Ali-Musamba Pilaf

Pilaf 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. It served in pieces with the rice or on a separate plate.
Azerbaijani cuisine has dozens of different types of pilaf, one of which is Ali-Musamba Plov.

Ingredients for 4 servings:
(cup size 250 ml)
for pilaf
2 cups long-grain (Basmati) rice
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
for govurma:
2 lb lamb riblets (1 lb of lamb tenderloin)
1 onion
½ cup of prunes
½ cup of golden sour prunes
a pinch of cinnamon
Salt and pepper for lamb to taste

Preparing the saffron infusion.
Place saffron threads into a shot glass. Then, pour about 3 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 lamb.
Lamb riblets are the bones cut from the spareribs on the lamb near the lamb’s shoulder. They are a small, tender cut of meat. If you are using the tenderloin meat for pilaf, cut it into medium size pieces before cooking.
Place the meat into a saucepan. Add one tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper. Cover the pan with the lid and simmer over low heat, until the meat is fully cooked. Stir occasionally to prevent it from burning.


In a frying pan melt one tablespoon of butter and fry the peeled and slices onion until golden brown.
Add to your meat fried onion, prunes and plums, a pinch of cinnamon and one tablespoon of saffron infusion. Simmer all together over low heat until fruits are tender and plump.


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 at room temperature (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, and 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. Qazmaq (cooked lavash under the rice), will prevent the rice from scorching, forming a delicious crispy crust. Then, 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.


Preparing Qazmaq.
If you prefer to make your own qazmaq instead if using lavash/tortilla, follow below methods and see which one works for you.
There are four methods to prepare the bottom crust for any Azerbaijani 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 saucepan.
3. Mix 2 eggs, 2 tbsp flour, 2 tbsp yogurt, 2 tbsp melted butter.
4. Peeled and sliced potatoes.

Serve Ali-Musamba Plov on a large plate and garnish with a lamb, fruit and crispy Qazmaq, as shown on the main picture, or serve in a separate plate.


Bon Appétit! Enjoy!

This post is also available in: Russian

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