04 April 2008

Kabul-Style Lamb and Rice Pilaf

One evening while in Baltimore, some colleagues and I decided to share a meal at The Helmand. This was my first time trying Afghan food, and I loved it. The dishes are similar to Indian cuisine, but also very different: Afghan cooking incorporates much more vegetables, fruits and nuts, for one thing. They also don’t seem to use curry (at least not as much), leaving you with a nice mild heat instead of that ever-building sweat you get from traditional Indian dishes. We ordered several different dishes and shared family-style, which seemed to be the best way to sample it all. And if you ever find yourself out that way: the kaddo borawni was to die for (stewed pumpkin, sweet as can be but also with a garlicy bite and cool yogurt sauce. Wow).

So of course, I came home with a wild craving for the Kabuli I had there: like an Afghan casserole, it was lamb chunks, carrots, raisins, and onions on a bed of brown, cinnamon-spiced rice. Yum! I just couldn’t take it any more, so I finally went on an Internet hunt. I found a great version at the Saveur magazine site, and added the dish to my daily menu.

Now, I want to add here that I made some major adjustments to the recipe I found: I traded in the lamb shoulder for ground lamb, for one (the butchers were gone from the grocery store when I went shopping and I wasn’t buying the $50 pre-packaged shoulder, so ground lamb it was going to be). Also, I didn’t buy rosewater. I adapted the recipe a bit to make up for the changes, and from what I can tell it was still fairly successful: lamb chunks with sweet sauted carrots and plump raisins, in a brown, spiced rice. Mmmm. This recipe uses a few pots and pans and has a few more steps than your usual casserole, but I still love it and will probably put it on regular rotation at our house.

Kabul-Style Lamb and Rice Pilaf (Qabili Palau)
(Adapted from Saveur magazine, no. 109)

1 1/4 c. basmati rice
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. ground cumin
1⁄2 tsp. ground cardamom
1⁄2 tsp. ground cloves
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 lb. ground lamb
Kosher salt
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and julienned
1⁄4 c. raisins

Put rice into a large bowl and cover with water; let soak for 20 minutes. Drain rice and reserve. Combine coriander, cinnamon, pepper, cumin, cardamom, and cloves in a bowl, and set aside.

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Season lamb with salt and about 1/4 of the spice mixture. Brown meat (breaking up so that it is medium-sized chunks), about 8–10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer lamb to a plate; set aside.

Reduce heat to medium, add onion, and cook, stirring, until browned, 12–15 minutes. Return lamb to pot with 2 cups water; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, about 15-20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer lamb to a plate; set aside. Reserve cooking liquid in pot.

Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add carrots, season with salt, and cook, stirring, until tender, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer carrots to a plate; set aside. Add raisins; cook until plump, 2–3 minutes. Set raisins aside.

Add rice to reserved pot; stir in half the spices and 1 1/2 cups water; season with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, without stirring, until liquid is just absorbed, 8–10 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle remaining spices over rice. Scatter lamb, carrots, and raisins over rice. Cover; continue to cook until rice is tender, about 25 minutes. Stir rice, lamb, carrots, and raisins together and season with salt and pepper; transfer to a serving platter. Pig out.


Susan from Food Blogga said...

I actually have leftover ground lamb from some lamb burgers I made a few days ago. I was wondering what to make with it, and you've solved my dilemma. This looks wonderfully hearty and savory.

Nemmie said...

Do it, Susan! Mix your spices and add as you see fit. I didn't quite use all, but then it tasted somewhat bland, so I posted the full amount I mixed. The lamb definitely needs it at that first step, to take on the flavors.

Anonymous said...

Several years ago I went to an Afghan restaurant in Cambridge, MA called The Helmand. The pan-fried baby pumpkin was one of the most delicious things I had ever eaten. (I don't think there's any relation to the Baltimore Helmand, though Boston's has a sister location San Francisco.) Thanks for the nice trip down memory lane!

Anonymous said...

Just looking at the spices in that recipe is making my mouth water, and it looks tasty!

Gretchen Noelle said...

I have never tried Afghani food, but based on this I have no doubt I would enjoy it! Yum!

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Anonymous said...

Mmmmm... love these flavors!

Bibi said...

Hey, just wanted to say thanks for posting! I made this recipe today and it's just delicious. I plan on making a big batch and freeze small portions for convenience:-)!

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing your "Kabul-Style Lamb & Rice Pilaf"!! This is my moms second time making it for us and we love it. The only adjustment she made was that she used Lamp pieces rather than ground lamp. Thanks again this recipe is going to be a regular for our family :)