Lamb or Goat Plov, Uzbek Style
A traditional lamb plov, or pilaf made with lamb or goat meat is a great recipe to add to your repertoire. Typically it’s thought of as a dish from Uzbekistan, but similar versions are enjoyed in many areas of eastern Europe, the Middle East, and the Balkans. Just the word pilaf might sound a little uninteresting, but, plov, is anything but a typical pilaf. Chef Bergo researched and developed this plov especially for us, here’s what he says:
“I didn’t know what to expect at first, but the lamb Plov is probably the ultimate rice and meat based dish. Just imagine rice cooked with fork-tender braised meat in it’s own broth, heavily spiced, but not obnoxious, studded here and there with tiny tart barberries, although cranberries can also be used.” “Trust me, this is essentially the National dish of Uzbekistan for a reason-my family members fought over the leftovers every time I made it while I was developing the recipe”.
The ingredients for our lamb plov are very simple, with nothing more than some rice, a few spices, lamb, carrots, and onions. The barberries are traditional, and add a great, tart flavor, but will probably need to be ordered online (Chef used these) you can substitute dried cranberries, but they will probably be a little more sweet than barberries, as they’re typically soaked in syrup. If rich meat and dried fruit doesn’t appeal to you, don’t worry, the dish will be just as good without any fruit at all.
The only real trick to getting the plov right is the special technique of steaming the rice. It’s different than how you may have cooked rice in the past, but it’s a fascinating cultural technique, that, once mastered, could be applied to plenty of other dishes. It’s fairly straightforward, you braise the lamb and vegetables, then add the rice, but do not stir. Next the rice is brought back to a simmer for a few minutes, then small tunnels are made with a skewer to help air circulate, and the whole pot (preferably cast iron for it’s heat retention) is wrapped in towels and allowed to sit off the heat and steam. After the rice is tender, the pilaf is turned out onto a platter for an impressive family style meal.
This recipe is by chef Alan Bergo. A chef from Minnesota, Alan is a 15 year veteran of the culinary industry, former executive chef of acclaimed Lucia’s Restaurant, and the Salt Cellar. He’s best known as a respected authority on Midwestern foraging. Learn more about Alan and his hunt for mushrooms, wild and obscure foods at his site Forager Chef.
- 2 cups long grain rice
- 5 tablespoons salt
- 1 head of garlic
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1/3 cup dried barberries, plus more to taste (optional, chopped, dried cranberries can be substituted)
- 1 tablespoon coriander seed
- 5 tablespoon cumin seed
- 10 oz / 1 large yellow onion, cut into medium dice
- 20 oz / 4 medium sized carrots, cut into 2 inch batons
- ½ cup lamb fat
- 3 cups lamb stock or water
- Fresh cilantro, to garnish, optional
- Rub the garlic bulb with your hands to remove as much of the outer paper as possible. Toast the peppercorns, coriander, and cumin lightly, then grind and reserve. Season the lamb with 1 tablespoon of the salt.
- Meanwhile, in a dutch oven, heat the lamb fat or oil until lightly smoking. It will seem like a lot of fat. Brown the lamb well in the fat, reserve, then add the onion to the lamb fat, stir for a few minutes, and cook until it’s started to brown. Add the carrots, sweat for a few minutes, then add the stock, garlic bulb, barberries and spices, cover and cook on low heat for 1 hour. Meanwhile, soak the rice in cool water for 30 minutes, changing the water until it looks clear and the starch has been removed.
- Drain the rice well, then spread on top of the lamb in the lamb-carrot mixture in the dutch oven, being careful not to mix the rice in with the remaining ingredients. Smooth the rice out into an even layer, then turn the heat to high for a minute or two. Turn the heat down to the lowest possible setting, then cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes.
- Remove the lid, and, gently stir the rice around on the top to ensure even cooking, then, using a spoon, mound the rice carefully into a dome shape so the rice isn’t touching the walls of the pot. Using a chopstick or the handle of a thin wooden spoon, make a few holes going down to the bottom of the pot to create a channel for the steam to release through, to help ensure a fluffy pilaf and allow the rice to finish cooking by steaming. Return to the stove and allow the mixture to cook on the lowest possible heat for another 10 minutes, then turn the heat off, remove pot to a trivet, wrap tightly in a thick towel, and allow the plov rest and steam for the final 20 minutes before serving.
- To serve the plov, remove the lids and towel, remove the rice first using a spoon, then mound the meat on top, garnish with cilantro and the garlic bulb and serve immediately.