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On a Nomadic Food Quest

Passport & Plate - Uzbek Plov

Uzbekistan | Thursday, 13 March 2014 | 5 photos


Ingredients

2 cups long grain parboiled rice
5 large carrots
2 large onions
400 gr cubed lamb
100 gr lamb fat
Vegetable Stock
1 tsp peppercorns
2 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp cumin seeds

How to prepare this recipe

If you have the time and the love, making your own stock is an easy way to add more personal flavour to your Plov. Use some potatoes, leek, garlic & onion and boil for approximately 45 minutes.

Prepare chopped onion and grate the carrots. Grind your spices in a mortar and pestle to bring out a burst of scents and flavour.
Cook the lamb fat on high heat to release all of the oils; adding the cubes of lamb until brown and set aside covered with foil to keep warm.

Using the remaining meat fat, cook the onions for 5 minutes or until they turn translucent. Add your ground spices and cook them off for 1 minute before adding the grated carrot; leaving it until soft. Make sure to regularly taste the dish to ensure you're happy to move onto the next step of cooking your plov.

Add the already browned lamb, including its juices to the vegetables; reducing the heat to medium.

Add 2 cups of rice and enough of your hot stock to cover the meat and vegetables by at least an inch. Simmer 10-15mins, turning frequently. When the rice is just cooked or al dente, place the lid on to steam until all of the liquid is evaporated, again giving a stir often.

You will hear the bottom sizzling as the rice starts to stick to the pan, this is when you know that all stock has been cooked into the Plov and ready to eat. Salt to taste.

Plov is best served shared with friends and family - enjoy with yoghurt & dill, fresh tomato salad and bread.


The story behind this recipe

On a soulful train journey from Moscow to Tashkent, I eagerly arrived in the foreign pocket of Central Asia, Uzbekistan. Destined to stand in Registan Square, central to the town of Samarkand, I found myself in a food haven. Fresh, simple food cooked by real people, in what felt to be the most real place I've ever visited.

Bekhrus, born and raised in the Uzbek mountains; quickly felt my love for his country's simplicities and wanted to share and cook with me his mothers' recipe for Plov; a rice dish he described as 'religious'. A simple meal, using village ingredients, he expressed the importance of each component to making Plov - from the quality of rice, the colour of the carrot, to the very unique flavour of using good lamb fat and a lot of it!

Wandering the bazaar we carefully hand-picked, smelt and bargained for every ingredient for our dish. Preparations began in a rustic kitchen, using a large cast iron skillet over an open flame. Ready with our modest elements, Bekhrus told me of the story and the sounds of this slow and important process - the more you boil, the better the taste; the ways in which his mother taught him to specifically use the back of a ladle to carefully pat down the rice and let it cook.

Much like a good risotto, the process of Plov requires you to be attentive, gentle and to cook with a little bit of love; this ensures the best possible dish. Recreating such a special recipe brings alive many memories and moments from that day in Samarkand where I learnt the methods of this significant dish close to the hearts of all Uzbeks.

My Maltese heritage is of great importance to my life and the way I now appreciate a meal. Making pastizzi by hand in my Nuna's kitchen and spending time in my Dad's garden filled with eggplant & herbs, it's a unique cuisine with Italian influences. There is always more to learn and discover when it comes to cooking and for this, I want to learn it all.

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