Welcome to Samarkand, one of Central Asia’s oldest inhabited cities.
Located in modern day Uzbekistan, a large number of ethnic groups still call Samarkand home. Thus, it is a city of preserved history and culture of not one group, but many groups – and is even recognized by UNESCO as the “Crossroads of Cultures.”
While your feet can’t always travel, your tastebuds still can. Thus, we continue this series sharing some of the traditional (and might we add – delicious!) recipes from Samarkand, found in Carline Eden and Eleanor Ford’s book, “Samarkand.”
The quintessential dish of Uzbekistan, with as
many variants as there are people who cook it. This Samarkand version is a little lighter than most traditional Uzbek plovs, where pools of lamb tail fat provide the dominant flavour. It can be made with lamb or beef and is distinctive for being cooked and served in layers.
Plov should be eaten from one large dish placed on the table to share, each diner digging in their fork. It is said people form mutual love from a communal plate and the joy of eating plot.
You’ll need a good, heavy-bottomed pan with a close-fitting lid to make plov. In Uzbekistan, a cast-iron ‘kazan’ is used; a large cast-iron casserole makes the perfect substitute.
Main Ingredients (Serves 6):
450g basmati rice, rinsed
600g blade stewing steak, diced
150ml clarified butter or sunflower oil
4 onions, cut into wedges
2 bay leaves
4 yellow and 2 orange carrots (or use 6 orange), cut into thick matchsticks
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
12 garlic cloves, unpeeled
12 hard-boiled quail’s eggs, peeled
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the rinsed rice into a large bowl of cold water to soak while you start the recipe. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Heat the clarified butter in the pan until hot and foaming. Brown the beef over a medium-high heat, in batches if necessary, then remove from the pan with a slotted spoon leaving the butter behind. Lower the heat to medium and add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden. Return the beef to the pan with any collected juices, the bay leaves and a small cupful of water. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down very low, cover the pan and gently simmer for 1 hour until the meat is tender.
Spread over the carrot matchsticks, but don’t stir as you want to keep the layers separate. Scatter over the spices, and cover and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Drain the rice and layer it on top of the carrots. Poke the whole garlic cloves into the rice and flatten the top with the back of a edge. A juicy tomato salad is the perfect accompaniment.
Recipe and photos from Samarkand – written by Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford, published by Kyle Books, photography by Laura Edwards. Priced £25.