Afghanistan - Kabuli Pulao
This dish... wasn’t bad, however, it was rather bland. Even with adding a little extra of all the seasonings after cooking, the flavors just didn’t pop. Funny thing is, I heard from my SO's friend, most flavors in Afghanistan are rather mellow and can be mostly bland. It was disappointing to find that out after I made this because this dish was a rather complicated one. It also original uses 4 cups of uncooked rice, so now we're stuck eating it for the foreseeable future.
Overall, again, this dish was alright. Not worth the process, but any excuse to buy and eat lamb, I will take it! If you’re going to make this dish, be prepared to add more seasonings than you’re used to. Also, we ended up adding hot sauce and that really helped bring this dish to the level we were actually expecting.
Have you been to Afghanistan? Or tried this dish? Let me know in the comments. I'd love to hear your experience.
3 cups sela rice (originally 4 cups)
2 cups vegetable oil (divided)
2 onions (sliced)
Salt (to taste)
3 lbs lamb (chopped)
3 cloves of garlic (smashed)
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp ground cumin
4-6 cups water
1/3 cup almonds (slivered)
1/3 cup pistachios
1 cup carrots (shredded)
5 tsp sugar (divided)
1/3 cup large raisins
2 tsp garam masala powder
Note: The original instructions weren't very clear, so I had to hope I was doing things correctly. I heavily adjusted the ingredients to my own liking. Originally, the recipe calls for 4 cups of sela rice, which is just parboiled basmati rice. It's not common in regular grocery stores, but I have seen other recipes use regular basmati rice with great results.
Rinse the rice a few times and let it soak for at least 1 hour.
The original recipe also calls for a pressure cooker, but I did it the old-fashioned simmer for an hour plus way. First, heat a pot over medium-high heat with 1/3 cup of oil. When the oil is ready, saute the sliced onions until caramelized, about 10-15 minutes. Don't forget to season with salt. This will help the onions sweat a little bit. Remove the onions from the pot into a container for the time being.
Add another 1/4 cup of oil to the pot and add the lamb meat to brown on all sides. Season with salt. You might have to brown in batches, but that's okay! When all the lamb is browned, add all the lamb and the onions back in and give it a good stir. Add the garlic cloves, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, and 6 cups of water to the pot. Simmer for at least an hour; two if you're patient. I originally had to debone my lamb, so I added the bones to the pot for additional flavor.
While the lamb is simmering, heat a small pan over medium-high heat. Add the almonds and pistachios to the pan and toast them for about 4-5 minutes. Set these aside as they will be your garnish when everything is finished.
In the same small pan, add about 1 tablespoon of oil and saute the carrots for about 3 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar and mix well until the carrots start to caramelize. Now add the 1/3 cup of raisins and season with cardamom. Saute for 1 more minute, and set aside.
When the lamb is tender, remove the meat and set aside. Pour the broth into a big bowl. You will only need 2 cups of the broth for this recipe, but the broth will be great as a soup for later. Also, I'd recommend not straining the broth and using the onion-broth mixture in a few steps.
Drain the rice that's been soaking. In the same pot that you simmered the meat or a different pot if you so wish, add the rice, and about 6-8 cups of water, at least enough to cover the rice by a few inches. Turn the heat to high heat and wait until it comes to a boil. When the rice is just almost cooked, about 6-7 minutes, turn off the heat, drain, and set the rice aside.
In a small pot over medium heat, add 3 teaspoons of sugar. Don't be impatient like I was. Keep it on medium and wait until it starts to turn a light golden color. Add 1 teaspoon of cardamom and 2 teaspoons of garam masala. Give it a good mix, then add the 2 cups of broth. Let it come to a boil before you turn off the heat.
If the pot you used before has a lid, great. If not, place the rice in a large pot that has a tight-fitting lid. Pour the 2 cups of broth over the rice and mix well. Season with more cardamom and garam masala, to taste.
Place the meat over the rice. Now the carrot and raisins mixture on top of the meat. With the handle part of a wooden spoon, poke holes in the rice so that the steam will be able to escape in the next steps.
Cover the pot with a clean kitchen towel, and then cover with a lid. You can fold the towel over the lid if there are extra bits hanging off. We use a towel so that it absorbs any of the moisture from the steam.
Set the heat on high and let it go for 5 minutes. Then medium for 5 minutes, and finally low for 5 minutes. Turn OFF the heat and let it sit for a final 5 minutes to steam. Uncover, garnish with the almonds and pistachios, and some fresh raisins if you'd like, and serve. This is the part that I seasoned with more salt and other seasonings to add to the flavor. We felt like it still needed something, so we actually ate it with hot sauce, which was quite amazing.
Recipe adapted from Rehana Du Jour.