Tajik cuisine has similarities with Russian, Iranian, Afghan and Uzbek cuisines. Traditional Tajik meals begin with a spread of dried fruit, nuts, halva and other sweets before progressing to soup and the national dish of plov makes up the final dish. Plov is a festive rice dish similar to a pilaf which is traditionally made with meat.
It was an Uzbek plov recipe that caught my eye when I was searching as a commenter mentioned that the recipe was more similar to a Tajik style plov, so I adapted my vegan version from this using puy lentils and chickpeas as protein sources. The method of cooking plov is rather unique as the onions, garlic and vegetables are cooking in oil initially before being pushed to the outsides of the pot. Rice that has been soaked in salted water is placed in the centre of the pot, then it is covered and simmered for 30 minutes. Plov can also be cooked be cooked in a wok, as I don't have a lid for my wok I cooked this in a large deep sided pan.
I don't usually make rice laden dishes like this as my fellows aren't very enthused by them so I wasn't surprised that they didn't love it (they didn't hate it either, it was just alright). The abundance of onions was most definitely a highlight, the spices were quite mild yet they provided subtle flavours throughout. I couldn't resist adding some Sriracha chilli sauce to my lunch leftovers today, even though it's not traditional I enjoyed it more this way!
Tajikstan plov (Adapted from food.com)
1 cup basmati rice
1/3 cup puy lentils
3 tablespoons peanut oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced into half moons
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon chilli flakes
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 ¾ cups water
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
fresh parsley, chopped for garnish
Wash the rice thoroughly then allow it to soak in salted water for 30 minutes. While the rice is soaking, simmer the lentils for 30 minutes and chop up the vegetables.
Heat the peanut oil in a deep sided frying pan or a wok (if you have one with a lid) over medium-high heat. Fry the onions until they are lightly browned, about 8 minutes then add the garlic and fry for another minute. Add the carrots, cumin, coriander, chilli flakes, salt, pepper and 1 cup of water, stir well then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes, the carrots should be slightly softened after this time.
Drain the cooked lentils in a colander and add them to the pan/wok along with the chickpeas and stir well. Push the vegetables to the outsides of the pan, leaving a hole in the centre. Drain the rice in a colander and add it to the centre of the pan (try not to mix it in with the vegetables), followed by ¾ cup of water. Cover and cook on low heat for 30 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed.
Stir everything together thoroughly and add additional salt and pepper if required. Serve garnished with fresh parsley.
Did you know?
Despite being the poorest country in Central Asia and the former Soviet Union the literacy rate in Tajikstan is 99.5% as the former Soviet system of free education has still been maintained to this day.
Do you want to know where else I've been this month? Click here for the round up.