Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Beef Pilaf

Ate my very first Rice Pilaf last week, when my colleague brought some to work. A wife and a mother of two, she still does most of the cooking at home. Microwave and store bought meals is evidently off her family's menu.

The aromatic smell that came out of her food box that evening completely makes up for the mien of the unassuming lumps of rice and brown meat. It looked somehow placid, plain and obviously home cooked. But oh my Batman,  the whiff of air  coming out of from that dish was so guuud, it got me curious and salivating...silently. Now, I've eaten a fair share of rice dishes, after all I'm Asian, but this dish got me gawking openly. I asked her what it was, before curiosity kills the cat in me. She eagerly answered, ''Plov''.  We spent our break talking about this dish, with a pen and paper in one hand, while spooning the contents of her Tupperware with the  other. It was delicious! Making it sounds easy enough but there is a point in the cooking process, when Ingredients  should ''Nicht gerührt werden!!'' (not be stirred!) She said it with almost ferocious intensity and I actually stop chewing and stared back without blinking. The words naturally, set it. 

Pilaf or Plov as she calls it, is apparently one of her family's comfort and favorite foods. Considered a cult and national dish of her  country, Uzbekistan, Plov is  cooked,  by most of Russian and the rest of the  former Soviet Union households. I haven't cooked anything from that part of the globe, so I might as well give it a go.

So I cooked this dish today and it turned out as good as hers, I simply have to share it ! I hope you will enjoy it as I do. After all, good and delicious foods don't have to be written on a restaurant's menu. 

 Usbek Plov



  •  750 g Beef chuck
  •  6-7 pieces carrots
  •  2 medium sized onion
  •  3 cups of basmati rice
  •  1 big garlic head  or in this case 2 small ones
  •  1/4 cup vegetable oil 
  •  boiling water for braising 
  •  salt and pepper to taste


1. Cut beef chuck into 1/2 to 3/4 in thick cubes or strips and pat it dry using a paper towel.

2. Peel and julienne  carrots and thinly slice the  onions.

3. Crack up the stove to high . Put 1/4 cup of oil in a heavy pot/pan. Oil must be sizzling hot to almost smoking, then sear the meat until brown. Cook for about 10 minutes, uncovered. Reduce heat to medium and add onions. Cook for another 5 to 7 mins or until onion is translucent and aromatic.

4.  Add julienned carrots into the pot, stirring well until everything is well combined. Cook,  for about 5 minutes, uncovered. Season well with salt and pepper.

5. Boil some water while dish is cooking. Add enough boiling water into the pot, just enough to barely cover the meat and vegetable. Turn the heat to low and let the dish simmer, covered for 45 mins. Do not mix! It seems like magic is happening when you are not looking. Go read a book, watch Oprah or stalk your frenemis on Facebook to keep your head off the dish and your itchy hand off that lid.

6. Meanwhile, rinse rice over running water until water runs clear. Rinsing the rice gets rid of the starch which causes the rice to stick together.( I just love it when I rationalize my intervention! It's a nurse's thing). Soak rice in warm water about 15 mins before adding into the dish.

7. Once the meat is tender, rinse the rice again and spread it over the meat and carrot mixture. Pour boiling water over it until rice is completely submerged. Season rice with salt. Cook for about 5 minutes in medium heat , uncovered.

8. Cut garlic into half without peeling , exposing the cloves. Bury the garlic into rice, cut side down. Put the lid on, lower the heat and simmer the rice for 10 to 15 minutes or until rice is fully cooked. And don't you dare stir that pot!!

9. Once the the rice is cooked through, remove the buried garlic and you can have your way with the whole dish. Stir, stir and stir to your heart's content  and serve. This dish could serve up to 6 rice loving creatures.

Hearty, filling and delicious mess.

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