Kabuli Pulao, a light and aromatic rice dish jewelled with melt in your mouth pieces of lamb meat, spiced raisins, and carrots, is the national dish of Afghanistan. Kabuli Pulao can be made using other types of meat and poultry, but lamb is the most loved.
The Afghans take pride in their Kabuli Pulao (Also spelled as Qabuli Pulao, Qabeli Palaw and Qabuli Palau) and serve it on special occasions like Eid and other celebrations. No, Kabuli Pulao is not your busy weeknight dinner recipe. It is a recipe skilfully crafted for special occasions and thus requires immense amount of love and care at each step of the process.
If you have never tried Kabuli Pulao, I urge you to try it, you will be hooked for life. And when I say Kabuli Pulao, I mean the original mildly spiced aromatic version. Kabuli Pulao is not meant to be spicy. I had to fight my inherited need for adding ‘garam masalah’ and the urge to spice it up. The true essence of a Kabuli Pulao is in its simple flavours attained by using only a couple of aromatic spices and the richness of a basic lamb broth.
For the topping:
- Oil 4 tbsp.
- Carrots 4; peeled & cut into matchsticks
- Raisins 1 cup
- Sugar 1 tbsp.
For the Spice Mix
- Cumin 2 tsp.
- Cardamom Powder 1 tsp. (or 12-15 cardamoms)
- Black Peppercorns 1 tsp.
- Cinnamon Powder ½ tsp.
- Cloves 1 tsp.
- Oil ½ cup
- Onion 1 large; finely sliced
- Lamb Shanks 1 kg; cut into pieces
- Water 4 cups
- Garlic cloves 4; minced
- Salt 2-3 tsp. plus more for boiling rice
- Sugar 2 tbsp.
- Basmati Rice 3 cups (soaked for at least an hour)
- In a pestle and mortar or spice blender, blend all ingredients listed under Spice Mix into a smooth powder. Discard any cardamom skins.
- To make the stock for Kabuli Pulao heat ½ cup oil in pot and add sliced onions.
- Sauté until onions are brown. Add meat and minced garlic and keep sautéing till meat changes colour.
- Add 2 teaspoons of the prepared spice mix and 4 cups of water.
- Pressure cook or cook covered on medium high heat until meat is tender.
- Once meat is fully cooked remove meat pieces onto a plate and strain the stock. You should be left with 2 cups of stock.
- When the meat is cooking prepare toppings by heating 4 tablespoons oil in a pan.
- Add chopped carrots, raisins and sugar and cook on low what until carrots are soft and raisins are plump.
- Transfer carrots and raisins mixture onto aluminium foil and seal all edges to make a little book sized envelope. Keep aside until needed.
- Cook soaked rice in salted water until 75% cooked. Drain rice in a colander and keep aside.
- In a big pot on medium heat caramelize 2 tablespoons of sugar until golden. Be careful not to burn the sugar. This step is essential to give rice that classic brown Kabuli Pulao colour.
- As soon as the sugar turns golden add 2 cups of reserved stock along with 1 teaspoon of spice mix. Bring to boil.
- Check seasoning of stock at this stage. It should be slightly salty but will even out once you add rice.
- Add parboiled rice to boiling stock and give it a good mix. Make sure rice has not cooled down completely after boiling or else it will increase the cooking time.
- Arrange meat pieces in a single layer on top of rice. Sprinkle remaining spice mix on top for fragrance.
- Place foil envelope containing carrots and raisins on top of meat and close pot with a tight-fitting lid. This step will allow the carrots to attain a deeper flavour.
- Allow rice to steam on medium heat for 5 minutes and then reduce heat to low as the rice steams for another 10-15 minutes.
- To serve first transfer rice onto a serving platter, top with pieces of meat and then finally sprinkle the spiced carrots and raisins on top. Serve hot.