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 Leek-Fuelled Lentil Pilaf

11 April 2019

This time round on Knidos Cookery Club we’re combining some of our favourite seasonal ingredients to mark the transition from the hearty stews and soups of winter to some lighter, spring eating.

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We’ve paired leeks, the mild-tasting cousin of the onion, with green lentils, coarse bulgur wheat and some spices to make a scrumptious pilaf that’s both cheap and easy to prepare.

Using bulgur wheat in the place of rice means that it can be on the table in less than an hour, which also allows enough time to roast some of our winter faves, pumpkin and beetroot, to add a splash of colour to the plate. Keep any leftovers in the fridge – they can be moulded into patties and fried in oil or baked in the oven to make a tasty brunch or supper.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 50 ml olive oil
  • One leek
  • 250g pumpkin
  • 250g beetroot
  • 125g bulgur wheat (coarse not fine)
  • 125g green lentils
  • 600ml vegetable stock
  • Two teaspoons cumin seeds
  • One cinnamon stick
  • One teaspoon chilli powder
  • One bayleaf

Method

  • Pour 25 ml olive oil and one teaspoon of cumin seeds into an oven-proof dish and leave in the oven for 10 minutes at 200c. Cube the pumpkin and beetroot and put into the dish and stir well to coat with oil. Bake for 40 minutes at 200c.
  • Heat the other 25 ml of oil in a heavy-based pan, add the cumin seeds and then add the diced leek and sauté over a low to medium heat for about ten minutes. Add the cinnamon stick, chilli powder and bayleaf and stir well.
  • Now add the bulgur wheat and lentils and the vegetable stock and mix it all together. Cook for 30 minutes or so over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has been absorbed. Serve with the roasted beetroot and pumpkin.