Friday, April 26, 2013


It is authentic Middle Eastern plov recipe I brought from my trip to Issyk-Kul lake, Kyrgyzstan, many years ago. Since then, I do not even need to know any other recipe of plov.

Blog's Category: International, My Staple Food, USSR-era Recipes



Plov, or call it pilaf, is very popular in Russia, Ukraine or anywhere on a territory of the former Soviet republics. It even served in all Russian restaurants here, in US.  

A bit of history - when I just stepped in my twenties, I took my first, very memorable vacation to see Issyk-Kul lake, in Kyrgyzstan. FYI, Issyk Kul lake is a second largest salt lake in a world. While I brought a lot of beautiful pictures of Tian Shan mountains, forever imprinted in my mind, I also have learn, from a very nice lady I roomed at, an authentic way of cooking plov. Since then, I tried and rejected many different ways to make plov. Just this one stays firm as a simplest, the most delicious and flavorful plov I ever tried.

What is Plov

It is Middle Eastern staple, same as pilaf or pilau. It is rice cooked with meat (often it's lamb) with addition some spices (different combinations of cumin, coriander, turmeric, peppers) and some vegetables, such as carrot, onion and garlic. Often lentils, chick peas of beans are added sparingly. Traditionally, a lot of fat used to cook plov. I use flavorless olive oil.
Distinct characteristic of this plov is using half-peeled garlic. Don't be too shocked, just try it and you never ask any questions "why".

Taste Description

Rice, infused with a spice-flavored oil, is a real star in this dish. Its a base of a plov. Anything esle would be pointless here without rice.

Meat is soft and juicy, coated in a pasty mix of cooked onion, carrot and spices. If you are not big fan of cooked carrot - don't be discouraged, carrots questionable taste nuances are wonderfully transformed and mixed with cooked onion into yummy sauce/ paste. Just small bright specks of carrot will remind you about its presence. Cumin and coriander, laid onto a natural flavors of rice, meat and vegetables, create a unique, distinct flavor of plov that everybody, who tried it once, craves again and again.

Garlic, cooked inside of its skin, while getting its portion of all beautiful spices and oils of plov, keep its adorable roasted garlic taste and identity - it's a little jewels of plov.

How to Serve and How to Eat

Serve hot with some pickles or fresh tomatoes on a side to curb a richness of plov. Traditionally, plov is eaten by hands - as I heard, you have to use your three fingers to do this. I never tried it, but feel free to be adventurous :) Although you will need your bare fingers to eat garlic (my favorite part of plov): separate clove from a head with your hands and, holding on a tail end of a clove, bite on it and squeeze that awesome garlic pulp from a garlic shell right into your mouth.


For a large, 5-liter, family-size pot of plov:
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, shredded
  • 1/2 cup flavorless (light) olive oil
  • 2 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, chopped in small pieces approximately 1"x1" (use other meat of your choice: lamb, beef or even pork!)
  • 6 cups jasmin rice (or rice of your choice)
  • 2-3 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
  • 1 tsp ground coriander (optional)
  • 1 tbs red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 garlic heads

- Prepare garlic by peeling off outer skin of garlic head without taking it apart into cloves. It's easy to do by rubbing garlic head with your fingers. See picture below.

- In a large pot, rinse rice in several  waters (change water 5-7 times). Drain water off (I use mu palm to do it) and set rise aside.

- Prepare your meat, onion and carrot and set aside.

- In a large pot (at least 5-liter volume), heat olive oil, then turn heat to medium low and cook cumin seeds for about 2-5 minutes or until they release their great aroma and infuse the oil with this flavor. If you use ground cumin, skip this step and go to the next one.

- Add onion and cook it stirring occasionally until onion cooked through and just starts to get tan. It may take up to 5-7 minutes.

- Add carrots, chicken pieces, 1 tsp of salt, peppers, ground cumin and coriander (if using) and cook it, stirring occasionally, on a medium heat, until chicken pieces lose their pink color (about 10-15 minutes). If it starts to scorch in a bottom of your pan, switch heat to low - chicken will release some more juices and you'll be fine. While your chicken is cooking, boil whole kattle of water and have it ready for the next step.

- Pile your rinsed rice on a top of chicken (do not stir in!) and spread it even over the meat layer. Sprinkle your remaining 1 or 2 tsp of salt on a top.

- Take your garlic and stick ("plant") it into your rise. Even up a rice surface again.

- Softly, trying not to disturb layers, pour hot water from a kettle over the rice until water level will be 1" above rice level. Don't be scared by these not very presize measures, just remember that it's better add less water than more.

- Turn heat up. When water just starts boiling, turn heat low to keep water slowly boiling.

