VIDEO recipe! All you need is p-love!
Updated: Jun 6
If you travel to any country in Central Asia - the ‘stan’ region – chances are you will be served plov (palov, pilaff) as one of your first meals. “All you need is p-love” as a local adaptation of the Beatles’ classic claims!
Debates over such a significant and grandiose dish are a natural phenomenon. For instance, each province of Uzbekistan has its own version that it takes pride in. I grew up in the cradle of ancient traditions and the culinary melting pot of Central Asia – the Feghana Valley. The farmers there even developed a very special “devzira” rice just for plov. This rice can withstand high heat and remain fluffy.
Devzira - the beauty!
Plov in Central Asia is usually cooked over an open fire, in huge amounts and with lots of lamb fat. Having lived abroad longer than I lived in Uzbekistan, I have learnt to adapt plov-making to the realities of home-cooking, gas/electricity top, small amounts, vegetable oil, and different type of rice. So, let me share some tricks.
To serve 5 people you will need:
120 ml of vegetable oil (or lamb fat, as in the video)
500 grams of rice. Basmati or Arborio seem to do the trick.
500 grams of meat, Lamb and/or beef. Sometimes even chicken is used, although in some provinces of Uzbekistan the very idea can spark agony. I personally love chicken plov. You can skip the meat completely and make the dish vegan. While I like the vegan version myself, you better not tell anyone in Uzbekistan you did this. So, let's keep it as our secret.
500 grams thick julienne carrots (DO NOT use grater, use a knife)
1 medium-size onion, cut in half, slice thin.
1 tbs cumin
Salt to taste
750 ml of water
1-2 whole garlic head(s)
1 can of garbanzo beans. If you use non-canned, soak overnight and cook until half-done.
2 chilli peppers
Barberries can add a nice sour note.
Very special raisins are used in some regions of Uzbekistan.
In the autumn and winter, quince is a nice addition to plov.
In the spring - dolma - with grape leaves.
In Tashkent, they love adding slices of horse sausage and quail eggs.
Soak the rice in warm salted water for 30 min.
In a thick-walled pot heat the oil very well, add onions and fry them until lightly browned. If you are after the real deal and using lamb fat, melt the fat first. Golden pieces of lamb fat, once they release all their potential into the pot, are great with salt, onion and fresh bread. A good vodka chaser. ;)
Add meat and cook on high for 15 minutes. If you want a vegan version, skip this, obviously. Simply use vegetable oil and onions.
Add all the carrots, mix, and fry for 10 minutes.
Season with salt and cumin, add garlic (whole head(s)).
Add the water, bring to boil and then simmer at low for 45 minutes. You have just made what’s called ‘zirvak’.
After 45 minutes, take out the garlic head and set it aside for now. Add canned garbanzo beans, after rinsing them well. If using non-canned garbanzo beans (which were soaked overnight and half-cooked, add them right before adding the water.
Carefully rinse the soaked rice and put on top of the meat and vegetable mix. Carefully move around the rice layer to ensure even cooking, but do not mix everything, just the rice! If the water is absorbed too fast, add some boiling water. Don’t forget to salt the rice.
After 10-15 minutes, when all the water is absorbed and the rice is 80% done, use a spoon handle or a chopstick to poke some holes through the rice layer all the way to the bottom of the pot.
Lower the heat to simmer.
Return the garlic head(s) on top of the rice. Add the peppers if you like. Cover with a plate and a lid. Let the rice finish cooking like this for 25 minutes.
Serve your plov on a communal plate and decorate with the garlic and the peppers, or any other toppings listed above. It is best served with a salad made of tomatoes, cucumbers and onions.
This is winter plov, made with devzira rice and quince.
The most common version of plov, with garbanzo beans.