Throughout the Ottoman reign, traditional food from central Asia never went further west than Vienna. In the modern era, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Moldova was as far as its influence spread. The greater impact was on Greek and Turkish food.
Plovar, rice dishes from central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, became the favourite food of the Turks and not wanting to be upstaged by their neighbours the Greeks also adapted it into their traditional diet. If you didn’t know better, you’d be fooled into believing that the suffused rice dishes of Greece and Turkey were the authentic version. Since the emergence of the food culture from the Eurasian region that has changed dramatically. The Turks called it pilaf after the Persian pilaou, meaning boiled rice, and a culinary legend was gradually introduced to Europe.
Baku, a Silk Road axis between Europe and Asia, had a rich food culture before the arrival of the Bolsheviks in April 1920 and Azerbaijan‘s eventual assimilation into the Soviet system. Since independence in 1991 Azerbaijanis have been rediscovering their lost traditional food, especially the dishes they cooked with berries, fruits, nuts, spices and vegetables, which usually came together with rice flavoured with butter and saffron and various meats.
The saffron-infused plov of Azerbaijan, made properly, is now a signature dish of the world as its influence spreads to the western edges of the continent. The secret, as usual, is in the method.
Plovlar are back!
This is a basic plov, see below for other plovlar.
- 3 litres water
- 800 g basmati rice
- 30 ml milk / water (optional)
- 1 tsp saffron / 1 tsp turmeric
Rinse the rice in hot, then cold water several times until the water is clear. This removes the starch and allows the rice grains to cook separately.
Heat milk or water and infuse saffron in a small bowl, about 30 minutes. If saffron is not available use turmeric.
Pour the water into a deep heavy-based saucepan, add salt and bring to the boil. When it reaches a rolling boil, add rice and saffron or turmeric, cook over a medium heat, about ten minutes. Strain. Leave to cool.
Base – Qazmaq
Plov is not authentic without a qazmaq. This is the crust that forms at the bottom of the pan and allows the rice to steam gradually.
- 1 egg, beaten
- 30 g butter
- 30 g yoghurt
- Butter, for greasing
When the rice is cold, combine a sufficient amount with the yoghurt and egg to cover the base of the pan with a thick layer. If using the saffron add a teaspoon of the saffron infusion to the qazmaq mixture.
Grease the base with a generous amount of butter, leaving a few lumps. Bring up heat to melt butter, then spread qazmaq mixture over the base of the pan. Fry over a low to medium heat for ten minutes.
- Turmeric Rice
- 30 ml milk / water (optional)
- 30 g butter + butter for garnish
- 1 tsp saffron
- Salt, pinch
Spoon the remaining rice into the pan, adding a few spoonfuls of saffron, then place more butter on top. Cover and leave to steam over a low heat. When the rice is cooked serve in large bowls with a little butter and, if using, a little of the saffron milk.
Plovlar on Fricot
Qubadlı Balıqlı – butter, cranberries, fish, onions, rice, salt, saffron
Shirin Plov – apricots, raisins, rice, saffron
Şuşa Çolpalı – cockerel, cranberry / pomegranate, onion, rice, saffron
Şuşa Swbzi – beef, coriander, dill, fennel, leeks, lemon, onions, parsley, rice, saffron, salt, sorrel, tarragon
Xocalı aş Qarası – apricots, chestnuts, mutton, onions, plums, prunes, raisins, turmeric
Xocavwnd Qatıqlı aş – green beans, herbs, oil, rice, salt, yoghurt