- When rice will expand to a water level (see picture, it happens in about 5-7 minutes), turn heat to the very lowest setting, cover completely with a lid, hit your timer to 15 minutes and forget about your plov for the same 15 minutes :) In 15 minutes - it's done!

- Come up to your stove, take a pick under a lid - rice is pretty, but nothing looking too special..wait... if you are same impaitient as me, get lid off, take a large spoon and dig in - spoon some rice on a plate, fish out garlic head and set aside for now, reach to the meaty bottom layer and spoon this goodness over your rice on a plate. Top it with a head of garlic and remember that the biggest challenge here is a fare distribution of garlic between current and future servings :)

Some Notes

- Traditionally, large cast iron round-bottom pot, called "kazan" is used for making plov. But I never had it and all my life was making plov in my regular stainless steel pot. Feel free to use dutch oven if you own one.

- All ingredients listed (with or without optional ones) are must to produce great plov - so act accordingly!

- Best meat for the plov is chicken, IMHO. But if you like to use other kind - be adventurous, go on.

- Some authentic recipes for pilaf restrict use of long grain rice. I have tried different kinds of long and short grain rice for this recipe. Conclusion - there is no critical difference here. So far my favorite is jasmine rice hence its name- it's very aromatic, nice looking and perfectly textured rice for this recipe. Using short grain rice will give you more sticky pilaf, basmati rice will be too dry, therefore jasmine rice is just exactly what we need - not too sticky, not too dry.

I decided to go this time without coriander so the final taste will be somewhat softer flavor that with coriander but still great one.

The last water for rinsing has to be 89% transparent (:)

It's late spring here so garlic want to grow... Nevertheless..use it - let's count it as a sprouted healthy food.
Don't burn cumin seeds over the high heat. Let it oil be infused with cumin on a medium-low (it has to peacefully sizzle)

A lot of onion = a lot of sweet onion flavor so don't skimp on it..

whenever recipe asks for red pepper flakes, I use oriental type of crushed red chili pepper, it's milder that regular flakes speckled with pepper seeds, and also it brings more color and flavor to a dish. I buy it in Asian stores in a large bag - it lasts for me for a while - sometimes I even sprinkle it over food right before serving.

Chicken is not quite cooked yet but already has lost its pink.. Turn pot with rice over to add rice.

remember, no mixing up...just even rice out on a top of a meaty layer

"Plant" garlic bulbs into rice, carefully twisting them in.

:) pretty :)

I used 2 teaspoons (total) of salt for a whole 5-liter pot of plov and it come out slightly, just slightly, under-salted just the way I wanted. Add a bit more salt if you don't like under-salted food.

It's a hot water goes in (at the left)...

it's a thin layer of carrot-colored spice-infused olive oil on a top of water - it will coat with flavor each rice grain while soaking in.

let it boil with a medium-low intensity to do not disturb the layers.

as almost all water disappeared from a surface, time to confine the steam and finish up the cooking - time to cover with lid and turn heat to lowest.

It looks nothing special, right.. I wish you could sense the smell though..

Just dig in - under "pacific" rice layer seats juicy, full of bold tastes chicken-y goodness.

Shortly, this demo plate was gone as a "second", taken by my dearest-half seeing here in a background, working on his "first" for now. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Huevos Rancheros

Mexican Breakfast Staple, Huevo Rancheros, will definitely satisfy your inner egg lover. 
Blog's Category: International

Huevos Rancheros


Translated as "farmer's eggs", it is very welcomed breakfast for those who love eggs. It consists of fried eggs with cooked tomatoes, some chilies, served on a top of toasted corn tortilla. Often served with Mexican cheese and avocado, these huevos rancheros are served with feta.

Recipes, similar to huevos rancheros, exist in almost every cuisine. For example, at the times when I even didn't know what MEXICAN CUISINE IS, I already cooked eggs with fried tomatoes or pepper (see my Fried Red Pepper Eggs) . In fact, fried eggs with cooked tomatoes were my daddy's special for breakfast. We were enjoying them, though, not over a tortilla but with a slice of sourdough bread - oh, it was sooo good dipping it into egg/tomato/oil juices... This perfect and simple dish is number 1 in my list of "one's last meals".

Taste Description

One of a kind taste of His Majesty Egg, resting on a bed of juicy, sweet-&-sour pepper/tomato sauce is a great topping for a slightly crunchy, a bit chewy corn tortilla.
Use knife and fork to dig in. Soft, special flavor of corn tortilla is in a perfect harmony with eggs and tomato sauce. Dairy addition of feta cheese is a welcomed guest to this egg breakfast party - it adds a little bit of tenginess and creaminess to a dish. This is a filling, satisfying breakfast that will leave you energized for a large chunk of a new day.

