Borani Pilaf

BORANI PLOV (PUMPKIN PILAF)
Pilaf or Plov is the signature dish of Azerbaijani cuisine. It served on special occasions and known in Azerbaijan as Ash or Plov. The rice in Azerbaijani Pilaf should never be sticky. The basic cooking method is to parboil and then steam the rice. Pilaf is usually served as its own dish on a large plate, accompanied by different garnishes in separate bowls. The most interesting part of pilaf is Qazmaq – a crust made at the bottom of the saucepot when the rice is steamed, and served in pieces with the rice or on a separate plate. Azerbaijani cuisine has dozens of different types of pilaf, one of which is Borani Plov (Pumpkin Pilaf) – pilaf with pumpkin and almonds.

Ingredients:
2 cups Basmati rice
7 oz (200 g) butter
3 tbsp saffron infusion
3 quart (3 liter) water for rice
3 tbsp salt for rice
½ lb (2 cups) pumpkin
½ cup almonds
Sugar to taste

Preparation:

Preparing the rice for the pilaf.
Rinse the rice thoroughly in cold water several times to remove excess starch. Then, soak the rice in a mixture of salt and water. If you are using the extra long, high quality Basmati rice, you don’t need to soak your rice. While the rice is soaking, you can prepare the pumpkin, almonds, and the saffron infusion.

Preparing the saffron infusion.
To prepare the infusion, take a 1 teaspoon of dried saffron threads and toss them into a glass. Then, pour 3 tablespoons of boiling water and let it sit. Immediately, the water will turn an opulent yellow color, deepening over the next few minutes until it becomes a clear, bright orange.

Preparing the almonds.
To peel the almonds, bring the water to a boil and slide the almonds into a pot. Allow them to sit in the water for about a minute, but not too much longer or they will become soggy. Immediately drain the almonds using a colander. The almonds are easiest to peel while still warm. Skin them by squeezing each individual almond between your thumb and forefinger—it should pop right out of its skin. Leave the skinned almonds to dry in a single layer on a towel. Once dry, the almonds are ready to use.

Preparing the pumpkin.
Wash the outside of the pumpkin and cut it in half. Scoop out and discard all the seeds and the stringy stuff inside the pumpkin. Cut the pumpkin into large pieces and peel them with a vegetable peeler or a knife. Then cut your pumpkin into small cubes.
Place the pumpkin and almonds into a saucepan; add two tablespoons of melted butter, two tablespoons of water and some sugar to taste. Simmer over medium heat until the pumpkin is almost cooked but still firm.

Cooking the rice.
Fill a saucepan (or saucepot) with water, add salt and bring it to a boil. Place the rice into the boiling water. Stir, lower the heat to medium, and let it cook for 10 minutes. Do not overcook your rice! it must be hard on the inside and soft on outside. Strain the rice using a colander, rinse with a hot water, to wash out an extra salt, and set it aside.

Preparing the qazmaq.
Mix together 1 egg, 4 tablespoons of precooked rice, 2 tablespoons of yogurt, and a few drops of saffron infusion.

Preparing the pilaf.
Gently mix the pumpkin and almonds with the rice, but save some for garnishing purposes. Melt two tablespoons of butter in a saucepot and spread the qazmaq on the butter. You will need to cook the qazmaq for a few minutes before placing the rice on top. Place a layer of the rice (approximately quarter) and pour three  tablespoons of melted butter on this layer. Then, place another layer of rice on top and follow up with more butter. Repeat the procedure with all your rice. On the last fourth layer, pour your saffron infusion on top along with more butter. Make some air holes in the surface with the handle of a wooden spoon to allow steam to escape. Wrap the lid of the pot in a clean tea towel and cover the rice. Cook over a very low heat for about 45-60 minutes. The rice will be an attractive yellow and white color when finished.
Serve Borani Plov on a large plate and garnish with pumpkin, almonds and crispy Qazmaq.

Bon Appétit! Enjoy!

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