Saturday, September 27, 2014

Not Your Average Pilaf

I have had Afghanistan's meal planned since I first started my Meals Around the World project back in June. I had contemplated going through the countries alphabetically, but thought better of it. When I did Breakfasts of the World, I found that going out of order was easier. That way, I could do recipes with similar spices/ ingredients closer together, buy produce while it was in season, save exotic recipes for times I could go to special markets, and have a choice in what I was making. All this being said, I am a little sad I did not try Afghanistan earlier.

Kabuli Pilau is simply divine.


I always have had a thing for middle eastern food, but I never have had much of an affinity towards rice. I guess I have just never had it cooked correctly before. The Afghans have perfected the art of perfect rice baking. That's right, I said baking. Instead of boiling the rice for half an hour, to make kabuli pilau, you boil it for 8 minutes, and then bake it for the rest of the time along with your meat filling and a spicy onion puree. Afterwards, you throw on your toppings (no matter how weird they sound), and dig in.

Although Afghanistan has had a pretty rough past with invasions, communist revolutions, civil wars, and now terrorism, they really have a rich culture that dates back over two millennia. The culinary sphere is no less interesting. Rice is a staple along with Noni Afghani, and one of them is served at every meal. The Afghans are very hospitable people. They pride themselves at cooking up a feast for any visitor who walks through their door. Any meal as good as their national dish of kabuli pilau would not make me think twice at accepting. I can just imagine being invited into an Afghan home, sitting down on one of their beautiful carpets, and eating the meal of my life. As always, my homemade copy of the food will have to suffice for now. At least until I make some Afghan friends.

Kabuli Pilau
1 ½ cups basmati rice
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 cups chicken broth
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp garam masala
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
½ cup raisins
¼ cup pistachios
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted
¼ cup water
3 tbsp oil

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the chicken and garlic, browning each side for about a minute. Pour in the broth, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Once the chicken has finished cooking, remove it from the pot and cut into pieces.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil with the rice. Cook for 8 minutes and then drain the rice. Add it to the pot of hot broth and cover.

Heat another tablespoon of oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add the onion and saut√© until golden brown. Take ½ cup of the chicken broth from your pot and blend it with the onion and garam masala. Pour the mixture into your pan, and simmer for 8 minutes.

Mix the rice and broth, onion paste, and chicken together. Pour into a large dish and bake for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Cook the carrots until soft and golden brown. Add the raisins in for a minute and then add in the water to plump up the raisins. Cook until all the water evaporates. Top the rice with the raisins, carrots, almonds, ad pistachios.

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