Plov, the Uzbek pilaf and unofficial national dish of Uzbekistan, comes in many versions, but it is usually rich with meat, sweet with a great deal of onion and shredded carrot, and spiced heavily with cumin. But many additions are possible, and everyone’s grandfather makes the best. Although not the traditional rice, basmati works well here because its grains stay distinct rather than gumming together, and most people have it in the cupboard. Like shurpa, the meat needs a good (and careful) searing to build flavour and then a good (and gentle) simmering to become tender. The saffron puts a unexpected floral note over it all, but the plov is still tasty without it. I suggest a garnish of cilantro rather than a fruit (eg. raisins, dates, pomegranate seeds) because I find it already sufficiently sweet with carrot, but you might like the acid of a little fruit on top of this rich dish. Plov may be garnished with many things, or left bare for that matter. This plov is simple but not light, so even a small serving feels like a large one, but it tastes even better the day after, which is quite remarkable for a rice dish.
1 hour 45 minutes, including 1 hour simmer plus 20 minutes steam plus 10 rest; serves 4
3 Tbsp canola or sunflower oil (ie. high smoking point)
1 lb lamb leg, cut in 1/2″ cubes
2 onions, diced
5 carrots, shredded
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
2 cups lamb or beef broth
1 cup basmati rice, rinsed well in a strainer
pinch of saffron
1. Blot the cubed lamb with paper towel and heat the oil over high heat to just smoking in a wide and very heavy pot. Add the meat in one layer and allow it to begin browning. As it browns, turn the pieces so they cannot burn. Remove the meat.
2. Sear the onions in the hot oil until they have begun to brown as well. Add the carrot shreds and fry these for a few minutes as well, until they start to brown. Take care not to burn, though, by controlling the heat.
3. Add the garlic, cumin and paprika and fry for a minute. Return the meat.
4. Add the broth, bring to a boil, reduce and leave to simmer, covered, until the meat is tender, about an hour.
5. Taste for salt, and adjust if need be. Add the basmati and enough water to cover the rice. Do not stir. Bring to a boil, reduce heat for simmering, cover and leave for 10 minutes.
6. Dissolve the saffron in a few tablespoons of hot water. Lift the lid on the plov and dribble the saffron water over it without stirring. Replace the lid and continue to cook for ten minutes.
7. Taste to check that the rice grains are cooked, or perhaps just a little al dente. Turn off heat and leave to rest for ten minutes.
8. To present, spoon out the rice first as best you can, onto a warm platter, them the meat pieces on top. Finely chop some cilantro and sprinkle over top.