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 Arpa Sehriye Plov.
Arpa Sehriye is rice-shaped pasta. It is very popular in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern nations. In Italy, it called “Italian rice” or “Orzo”. In Turkey and Azerbaijan Arpa Sehriye mixed with the rice is one of the varieties of pilaf – Arpa Sehriye Pilaf.
1 cup Basmati rice
1 cup Arpa Sehriye
7 oz (200 g) butter
3 tbsp saffron infusion
2 quart (2 liter) water for rice
2 tbsp salt for rice
1 quart (1 liter) water for sehriye
½ tsp salt for sehriye
1 lb (450 g) of lamb (or beef)
½ cup dry barberries
Salt and pepper for seasoning the meat
Preparing the rice.
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 meat, sehriye 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 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.
Fry Sehriye (Orzo) in the saucepan, without butter, until golden brown, then pour boiling water, add salt and cook until it’s ready. Drain through a colander.
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.
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. Peeled and sliced potatoes
4. Use a flour tortilla.
Gently mix Arpa-Sehriye with the rice. 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 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.
Preparing the meat.
Cut the meat into small size pieces. Place the meat into a saucepan. Add one tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper. Cover the pan with the lid and simmer over low-medium 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 sliced onion until golden brown.
Add to your meat fried onion and one tablespoon of saffron infusion. Simmer together over low heat for 5 minutes.
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. Gently mix in the bowl arpa-shehriye with the rice. Place a layer of the rice-sehriye (approximately quarter) and pour two tablespoons of melted butter on this layer. Then, place another layer of rice-sehriye 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 minutes. Rinse dry Barberries and separately fry in melted butter. Alternatively, you can mix barberries together with rice and sehriye.
Serve Arpa-Sehriye pilaf on a large plate and garnish with the meat, barberries and qazmaq. You can also serve pilaf with any other side dishes of your own taste.
Bon Appétit! Enjoy!
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