Shirin Pilaf

SHIRIN PLOV (SWEET 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 Shirin Plov (Sweet Pilaf) – the king of Azerbaijani pilafs. Shirin Plov, which means sweet pilaf, is usually served with sweet dried fruits such as apricots and raisins.

Ingredients for 3-4 portions:
2 cups Basmati rice
7 oz (200 g) butter (or clarified butter)
2 tbsp saffron infusion
3 quart (3 liter) water for rice
3 tbsp salt for rice
1 flour tortilla for qazmaq
1 cup dried Apricots
1 cup golden raisins

Preparation:
Preparing the rice.
Rinse the rice thoroughly in cold water several times to remove excess starch. Then, soak the rice overnight (or for a few hours) in a mixture of salt and water (cold or warm). If you are using the extra long, high quality Basmati rice, you don’t have to soak your rice. While the rice is soaking, you can prepare the dried fruit and the saffron infusion.

Preparing the saffron infusion.
To prepare the infusion, take a ½ teaspoon of dried saffron threads and toss them into a glass. Then, pour two 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 dried apricots and raisins.
In a saucepan, melt two tablespoons of butter, add two tablespoons of hot water, add the dried apricots (cut them in half if they are too large) and raisins. Simmer the fruit over low heat for a few minutes until they are plump. Stir constantly to prevent them from burning.

Cooking the rice.
Fill a large 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 7-10 minutes (5 minutes for soaked rice). 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.
There are three methods to prepare the bottom crust for pilaf.
1. Mix together 1 egg, 4 tablespoons of precooked rice, 2 tablespoons of yogurt, and a few drops of saffron infusion.
2. Mix 1 cup of flour, egg, some salt, butter, and water. Knead the dough and roll it out into the shape of your saucepot.
3. Use a flour tortilla.

Preparing the pilaf.
Gently mix in the bowl the dried fruit with the rice, but save some for garnishing purposes. Melt two tablespoons of butter in a saucepot 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 quarter) and pour 2-3 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 60 minutes. Cooked rice will soak to itself all butter, and will be fluffy and soft to taste with an attractive yellow and white color.

Serve Shirin Plov on a large plate and garnish with fruit and crispy Qazmaq.

Bon Appétit! Enjoy!

 

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