How to Serve

Serve for a breakfast, brunch, or lunch (personally, I could enjoy it any time - supper? Sure, why not). Traditionally it's served with slices of avocado. Equally, you can serve it topped with a fresh chopped parsley or cilantro and a dollop of sour cream. Below, you see huevos rancheros served with chunks of feta.

Huevos Rancheros 

For 3 generous servings:
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 4-5 tbs olive oil (or butter or ghee) 
  • 6 eggs
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • drop or two tabasco or sriracha (optional)
  • 3 corn tortillas (or flour tortillas)
  • 3 tbs crumbled feta (optional)

- In a large skillet, cook pepper in olive oil until soft (about 5 minutes).

- Add tomatoes and cook, stirring, for 5-10 minutes, or until sauce forms. Add salt, sugar, pepper and tabasco or sriracha sauce (if using). Taste, adjust taste to your liking. If your tomato is sour, you may need to add some more sugar - it has to taste sweet-&-sour.

- Turn heat to medium-low and break in the eggs, spacing them evenly. Cook without covering on a low heat, occasionally poking through where egg whites are still raw to make them run underneath and cook. If you like your yolks cooked, cover your skillet tightly with a lid and cook on a low heat for about 10-15 minutes.

- Toast tortillas until they have patches of golden-brown. Transfer to serving plates and top each with a two eggs from a skillet, add some more sauce at the edges of tortilla. Sprinkle some feta on a top and serve. Enjoy!





Monday, April 22, 2013

Anchovy Snack

For those who loves anchovies, beer and Korean food.
Blog's Category: International

Anchovy Snack


I love anchovies and everything about it - anchovy stuffed olives, anchovy-based caesar dressing, Jacques Pepin's cheese and anchovy appetizer is one of my favorites, list can go on and on. Anchovies have that umami taste that makes anything taste better. Recently my love to anchovies become  deeper and has taken a steep dive with this recipe - what can be more anchovy-er than this Korean Anchovy Snack?! 

With my recent wandering into Korean food, I come across of anchovy snack and, coincidentally, I had pack of dried anchovies picked up from Asian store and ready to be used somewhere-sometime - seems to me like a perfect opportunity to try out something new and exciting, right?

I have to say that neither my husband nor my son where too excited about that - frying anchovies made funny fume going around the house and the final product was perhaps too exotic for them, but I really liked it. Will you?

Taste Description

Flavors and strong taste is overwhelming - it's actually combination of strong tastes of garlic, salty anchovies, sesame seeds, bumped with red pepper hit and oddly paired with sweetness of brown sugar. Imagine all of those burst within a crunchy, chewy texture of anchovies and sesame seeds, and you'll have the picture.

How to Serve

Serve as a snack. It will go well with dark beer or as a "passing by" snack - some extra calcium with Omega-3 won't hurt, right?

Anchovy Snack 

  • 4 oz (120g) of small dry anchovies (larger anchovies are not good fit for this recipe - their guts needs to be cleaned out otherwise they will be way too bitter)
  • 2 tbs flavorless olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic 
  • 1 tbs brown sugar (or honey or maple syrup)
  • 2 tsp water
  • 1/3 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1 tbs roasted sesame seeds

- Place dry anchovies into colander and shake off tiny crumbs of anchovies - they will burn up quickly when you'll start frying anchovies.

- Dry fry anchovies on a medium heat, continuously stirring, until they become golden-pretty (don't forget to turn on exhaust hood!). It will take about 5-10 minutes.

- When anchovies sound dry and look tan, add olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, brown sugar, sesame seeds and 1 or 2 tsp of water. Continue to stir for another couple of minutes to incorporate ingredients onto anchovies. Take off the heat - it's done. Enjoy!

I like to roast my own sesame seeds - it's much more cheaper and tastier.

..and it's easy and fast - just throw seeds on a dry skillet and cook stirring on a medium heat until beige-gold, puffy and aromatic.

Cool down seeds completely before transferring to a jar. If you are not going to use it often - keep in a freezer door (seeds have a lot of oil and tend to spoil quickly). If you use it a lot, like me, store on a cabinet shelf - anyway they won't live that long to become rancid.

I use initial jar from store-bought sesame seeds to keep my home-toasted ones.

It takes just a couple of minutes to frying-stirring for anchovies to get nice tan.

..oil is added

..garlic too..

..pepper, sugar, drop of water go in..

I forgot to add sesame seeds along with other spices.. so I added them later - that's why they didn't stick well to anchovies.

Dig in..