Sabzi Plov

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 which is Sabzi Plov (Herb Pilaf.)
The word “sabzi” in the name of the dish came into Azerbaijani language from Iran. In the Persian language, “sabzi” means “green,” and it can refer to either herbs or vegetables. In Azerbaijan, Sabzi Pilaf is prepared with green herbs. The main herb used in Sabzi Pilaf called “Kever,” it is Azerbaijani name for “Chinese Leeks” or “Garlic Chives”. The flavor of this exotic herb is more like garlic than chives, and is widely used not only in Оriental cuisine, but also in Middle Eastern cuisine.
Without kever, Sabzi pilaf will lose its unique taste.

2 cups Basmati rice
8 oz (225 g) clarified butter
3 quart (3 liter) water for rice
3 tbsp salt for rice
1½ lb (700 g) lamb or beef
1 large size onion
3 bunches of kever (garlic chives)
1 bunch of cilantro
1 bunch of dill
1 bunch of parsley
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste for meat

Rinse the rice thoroughly in cold water several times to remove excess starch. Then, soak the rice overnight in salty water for a truly great, fluffy, and tender pilaf. Soaking the rice for any less than overnight is a waste of time, but if you are using extra long, high quality Basmati rice and don’t have the time to soak the rice, you can skip it and only rinse your rice right before cooking.

Preparing clarified butter in advance.
To clarify butter, melt the unsalted butter in a saucepot over very low heat. Let it simmer until the foam rises to the top of the melted butter. Skim off the foam with a spoon (you can save the foam to add to bread dough). Remove the saucepot from heat, let it cool down, and put it in the refrigerator for about two hours. When the butter has solidified, poke two holes in it down to the milky liquid below. Pour off the milky liquid leaving only the solidified butter to accelerate the evaporation of the liquid. Then, heat the butter and let it simmer for a few minutes over low heat. Do not overcook your clarified butter, otherwise it will turn in a brown color with an unpleasant flavor!
Strain the clarified butter through cheesecloth (or a very fine sieve) into a glass container while leaving any solids at the bottom of the saucepan.
If you don’t prepare the clarified butter in advance, just melt regular, unsalted butter. It will not spoil the taste of the pilaf.

Cooking the rice.
Fill a 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 7-10 minutes. Do not overcook your rice! It must be hard on the inside and soft on outside. Strain the rice using a colander, rinse it with hot water to wash out any extra salt, and set it aside.

Preparing Qazmaq.
Qazmaq will prevent the rice from scorching and form a crispy, delicious crust. There are four methods to prepare the bottom crust for any Azerbaijani pilaf. Follow the methods listed below and see which one works best for you.
1. Mix together 1 egg, 4 tablespoons of precooked rice, 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt, and a ½ teaspoon of saffron infusion.
2. Mix 1 cup of flour, 1 egg, 1 pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon of melted butter, and 1 tablespoon of water. Knead the dough and roll it out into the shape of your saucepan.
3. Use thin, round potato slices.
4. Use a flour tortilla.

Preparing Pilaf.
Melt two tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and spread the qazmaq on the butter. If you are using a method that involves dough or yogurt, you will need to cook the qazmaq for a few minutes before placing the rice on top. 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. 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. Cooked rice will soak up the butter and turn fluffy and soft.


Preparing Sabzi Govurma (the meat and herbs).
Cut the meat into small pieces. Add 2 tablespoons of clarified butter in a saucepan, and cook meat over medium-high heat until lightly brown on all sides. Then, add approximately 1/3 cup of water and season the meat with a salt and pepper. Cover the pan with a lid and let it simmer over medium-low heat until the meat is almost cooked. Stir the meat occasionally to prevent it from burning.

Wash all the herbs and pat them dry with a towel to remove all water before cooking. Chop the herbs (not too finely), but do not mix them together because each herb has a different cooking time and will be added to the meat separately. Before chopping the parsley, cilantro and dill, separate the small stems with leafy tops from the hard, lower stems.


Peel the onion, cut it in half, and slice it into thin half-rings. In a separate frying pan, melt one tablespoon of butter and fry the onion until it is lightly golden.

Add the onion to the almost cooked meat and mix them together. Add the chopped kever (garlic chives) to the meat and cook for about 10 minutes. Then, add the chopped parsley and cook for another 10 minutes. Finally, add the chopped cilantro and dill. Mix all the herbs with the meat, add lemon juice, and simmer for approximately 15-20 minutes until the herbs and meat are tender and cooked.


Serve Sabzi Plov on a large plate and garnish with meat and herbs.

Bon Appétit! Enjoy!

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