Today, the last of the plov blogs, I will explain how I actually made this signature dish. But in the way I actually cook it. You see, I rarely measure anything out. I got by handfuls and bowlfuls rather than pounds and ounces. Nevertheless, the pictures should help you visualise the making of this Central Asian treat.
First, you need a wokful of meat. It has to be fatty, so go to a halal meat shop and ask for 'Mixed Mutton' or 'Mixed Goat' as usually this is more fatty than regular cuts of the leg or shoulder. You need fatty meat for this dish to work. For all you guys spoilt by the cellophane wrapped stylings of the supermarket, you need to appreciate the slaughter of our four legged friends before you can properly eat them. Also a halal shop is a lot cheaper than Tescos etc.
So, heat a lot of olive oil in the wok. Add half of an unchopped onion. Let it go black. Toss out the onion and then add the meat. High gas so all the 'pink bits'; vanish.
(A 'wokful' - what a great measurement)
Make sure you have some roughly chopped white onions (half a dozen or so) and loads of carrots. I used well over a dozen.
(That's pumpkin on the right hand side, which I also made)
Once the meat has has been sizzling away (make sure it does not stick to the pan by stirring it), then add the onions and carrots to the mixture. Keep stirring, on high heat. Heat is good, but you got to keep stirring the meat otherwise it will stick to the pan and you'll get burnt bits. Keep going for 15 minutes, until the carrots are nice and soft.
In the meantime wash some rice (you could pre-do all of this). For a wokful of plov, 3-4 mugfuls of rice should do it. And then go back to your wok. Get out cumin, bay leaves, salt and pepper. And then add them in. Oh, measures, I forget, you all rely on measures. Well, a generous palmful of cumin (cumin is always good, you can add more), a fair bit of pepper (I suppose a table spoon), the same amount of salt (this is not a salty dish, the carrots make up for that) and a few bay leaves. Once they are walked in, fry for about a minute longer than add in the same amount of water as you have rice (so in this case, 3-4 mugfuls). Make sure the water is already hot.
And then you simmer. Yes, calm down and relax. Simmer for at least fifteen minutes, maybe twenty, depending on how hot your water is. Cover the wok when you simmer. Once this is done open the pan. Now you meat is well on the way to being cooked and everyone's mouths should be drooling over the deliciousness of the mixture. You're nearly there. Have a cheese twist or something to keep you happy.
Next, you have to add the rice (Basmati or any other rice such as parboiled is fine). This is the bit where it can go completely tits up. You need to whack the flame on high again, so the water starts bubbling. Then add your washed rice. Now, be careful as you can tip the wok here. As you add the rice, you have to keep stirring the mixture. The rice is going to soak up the water pretty quickly, so you have to stir the mixture to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. If you have a free hand you can add some saffron or paprika to the mix. It gives a nice colour. Allow the water to dry up. Then lower the heat, add 3/4 mug of cold water to the wok, cover and simmer on a low flame for 20-30 minutes.
Once this time has elapsed, open the wok, turn off the gas and serve. A simple salad is good such as chopped cucumbers or lettuce. No dressing of any sort, it will be yucky. Cooked pumpkin is also good (check back on Halloween) to accompany the dish. The perfect drink is tea, especially something like oolong, but even normal breakfast tea will do. Something to wash down the fat. And melons make a good desert.
(This is what it should look like)
Plov is a simple dish. You can add apricots or raisins, but I am a purist and I want to recapture the flavour of North-West China. Just carrots is fine by me. Plov is also a fatty number, that is a simple necessity for the taste. Do not be tempted to add chilli into the dish, it will do fine without eat. And most of all, bring a vegetarian along...
A more coherent way to make plov.