Today I am cooking Kabuli palaw (Quabili’ palau), the national dish of Afghanistan.
For those who loathe recipe blogs where you have to hunt for the actual recipe, my preparation is based very closely (but not exactly) on Humaira’s recipe in her Afghan Culture Unveiled blog. Quabili’ palau is an aromatic, savory and sweet rice based dish that is filling and complexly flavored. Like all posts in this series, I have endeavored to base my prep on an accurate, authentic recipe with minor modifications based on things like ingredient availability, allergies, and personal preference.
I really love Afghani food but the dishes I love most tend to be pretty time-intensive so I don’t make it as often as I’d like. I’m spoiled by a local joint (in the side restaurant portion of a BP Gas Station) that makes everything to order, bread included, including Aushak that is so good I want to cry.
You will need a large pan/wok, pot, and dutch oven (or other decently sized lidded bakeware) as well as normal cooking utensils.
LETS DO THIS:
- 2 cups of unprocessed long-grain white rice
- 1/2-1 pound goat meat (de-boned weight so adjust if you buy bone-in, can be found at most Halal meat markets), cut into roughly 1.5″ chunks (you can also use lamb, chicken, or beef – goat has a very distinct flavor not everyone will like. I’m sure there’s a way to adapt this to vegetarian using yam or potato if desired but adjusting the prep so you don’t end up with mush will be to your experimentation)
- 2 small-medium yellow onions, finely chopped
- 1/2-3/4 cup broth (I used vegetable broth, you do you)
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into segments about 4″ long, 1/8″ wide
- 1/4 cup sultanas, 1/4 cup black raisins
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- 1/8 cup finely chopped pistachios
Ingredients I’m going to eyeball, but you’ll still need:
- olive oil
- sugar (about 2 tbsp)
- ground cumin (about 1 tsp)
- ground cardamom (about 1 tsp)
- ground black pepper (about 1/4 tsp)
- (optional) cinnamon (dash), clove (dash)
Prep on this (not accounting for the hour long rice soak, so start that first) is roughly 40 minutes. Your time may vary.
Here’s what you’re going to do:
- Rinse your rice twice, soak for at least an hour, then rinse once more. Quick note, a lot of Basmati rice sold in conventional US grocery stores is processed and will not need to be soaked an hour – either reduce your soak (15 minutes or so) or get an unprocessed rice at an Indo-Pak, Deshi, etc. market.
- Preheat the oven to 500 degrees (Fahrenheit, unless you’re feeling particularly fire-y today).
- In the pan, sauté the onion in olive oil (couple of tablespoons? You’ll figure it out) until they’re brown, but before they’re fully caramelized. If you don’t burn the shit out of them and get a good, deep brown this will take a good 20-30 minutes (really).
- Add your meat of choice and sprinkle with salt, make sure you brown on all sides (your onions should caramelize in this period)
- Add 1/4 of your broth, cook down, then add another the rest of your broth and put a lid on your pan, allowing it to simmer (you want cooked and tender so time varies depending on your meat, for goat I simmered about 30 minutes but chicken can be done in 15-20).
- While your meat is simmering, boil your carrots in the pot juuuust barely to the point of becoming tender (about 3-5 minutes) – it is imperative they not be cooked to “done” because they will fall apart during the fry or bake. This is closer to a blanch than a cook.
- Drain the water from the carrots, drop you heat to medium, then add your raisins and sultanas, nuts, a tablespoonish of olive oil, and a couple of tablespoons of sugar. Cook constantly stirring for 3 minutes, then remove from heat and put in a foil pouch.
- Take the meat out of the broth and set aside. Add cumin, cardamom, black pepper, and cinnamon (to taste, though I think 1 tsp, 1 tsp, 1/4 tsp, a dash respectively is adequate) to the broth and cook on low about 5 minutes.
- While your broth is turning into sauce, cook your rice to an al denté consistency in your dutch oven (or rinsing and re-using your above pot if your dutch oven is not range safe). Don’t worry, it’s going to get cooked again, nobody’s eating crunchy rice today.
- Colander the rice to drain off the water then put back into the dutch oven/bakeware, mix in the broth sauce.
- Put the meat on top of the rice. Also put the foil package of carrots (still in the foil!) on top of the rice).
- Cook covered at 500 degrees for 15 minutes, then drop heat to 250 degrees and cook an additional 20 minutes
- To serve, put the meat in the middle of the platter (if serving family style) or in the middle of 2-4 plates depending on serving size desires, then cover with the rice. Open the foil pack and sprinkle the carrot mixture on top of the rice.
That’s it! The total time for me, from beginning of prep to plating was roughly 2 hours, 50 minutes (12:50 to 15:40).