What Taha told me…about Plov (Pilaw)

Taha is, just how his name seems (well, to me..) a magician. He is a Turkish man living in Kazakhstan, that cooks with so much love, that it just has no other opportunity than to taste really really good. I got invited to eat at his house while I was in Kazakhstan, through my very good friend Ataner. Both are from Turkey and know each other for a long time. By this possibility I want to thank them again and greet them very heartily.

Plov, especially the recipe I will provide you, is an Uzbek recipe, that happens to be eaten all over bordering countries, for example Kazakhstan, but also I would say every (sorry if I’m wrong) Russian knows it and ate it once. It is a fantastic meal that happened to be spread and popular like this because you can have a tasty and filling meal without much money. Well, the recipe I give you is not for the smallest money, but as always I will try to tell you about variations, how you can do it cheaper and faster!

If you want to cook it like the following, you need patience and time. I let that meal cook for about 4 hours, so the meat just gets incredibly tender, falling already out of piece when touching it with the fork and chewing just gets to be the best thing ever, with a meat that is full of a countries taste through cooking it for hours with the right ingredients.

Let’s say we cook for about 8 persons. Just because, the more the merrier.

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You’ll need:

1kg of Lamb
500g rice
500g carrots
200g chickpea
A good hand full of raisins
At least one whole bulb of garlic
2 onions
2 small pears

We go for it step by step, as you can also see in the pictures. First, you cut your meat into bite-sized pieces and chop your onions. Heat up oil in your big (!) pan and start with your meat and onions. You can salt/pepper them while roasting. When both are nice and brown you add your finely chopped carrots on top. Mix it.

Next ones will be our chickpeas and raisins. Add them on top as well as the whole bulbs of garlic. Just try to peel it off carefully. The garlic will cook with it for the whole time and will also be so tender and tasty in the end.

Add your rice on top of it. Prepare enough stock to fill up with. At first you add so much water that your rice is covered for like 2 cm. Then close the pan and just let it cook, and cook and cook on middle heat. When you see that it’s drying out, it’s important you always give a little water to it so that it doesn’t burn. If you want you can add one or two bay leaves to the cooking process.

The flavor will mostly come by the ingredients, but if you want you can for example add some coriander, thyme and pepper. But as to say it with the words of Taha: The essence of the great smell and taste of Plov is “a hint of cumin”. Take the grounded one, it will add its taste smoothly and won’t turn out too appearing.

You add the pears about 30 or 20 mins before you want to serve your Plov, so that they can also soften a bit. You might think they are the weirdest and most risky part of this recipe version, but I say that thought is wrong: Softened a bit you will hardly recognise them as pears in the finished Plov, so people will be surprised by what they’re chewing there, positively surprised and refreshed by the news of a pears taste in a meal like that.

Do it with passion and patience and it will be spectacular. Most important is to always check frequently for the dryness, you have to keep your Plov moist. .

I will tell you a few variations:

You can use other meat. I wouldn’t suggest so much beef or pork, but I have eaten it with chicken made by Lena, which was also great. Like this it’s quickly prepared, because the meat doesn’t need that much time. You should buy chicken wings, and let them cook until the meat gets very tender and you can peel if off the bones. It will taste much nicer like this, because chicken breast meat could just get very dry. Everything else is prepared the same way in the recipe, important are the carrots, that should best be grated through a rasper! And to make it even simpler you can also leave out the chickpeas, raisins and pear. Like this you have a very cheap and basic (but still tasty) stew!

What people really liked about my preparation of Plov: On the table I would place a little bowl with Sour Cream, fresh herbs, salt and pepper. Your Plov tastes great with a little hint of sour cream, Natalie for example loves my Plov like this though she normally doesn’t like it a lot anymore.

Have fun trying out!

The pictures will you show you two different Plovs I ate while in KZ.

* If you’re interested in Kazakhstan, you can watch my photos here on flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mllechambre/sets/72157629829942191/
**You find a lot of videos like that on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnxWuBvc4E

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