Plov is what we call pilaf, a dish associated with the Middle East, put popular in Russia and former Soviet Central Asia as well. For interesting variations, substitute yellow squash or pumpkin for the carrots.
My search for plov in St. Petersburg led me to lots of awful cafés and lots of awful plov, but I had a decent one at the Baghdad Café near the U.S. Consulate.
Gumbo Pages correspondent Louis Nemtsov writes: "It looks to me that this is the Russian version of Plov. The two main ingredients that differentiate the Russian vs. Uzbek plov is cumin and onions.
"Uzbeks use pound per pound onions to lamb (2 lbs. lamb and 2 lbs. onions). Cumin adds that special taste to lamb and therefore plov. Try it, I'm sure you'll agree.
"I, personally, have never seen adzhika added to plov, instead it is customary to eat a salad made from very thinly sliced onions and tomatoes with lots of black pepper and vinegar on the side. Hope this adds a new twist."
Cut the lamb into chunks. Heat the oil over high heat in a large Dutch oven, then stir in the lamb and brown on all sides. Remove to a plate and keep warm in a 200 degree oven.
- 2 pounds boneless shoulder or leg of lamb, with some fat (the fat lends a wonderful flavor to the dish)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large onions, julienned
- 3 large carrots, julienned
- 2-1/2 cups raw rice
- 4-1/2 cups boiling water
- 1 teaspoon adzhika (see below), or crushed red pepper
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 1/8 teaspoon saffron, stepped in 2 tablespoons boiling water for 10 minutes
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Raw onion, sliced paper-thin
Stir onions and carrots into the fat remaining in the pan, adding a little more olive oil if necessary. Cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes until tender but not browned. Return the lamb to the pot and add the raw rice. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until the rice begins to turn golden brown. Then pour in the boiling water, stirring to mix well.
Add the adzhika (or red pepper), salt, saffron tea and black pepper. Cover and cook over low heat for 20 minutes, or until rice is done. Serve libarlly garnished with paper-thin slices of raw onion. Serves 6-8.
AdzhikaAdzhika is a fiery Georgian condiment, which has become popular throughout Russia and many of the former Soviet countries. You can purchase it in Russian or European markets, or make it yourself.
Gumbo Pages correspondent Saul Kondrotas didn't care for the first adzhika recipe I had had on this page, and declared it to be inauthentic. He reports:
"To make Adzhika you need not just pepper (both sweet and hot) and garlic but also coriander seeds, a mixture of dried herbs that is called "khmeli-suneli" (I don't know the ingredients of that) and walnuts."
Grind ingredients together in mortar or food processor. Since it's the walnuts who gives the adzhika its thickness, keep adding walnuts till the final product becomes like butter. Store covered in the refrigerator.
- 1 cup red bell pepper, not roasted and not peeled
- 1 cup hot red pepper, not roasted and not peeled
- 1/2 cup of peeled garlic
- 1/4 cup of coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons of khmeli-suneli (though you can skip that if you have no contact in Georgia)
- 1 cup of walnut pieces
Thanks to Saul for that recipe. Here's the one he didn't like:
Grind ingredients together in mortar or food processor. Store covered in the refrigerator.
- 1/4 cup red bell pepper, roasted and peeled
- 1/4 cup hot red pepper, roasted and peeled
- 2 cloves garlic
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Chuck Taggart (e-mail chuck)