Modern Day Plovers

17 June 2021

This time round on KCC we’re turning our attention to plov — Central Asia’s favourite rice dish. There are no hard and fast rules for plov, with regional variations prizing different ingredients and each family having its own take on what should go into the dish. One thing is for sure — this spicy rice, carrot, onion, garlic and dried fruit concoction makes for a great centrepiece for any party and is perfect for sharing with family and friends.

KCC travelled up to Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan to visit a modern day plov-meister who has perfected a tasty, meat-free take on this classic Uzbek dish. Our plov-meister learnt his trade on the mean streets of Hojeli, Karakalpakstan and in the student dorms of Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Keeping the vampires at bay…

There are no strict cooking times for this recipe — it’s more of a feeling than an exercise in clock watching. Apart from the holy trinity of onion, carrot and rice, our plov-meister deploys whatever is to hand in the kitchen, adding dried fruits and spices along with a surfeit of garlic. For best results, your plov should be cooked in a kazan, a cast iron cauldron, but a deep, heavy-based saucepan or a casserole dish will suffice at a pinch. The pan should retain the heat to enable the plov to cook slowly and for the myriad flavours to meld.

Serve the plov alongside a spicy achik chuchuk tomato and onion salad, steaming bowls of green tea and Uzbek bread, non, click here for a recipe from Caroline Eden’s excellent Central Asian focussed cookbook Red Sands.

Ingredients (makes enough for 8-10 servings)

  • 100 ml cooking oil (For the authentic Uzbek taste track down some cottonseed oil, but failing that sunflower, rapeseed or olive oil works just as well)
  • 500 g onion
  • 500 g carrot
  • 500 g short grain rice
  • 6 heads of garlic
  • 150 g currants /raisins /sultanas – or a mix of all three
  • 100 g dried apricots (with stones)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds

For the salad:

  • 250 g tomatoes
  • 250 g onion
  • One teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 – 3 Chilli peppers, finely sliced (adjust as to how hot you like your food)

Method

  • Heat the oil over a low heat in a heavy-based pan and then add the sliced onion. Fry the onion until it gets a golden-brownish colour so that later the rice will get its distinctive orangey colour. Cut the carrots into 5 cm long slices, a few millimetres wide and then add to the onions. Cook until the carrots are very tender so that they can easily be cut by a spatula or a wooden spoon while stirring. 
  • Now add the spices, the whole dried apricots, currants, sultanas or raisins (or all three) and whole heads of garlic. Cook for a few minutes to allow these ingredients to absorb the oil and the carrot/onion juice.
  • Rinse the rice carefully until the water runs clear and then put the washed rice on top of the spicy, fruity vegetable base and then pour water over the top through a fish slice to allow an even distribution of the liquid.
  • Cover the rice with an extra 1 cm of water and then cook over a high heat and  when the water disappears from the top of the rice, turn it down to a very low heat, close the lid and allow it to steam for about 20 minutes.
  • Serve with a spicy tomato and onion salad — achik chuchuk — a salad made from thinly sliced tomato and onion, a sprinkling of dried basil and diced chilli peppers, according to how hot you like it, and oven-fresh non bread.

A Fiendishly Figgish Chutney

22 September 2016

As another summer slips into the history books with the autumn equinox almost upon us, there’s a tang of vinegar in the air. The days are getting shorter and the nights cooler, and thoughts have started turning towards using the autumnal abundance of fruit and vegetables to make pickles and chutneys for the winter months.

In Turkey at this time of year people are busy preserving vegetables such as peppers, cucumbers, carrot, tomatoes, garlic, cauliflower and cabbage in vinegar and salt to make tursu, the ubiquitous pickle plate that adorns the dinner table.

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When Lord Venal was visiting Knidos in August he was very taken with the local fig crop and was inspired to knock up a jar or two of his Fiendish Fig Chutney.

He helpfully explained the difference between a pickle and a chutney; a pickle involves raw vegetables preserved in a liquid such as brine, oil or vinegar, whilst chutney cooks vegetables or fruits in a sugary vinegar base.

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Lord Venal hopes you’ll enjoy his spicy chutney with all types of cheeses and crackers.

Ingredients (Makes around 1.5 kg of chutney)

1 kg fresh figs

250 g raisins or currants

250 g onions

300 ml cider vinegar

200 g brown sugar

2 cloves of garlic

5 cm fresh ginger

one teaspoon coriander seeds

one cinnamon stick

one teaspoon cloves

one teaspoon turmeric

one teaspoon chili flakes

Assorted jam jars

Method

Chop the figs roughly and remove any stems. Throw them into a large stainless steel pan and add the vinegar, chopped onions, garlic and spices (remember to grind the coriander seeds, break up the cinnamon stick and peel and finely chop the ginger).

Bring to the boil and then allow the mix to simmer, stirring occasionally, for half an hour or so until the figs are softening. Now add the sugar and keep stirring until it’s dissolved. Cook for another 15 minutes or so until the mix starts to thicken. Unlike jam, as soon as you turn the chutney off it stops thickening, so turn the heat off when you reach your desired consistency.

While the chutney is bubbling away, sterilise the jam jars in the oven at 50°c for thirty minutes. Spoon the chutney into the jars while still hot and put a lid on when it’s cooled down a bit. It’s ready to eat straight away, but, like most things in life, it improves with age.