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.

Bukharan Potato Powered Chutney

11 October 2018

Autumn is well and truly here now, so it’s time to start preserving that  seasonal abundance of fruit and vegetables. While looking around the net for something quick and easy to make, we came across some variations on the theme of plum chutney.

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It’s amazing what you can learn when researching recipes – did you know, for instance, that in the Indian sub-continent aloo is the word for potato, as in that curry house fave aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower).

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More surprisingly, it is also used for the humble plum – known as aloo bukhara, so called because the plum first appeared in the sub-continent via the fabled Central Asian city of Bukhara.

Ingredients (makes around 880g – 1kg of chutney

  • 1kg ripe plums
  • 250 g red onion
  • 200g light brown sugar
  • 300 ml apple vinegar
  • 100 g raisins
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons  red pepper flakes
  • One cinnamon stick
  • 2 cm fresh ginger, peeled and diced
  • Glass jars for storage

Method

  • Wash and cut the plums in half, remove the stones then half again and half again so you have eight pieces of plum. Finely chop the onion and then mix all the ingredients together except for the sugar in a large stainless steel saucepan.
  • Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, and when it’s bubbling add the sugar. Keep stirring until the sugar dissolves and then reduce the heat to low and keep it simmering for two hours or so, stirring every now and then so the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • The mixture should thicken and turn a deep ruby red colour, as in the picture above. Allow the mix to cool a bit and then pour it into sterilised glass jars – wash them and leave in the oven at 50 c for 30 minutes. Put a lid on tightly and store the chutney for at least two weeks in a cool, dark place before eating.