FISINJAN PILAF with MEATBALLS.
Pilaf is the signature dish of Azerbaijani cuisine. It is usually served on special occasions and known in Azerbaijan as Ash or Plov. Azerbaijani cuisine has dozens of different types of pilaf, one of the most delicious of them is Fisinjan Plov–a pilaf with meatballs or chicken, cooked in a sweet-and-sour sauce, made of ground Walnuts and Narsharab (Pomegranate syrup/molasses).
*A full-sized picture of this dish is available in the Gallery.
Ingredients for 4 servings:
1 lb (½ кg) ground lamb or beef
1 cup grounded walnuts
3 tablespoons Pomegranate syrup/molasses (Narsharab)
2 tablespoons melted clarified butter
1½ cups meat stock (or water)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups long-grain (Basmati) rice (cup size 250 ml)
1 quart (1 liter) water + 1 tbsp salt for soaking rice
3 quarts (3 liter) water + 3 tbsp salt for cooking rice
8 oz (225 g) clarified unsalted butter
½ tsp saffron threads
1 lavash (tortilla) for qazmaq
Preparing the Fisinjan.
1. Place the ground meat into a mixing bowl, season with salt and pepper to taste, and mix it well using your hands.
2. Moisten your hands in water, shake off the excess, take a small amount of forcemeat and roll it into a ball (about the size of a large walnut). Put the ball on a plate and repeat with the rest of the forcemeat.
3. Preheat a frying pan with 2 tablespoons of clarified butter (or oil). Place the meatballs into the frying pan and fry them over medium heat until golden brown on all sides.
4. Peel the onion, cut it in half, and slice it into thin half-rings. In a saucepan melt 2 tablespoons of clarified butter and fry the onion until it is soft and lightly golden.
5. Grind the walnuts in the food processor or in the meat grinder and add them to the onion.
6. Add Narsharab and meatballs to the walnut-onion mixture, and mix all together.
7. Add meat stock (or water), and simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Preparing the saffron infusion.
Place saffron threads into a shot glass. Then, pour about two tablespoons of boiling water and let it sit. The water will turn an opulent yellow color immediately, deepening over the next few minutes until it becomes a clear, bright orange.
Preparing the Rice.
1. Rinse the rice thoroughly in cold water several times until the water stays clear, to remove excess starch. Then, soak the rice overnight in salty water (or at least 1 hour in very hot salty water) for a truly great, fluffy, and evenly cooked rice. Before cooking the rice, pour out the water straining the rice with a colander.
2. Fill a pot (or saucepan) 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 5-10 minutes (depending on the quality of your rice). Cooked rice should be soft on the outside and hard inside (not raw.)
3. Strain the rice using a colander, rinse with a hot water, to wash out an extra salt.
4. Melt two tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and place lavash (tortilla) on the butter. Place a layer of the rice (approximately a quarter of it) on top of the qazmaq and pour 2-3 tablespoons of melted butter on top. Then, follow up with another layer of rice and more butter. Repeat the procedure with all your rice. On the last layer, you can pour the 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.
5. Wrap the lid of the pot in a tea towel and cover the rice. Cook over a very low heat for about 45-60 minutes. Put a heat diffuser (or a pan) under your pot to prevent burning.
The cooked rice will absorb all the butter itself and will become fluffy and soft to the taste with an attractive yellow-and-white color.
Serve Fisinjan Plov on a large plate and garnish with a pomegranate seeds, walnuts and crispy Qazmaq.
Bon Appétit! Enjoy!
This post is also available in: Russian