For the second installment of Bites Without Flights, I stepped very far out of my cooking comfort zone – Middle Eastern food, specifically a dish from Afghanistan called Qabili Pilau. Don’t get me wrong, I can eat food from the Middle East all day long, I have simply never had the opportunity to cook it myself!
Afghan food is influenced heavily by Iranian, Chinese, and South and Central Asian cuisine, and typically consists of meat and rice (referred to as pilau). The dish I made, Qabili Pilau, is the national dish of Afghanistan and, as it turns out, has tons of spelling variations. I particularly liked the ingredients of one recipe from Epicurious, hence my choice of spelling.
I will mention that this Qabili Pilau recipe is much more involved than my first recipe, Easy Bacon and Egg Breakfast Pie from New Zealand, and is very time intensive. However, cooking is not simply a labor of love – there is a great reward at the end. So, find a few hours on the weekend to try this recipe and step out of your cooking comfort zone, too!
Printer-friendly list of ingredients and instructions can be found at the bottom of the page.
Ingredients for Qabili Pilau
- 2 lb lamb, beef, or chicken (I used lamb)
- 2 C long grain brown rice
- 1 medium onion
- 4 large carrots
- 1 C dried cranberries
- 1/2 C grapeseed oil
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon Spanish saffron (optional)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- In a large skillet, sauté the onion in grapeseed oil until the onion is fragrant and fairly dark.
- Add the meat and brown lightly.
Add 2 cups of water, 1/4 teaspoon of saffron, and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, ground cumin, ground cardamom, salt, and pepper. Cover and let simmer for 40 minutes to one hour, or until meat is tender.
Remove meat from the juice and set aside.
Bring the juice to a boil and add 2 cups of rice, 1-1/2 teaspoon of salt, and enough water to cover 1-1/2 inches over the rice. Cook until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. Do not let the rice get oversaturated and mushy.
While the rice is cooking, cut four carrots into slender pieces about the height of a toothpick. Sauté the carrots and one teaspoon of sugar in about 1/4 cup of grapeseed oil. Cook until lightly browned.
Remove carrots from oil, add 1 cup of dried cranberries to the oil, and sauté until they expand.
Mix the meat, carrots, cranberries, and rice together in a large ovenproof casserole dish, cover with foil, and bake at 300 degrees (F) for about 30-45 minutes.
Enjoy this Qabili Pilau Recipe from Afghanistan and stay tuned for more great recipes from around the world on the Bites Without Flights page!