A Recipe – Afghani Pilau

On Tuesday I threw caution to the wind and cooked a big meal as it was our anniversary. I usually make big meals on the weekend as I find it’s more relaxing when I have more time. But as it was a special occasion I decided to give it a go.

Fifteen years has gone by so quickly, subhanAllah!

So, I decided to make Afghani Pilau. I had made it a few times, years ago and then had it recently and thought it would be awesome to make it as a surprise for hubby. He’s on a break from eating meat so what better way to tempt him back into the carnivorous category of humans?! Hehe.

First of all I located a recipe on YouTube that I loved. Then I went out to shop for fresh ingredients the day before so that I’d be ready to simply cook everything after I got back from work. I bought 1kg of lamb shoulder, the lady uses mutton in the recipe but I prefer lamb as it’s softer and doesn’t take a lot of cooking. I would actually recommend 1.5kg for 5 cups (or 1 kilo) of rice rather than the 1kg in 4 cups of rice that recipe recommends. I asked the butcher for it to be chopped up into quite large pieces.

Then I bought ‘silla’ or golden rice. I bought the 2kg packet because I don’t expect to be using it much but was actually pleasantly surprised at the length of the grain and the ease in cooking it.

I bought the raisins and carrots as well- I already had lots of almonds at home so that was fine.

I had limited time to cook the meal once I was home from my (part-time) job so I washed and soaked the rice in the morning. They need to soak in freshly boiled water for three hours, so I thought I’d get a head start. I also put the lamb into my slow cooker with whole grain garam masala to make the yakhni. Next time I will use the ground garam masala as it’s difficult to separate from the meat after it’s cooked. You could also use a pressure cooker for this part.

So, when I got home from work all I had to do was prepare the carrots which actually took a long time. They need to be ‘julienned’ and my food processor is broken at the moment so I had to chop it all up by hand. I actually chopped up 4 because I didn’t think the children would like much in there but next time I would use the recommended amount, which is 6, because they end up being so soft and sweet that the children didn’t seem to mind them at all.

So the first thing I did was fry the raisins in the oil and they didn’t turn out aromatic and fluffy like the ladies- instead they became hard and chewy. Oh no! So I literally started again and decided to fry them for less time (just a few minutes) with the almonds. The almonds were prepared by soaking them in boiling water for about 20 minutes, and then peeling them and slicing them in half. The carrots were then fried in my karahi and taken out. Then the onions and tomatoes were fried together. I used a blender to cut up my tomatoes so they ended up puréed which didn’t seem to matter. (I was fed up of chopping by then!). I simply put them on a very high heat to get rid of the excess water. I then browned the meat in a separate pan after separating the yakhni using a large sieve.

After the onions and tomatoes were nice and soft I added 5 cups of yakhni and soft rice which had been soaked in a wide dish for (over) three hours at that point. They were about double in size as the lady mentions. At this point I added some of my own freshly ground garam masala to the rice. This is because I’ve seen this step added in other recipes and it makes the rice tastier. I also put in a tablespoon of salt at this point.

The sugar, fried carrots, raisins and almonds were also mixed into the rice (leaving some for garnishing at the end) and then I placed the lid back on.

I left the rice on low heat to cook for about 30 mins. I always add extra time for ‘damm’ when cooking rice because I use a heavy based pan underneath the karahi so that the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of it.

I noticed after this time that the rice was still a little hard. All the water had been used up so I added about 1.5 cups of boiling water and then left it on low heat again. This time it was actually made beautifully.

I served it with a green chilli chutney because otherwise we found it too sweet and some freshly made raita.

So, there we have it. Let me know how you found this recipe!

Maybe next time I will actually show you photos of the process.

Do let me know if you want me to share some more recipes. Cooking is a great love of mine especially when I have the luxury of having the kitchen to myself and lots of time…Which doesn’t happen often to be honest!

If you have any go-to recipes that you’d like to share, please comment below.

Take care and I’ll be in touch.

Peace and love,

Sidra

Published by Sidra Ansari

Sidra Ansari is a freelance writer for hire and a teacher. Although she was born in Manchester, she has lived in many places in the U.K including London, North Wales, Birmingham and Leicester. She now lives in the Black Country and dreams of living by the sea once again- a seagull being her preferred muse. She has been shortlisted for the AsianWriter Short Story Prize and was selected for WriteNow Live, the Penguin Mentoring Program for underrepresented writers. She works for the Mud Season Review as a Creative Non Fiction Reader and has work published in the inaugural Desert Rose Lit Magazine. Her self development book ‘Finding Peace Through Prayer and Love’ published by Beacon Books is out in 2020. She lives in the West Midlands with her husband of over fifteen years and five children. You can reach her at @sidra_writes on Twitter, sidra.7.ansari on Instagram and follow her blog at the7ofus.blog.

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