Kabuli pilau with/without lamb

14 Apr

Kabuli pilau

Kabuli pilau is my first foray into Afghan cuisine. Considered Afghanistan’s national dish, Kabuli pilau is usually made with lamb, though I also found recipes that used chicken as well as meat-free versions.

This wasn’t particularly challenging to make, but it did take time – to soak and parboil the rice, produce the stock and cut the carrots into matchsticks. It also required more pots than I’m in the habit of using.

It is important to use parboiled basmati rice, also known as sella rice. Otherwise you end up with a pot of mush like I did the first time I made kabuli pilau. “Is this some kind of couscous?” Lyra asked when I brought it to the table.

After that mishap, I did some research into parboiled rice. I’d assumed it was a convenience food, like the “minute rice” I grew up hating. Turns out parboiling is an ancient practice from the Indian sub-continent.

Unhusked rice is partially dried, parboiled and dried again before being husked and milled. This process forces nutrients from the bran into the grain, and results in a more nutritious form of white rice.

To make a vegetarian version of Kabuli pilau, just simmer vegetable stock with the spices before using it to steam the rice.

Kabuli pilau with/without lamb
(serves 6)

  • 2 cups parboiled basmati rice
  • 1 Tb (+ 1 tsp) sunflower oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 500g boneless lamb shoulder, cubed OR 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 1/4 tsp peppercorns
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tb slivered almonds
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • a pinch of caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  1. Soak the parboiled basmati rice in cold water for at least four hours.
  2. Heat 1 Tb of oil in a heavy pot over a medium heat. Sauté the onion until golden.
  3. Add the lamb chunks (if using) and cook until browned. Stir in the garlic, followed by the cumin, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom pods, peppercorns and salt.
  4. Add enough water to cover the lamb by half an inch (or add two cups of vegetable stock if making a meat-free version). Bring to a simmer, cover, turn the heat to low and cook until the stock is flavourful and/or the meat tender.
  5. Strain the meat from the stock, reserving both, and set aside. Clean the pot for use later.
  6. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the drained rice and cook for six to eight minutes, or until the rice is softened but not tender. Drain and set aside.
  7. Heat a heavy frying pan over medium heat. Dry fry the almonds until browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  8. Add a teaspoon of oil to the frying pan. Add the carrots, sprinkle with a pinch of sugar and cook until glossy, about two minutes. Add the raisins and cook a minute more. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  9. Add the rice to the pot used to make the stock. Pour in a cup of stock and stir to combine. Using the end of a wooden spoon, poke holes into the rice for the steam to escape.
  10. Sprinkle over the garam masala, add the lamb (if using), and top with the carrot mixture. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook over high heat for five minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook for ten minutes more.
  11. Season to taste and sprinkle with slivered almonds to serve.

2 Responses to “Kabuli pilau with/without lamb”

  1. Adam Garfunkel April 14, 2015 at 11:11 am #

    Delicate, authentic and delicious!

  2. Anna Nismiya July 28, 2015 at 11:21 am #

    Wow! I never made a try on these recipes although am a great food lover as well as a good chef. Any ways will try this at home and let you know how well did it worked.Keep do share more and keep sharing always

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