Creator: Mary Shaldibina
Uzbek Plov Cooking Hints
The process of cooking festive plov looks like a sacred process. To make good plov it is necessary to use a cast iron bowl with a round base, a set of sharp knives and a special metal skimmer - kaftgirs.
Usually a team of cook's mates peel and chop onion and shred carrot. The best sort of carrot for plov should be of a light yellow colour, not the usual orange-red one. Rice is to be washed thoroughly and sometimes it is steeped in water. In the well heated bowl (heated until white smoke appears) sheep fat or vegetable oil is heated up. Then the process of preparing zirvak, the basis of plov, starts. After onion is fried in the boiling oil, the pieces of meat should be added. Depending on the recipe, mutton, goat's meat, beef or even horse meat in the form of a special sausage (kazi) is used for making plov. Meat is fried until a tender reddish crust appears. After that the carrot should be added and slightly fried. The next step is to pour water into the bowl and stew it on small fire. The prepared zirvak, seasoned with salt, ground paprika or capsicum, cumin seeds and dried barberry, should be transparent and present the whole taste bouquet of fried mixture of onion, meat and carrot.
And then comes the crucial moment of plov cooking process - adding the rice. A layer of rice is placed on top of the meat and carrot, flattened and then covered with water. The right quantity of water is defined in a simple way: water should cover the rice at the height of the first joint of the cook's forefinger. When the water in the bowl evaporates, using a special wooden stick, the cook punctures the rice mass in some spots and adds water through these apertures.
Plov is considered to be good if rice is crumbly and its grains are soft but don't stick to one another. To bring plov to readiness the rice in the bowl is gathered in the centre in the shape of a hill, then covered with a special ceramic lid (damtavok), or with a big deep plate and the fire is put to minimum. The experienced cook identifies the readiness of plov by slightly striking the wall of the bowl with the skimmer. If the moisture has not evaporated completely, some hissing can be heard, if the dish is ready the bowl gives a clunk.
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