until white smoke appears) sheep fat or vegetable oil is heated up. Then the process of preparing zirvak, the basis of Plov, starts.

uzbel plovAnd then comes the crucial moment of Plov cooking process – adding the rice. The best variety of rice for Plov is devzira – a local variety but I used Indian basmati for its flavor and texture.  To bring Plov to readiness the rice in the bowl is gathered in the center in the shape of a dome, then covered, sealed and cooked on low fire. It is then served on the table in big ceramic dishes. The pieces of meat are put on top of the rice along with one garlic head per plate.

Preparation Time: 30 mins
Cooking Time: 1 hour 30 mins
Total Time: 2 hours
Serves: 6

Ingredients

3 cups Basmati rice
3 Whole heads of garlic
1 cup vegetable oil
1 ½ kg boneless lamb leg or shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
6 medium carrots, peeled and julienned
2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper powder
Boiling Water (as required)

Instructions

Rinse the rice in several washes of water and soak for an hour.

uzbek plovWash the whole garlic heads and peel the papery outer layer but do not expose the cloves completely. Set aside. Chop the carrots in julienne and slice the onions. Toast coriander seeds in a pan for a few minutes. Coarse grind in a mortar or spice grinder and set aside.

uzbek plovHeat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over high heat until very hot. Add lamb pieces in batches turning occasionally until the lamb is evenly browned. Take them out and set aside.

uzbel plovStir in onions and cook until nice and golden on high heat. Return all meat to the pot and cook with onions for 2 minutes.

uzbek plovAdd carrots and cook for 10 minutes, stirring continuously till they have softened and slightly browned on the edges. Keep the flame high at all times.

uzbek plovAdd cumin seeds (rub between your palms to release flavor), coarse ground coriander, salt, black pepper and paprika, mix well. Add enough boiling water to cover the meat, place garlic heads on top, cover the pot and turn heat down to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

Uncover the pot, take out the garlic heads and set aside. Mix and flatten the meat and vegetables into the bottom of the casserole. Place the rice gently on top of the meat mixture, spreading in flat even layer with the help of the wooden spatula. DO NOT mix the rice with the meat and veggies.

uzbek plovPour boiling water slowly over the wooden spoon, letting it fall gently into the pot so as not to disturb the rice layer on top. The water should cover the rice at the height of the first joint of your forefinger. Add little more salt to the water and mix gently without disturbing the bottom layer of meat and veggies.

Reduce the flame to low and with the help of a wooden spatula, continue to gently move around rice layer till all the water evaporates, takes about 5 minutes. DO NOT mix.

uzbek plovWhen all the water evaporates, without disturbing or mixing the rice, with a knife or a spoon, make holes in the rice in 4 to 5 spots and push the garlic bulbs down through the rice exposing half of it only. Cover, seal and cook for 40 minutes on low heat.

Uncover after 40 minutes and using a spatula, gently mix the rice on top without mixing or disturbing the meat and veggie layer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes so the rice are cooked completely.

uzbel plovTurn off the heat after 15 minutes and let the Plov sit in steam for another 10-15 minutes. Uncover after 15 minutes, pull out garlic bulbs and stir rice and meat together very gently. Mound the Plov on a serving platter with the garlic heads on top, and serve with a tomato and onion salad on the side!

Traditional Uzbek Lamb Plov (Pilaf)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Uzbek lamb Plov is served as a wedding feast and during all major celebrations as well as within the family circle. It is considered to be a masterpiece of culinary art.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Uzbeki, Central Asian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 3 cups Basmati rice
  • 3 Whole heads garlic
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ kg boneless lamb leg or shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 6 medium carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper powder
  • Boiling Water (as required)
Instructions
  1. Rinse the rice in several washes of water and soak for an hour.
  2. Wash the whole garlic heads and peel the papery outer layer but do not expose the cloves completely. Set aside. Chop the carrots in juliennes and slice the onions.
  3. Toast coriander seeds in a pan for a few minutes. Coarse grind in a mortar or spice grinder and set aside.
  4. Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over high heat until very hot. Add lamb pieces in batches turning occasionally until the lamb is evenly browned. Take them out and set aside.
  5. Stir in onions and cook until nice and golden on high heat. Return all meat to the pot and cook with onions for 2 minutes.
  6. Add carrots and cook for 10 minutes, stirring continuously till they have softened and slightly browned on the edges. Keep the flame high at all times.
  7. Add cumin seeds (rub between your palms to release flavor), coarse ground coriander, salt, black pepper and paprika, mix well. Add enough boiling water to cover the meat, place garlic heads on top, cover the pot and turn heat down to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
  8. Uncover the pot, take out the garlic heads and set aside. Mix and flatten the meat and vegetables into the bottom of the casserole. Place the rice gently on top of the meat mixture, spreading in flat even layer with the help of the wooden spatula. DO NOT mix the rice with the meat and veggies.
  9. Pour boiling water slowly over the wooden spoon, letting it fall gently into the pot so as not to disturb the rice layer on top. The water should cover the rice at the height of the first joint of your forefinger. Add little more salt to the water and mix gently without disturbing the bottom layer of meat and veggies.
  10. Reduce the flame to low and with the help of a wooden spatula, continue to gently move around rice layer till all the water evaporates, takes about 5 minutes. DO NOT mix.
  11. When all the water evaporates, without disturbing or mixing the rice, with a knife or a spoon, make holes in the rice in 4 to 5 spots and push the garlic bulbs down through the rice exposing half of it only. Cover, seal and cook for 40 minutes on low heat.
  12. Uncover after 40 minutes and using a spatula, gently mix the rice on top without mixing or disturbing the meat and veggie layer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes so the rice are cooked completely.
  13. Turn off the heat after 15 minutes and let the Plov sit in steam for another 10-15 minutes. Uncover after 15 minutes, pull out garlic bulbs and stir rice and meat together very gently. Mound the Plov on a serving platter with the a garlic head on top, and serve with onion and tomato salad on the side.

 

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