Citizens, it saddens me greatly when I think of the trials and tribulations the proud people of Afghanistan have faced over many millennia due to their strategic location and near-constant warfare in that time. The cuisine of this country is succulent, spice-laden and delicious and I urge you to try an Afghani restaurant in your neighborhood, if you have one!
Today, I give you the national dish of Afghanistan – Kabuli Pilau! Originally named Kabuli because only wealthy members of the elite in the capital city of Kabul could afford the ingredients, today it is enjoyed all over the country!
Kabuli pilau (also spelled “palaw” in English) is a northern Afghan dish, a variety of pilaf, consisting of steamed rice mixed with raisins, carrots, and lamb. It is one of the most popular dishes in Afghanistan and is considered the Afghan national dish.
It is made by cooking basmati or long grained rice in a brothy sauce (which makes the rice brown). This dish may be made with lamb, chicken, or beef. Kabuli pilau is baked in the oven and may be topped with fried sliced carrots, raisins, orange peel strips, and chopped nuts like pistachios or almonds. The meat is covered by the rice or buried in the rice mixture.
The meat should ideally be mutton and should be cut into large, meaty chunks. It needs to be cooked till tender to the touch and should fall apart with no resistance at all.
Most important, the rice used should be ‘sella’ rice, *not* basmati. Traditionally, Kabuli Pilau is made with sella rice which is thankfully available on Amazon.
A good explanation of the differences between sella rice and basmati is found here.
Kabuli Pilau should always be served with a salad. Citizens, this is a delightful recipe that I hope you try at your earliest opportunity!
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
The Hirshon Afghani Kabuli Pilau – پلو
- For the stock (yakhni):
- 800 grams mutton, bone in – if mutton is unavailable, try goat (TFD preference, frequently available at halal or Chinese butchers fresh or frozen) or if you have to, lamb
- 9 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
- 1 black cardamom pod, split
- 8 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
- 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns, lightly crushed
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds, lightly crushed
- 5 cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 large cinnamon stick
- 2 tbsp salt, or to taste
- For the rice:
- 2 medium onions, sliced
- 4 cups sella rice
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- oil, to fry the onions
- For the carrot topping:
- 2 medium-sized carrots, julienne cut
- 1 big handful raisins or sultanas
- 1 big handful shelled pistachios, lightly crushed
- 2 tbsp sugar
- oil, for frying
- For garnish, crushed cardamom seeds
- Add all the ingredients for the yakhni to a pot and cover with enough water to submerge all the meat. Bring to a boil and then cover, simmering for 1 ½ -2 hrs, till the meat is tender but not falling off the bone. Keep checking after the 1 ½ hr mark to get till the right doneness.
- Meanwhile, in a pan heat 3-4 tbsp of oil and add your julienne-cut carrots. Sauté these on medium heat for 5 minutes, till they are tender and then add the raisins. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, till the raisins begin to swell up. Finally, add 2 tbsp of sugar and the lightly crushed nuts and cook for just a minute. Turn off the heat.
- Take a clean sheet of aluminium foil and place the carrot mixture with all the oil onto it. Fold it around the edges tightly into a parcel shape. Set aside.
- When the mutton is tender, strain out the liquid stock using a colander and discard the whole spices. Reserve the stock.
- In a heavy based pot, heat 4-5 tbsp of oil and add 3 thinly-sliced small onions and 1tbsp cumin seeds. Sauté this on medium-high till the onions become lightly brown. You can sauté them longer if you prefer a darker shade.
- Once the onions are to your desired color, add the mutton from the stock. Sauté for 5-8 minutes.
- Add the rice, stock and cook on high heat till the stock begins to boil and then reduces, until there is very little stock left in the pot. Stir once or twice using a spatula with long narrow slots in it, being careful not to break any rice pieces.
- At this point, reduce the heat to the lowest possible, add the foil parcel full of the carrot mix and cover with a lid wrapped with a tea towel. Allow it to steam like this for 10-15 minutes.
- To serve, plate the rice on a rice platter, add the chunks of mutton so they are at the top and on full display and scatter with raisins, nuts and carrots from the foil parcel. Garnish all over with crushed cardamom seeds and serve with salad and raita!
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احسان الله جلال
Mohammad AKram Mohammadi
نسیم الله نوشی جان