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.

Chiving around with Jusai

17 May 2018

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club, we’ll be cooking with jusai, one of the few leafy greens to make it past the strict controls of Kazakhstan’s carnivore police.

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Jusai in bloom

The fare in Kazakhstan is a salad-dodger’s delight – it’s very meat heavy with potatoes or carrots only occasionally making an appearance – Kazakhs like to joke that they are second only to wolves in their meat consumption, so jusai is a welcome addition to this diet.

Jusai’s official name is allium tuberosum, and it’s a member of the onion family – you might know it as Chinese chives or garlic chives in English. Jusai originated in China but it’s now grown all over Kazakhstan. It imparts a mild garlic flavour to dishes and is used as a filling for pasties and dumplings in Kazakh kitchens.

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Brown rice pilau with jusai, lemon and walnuts

We decided to cook it up in some cider with some brown rice, onion, lemon and walnuts to make a pilau, or a loose take on risotto. It pairs well with some oven-baked seasonal vegetables or a seasonal salad.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • 300 g brown rice
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • one medium-sized onion
  • one lemon
  • 100 g toasted walnuts
  • 200 g garlic chives
  • 250 ml dry cider
  • 750 ml vegetable stock
  • one teaspoon mustard seeds
  • one teaspoon cumin seeds

Method

  • Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and add the mustard seeds – when the seeds start to pop, put the finely diced onion in and fry for five minutes over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and stir well and then add the rice, stirring for a minute to coat the grains with oil.
  • Reduce the heat and pour in the cider, stirring occasionally as the mix simmers so the rice doesn’t stick to the pan. When the liquid is absorbed, add 250 ml stock and continue to simmer and stir every now and then. Add more stock when this is absorbed and keep going until the rice is almost cooked.  Add more stock if needed – the rice should be al-dente.
  • Remove for the heat and mix in the finely chopped garlic chives (leave some to garnish the pilau), the lemon zest, toasted, chopped walnuts and the lemon juice and mix well. Cover the pan and leave to stand for five minutes.
  • Serve with oven-roasted vegetables or a leafy green salad and garnish with the remaining garlic chives.