Afghanistan’s National Dish – Qabuli / Kabuli Pulao
A very big thank you to Ms Gailani from the Embassy of the I. R. of Afghanistan – London for sending me a recipe for Kabuli Pulao, the delicious national dish of Afghanistan. Ms Gailani was also kind enough to allow me to share the authentic recipe with you all too which is shown below along with my Quick Qabuli /Kabuli recipe.
What is Qabuli/Kabuli Pulao? The base of the dish is a good quality basmati rice, with the addition of slow cooked lamb, golden onions, glazed carrots, plump raisins/sultanas and toasted pistachio nuts or almonds or a combination of both nuts. The rice, meat, fruit and nuts are mixed, moulded into a mound and turned out onto a round platter. The top of the Qabuli/Kabuli Pulao is decorated with the optional extras.
Traditionally the Afghan people would eat from one huge round platter with the Qabuli/Kabuli Pulao at the center and everyone communally eating within their segment. It is a wonderful sharing dish and I have tweaked it for midweek cooking and to allow you to customise each family member’s portion (ie a great way to feed fussy eaters).
Qabuli/Kabuli Pulao is very similar to biryani, with a fragrant spicing and an unusual cross between Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavour combinations. I seldom add cinnamon, cumin and cloves to one dish, but the trio of flavours is like none that we have tried. My family loved the dish, even though my children are not partial to cloves, they could not taste the cloves as an individual flavour.
When I read the recipe I couldn’t wait to try the flavours. Although it is everything I had in my cupboards, I hadn’t used this combination of flavours together. At the time, I received the email I had made my 12 hour slow cooker lamb recipe as a Sunday roast. The leftover meat worked perfectly added to the Qabuli/Kabuli Pulao and what should be a labour of love special occasions dish, was adapted and transformed into a delicious, exciting and would so make it again, midweek dinner.
Thinking ahead to a different party dish this could easily be turned into a deconstructed Qabuli/Kabuli Pulao for parties. A huge bowl of beautifully spiced rice and if cooked in vegan friendly stock you can cater for vegans, vegetarians, coeliac and lactose intolerant friends and family with one dish. In separate bowls you can have the shredded 12 hour slow cooker lamb recipes currants or sultanas, nuts (almonds and pistachios) and glazed carrots. People can construct their own Qabuli/Kabuli Pulao.
- · Basmati rice -- 3 cups
- · Oil -- ½ cup
- · Stewing lamb or beef, cubed -- 2 pounds
- · Onions, thinly sliced -- 2
- · Garlic, minced -- 3 or 4
- · Cinnamon -- 1 stick
- · Cardamom pods -- 8 to 10
- · Cumin seeds -- 2 teaspoons
- · Whole cloves -- 6 to 8
- · Stock or water -- 2 or 3 cups
- · Salt and pepper -- to taste
- · Carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks or shredded -- 3
- · Sugar -- ¼ cup
- · Raisins, soaked in water and drained -- ½ cup
- · Ground cardamom -- 1 teaspoon
- · Salt -- to taste
- · Sliced almonds, toasted -- ½ cup
- · Garam masala -- 2 teaspoons
- In a large bowl, wash and drain the rice in 2 or 3 changes of water. Add more water to cover and set the rice aside to soak for 1 to 2 hours.
- Heat ¼ cup of the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium flame and, working in batches, brown the meat on all sides. Remove the meat to a plate and set aside.
- Add the onions to the hot oil and sauté until cooked through and softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and whole spices and sauté for another minute or so.
- Return the meat to the pot and pour in the stock or water along with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 1½ hours, or until the meat is fork tender.
- Strain the meat, onions and spices from the simmering broth and set aside, reserving the broth.
- Heat the remaining ¼ cup of oil in a sauté pan or large pot over medium flame. Add the carrots and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes to soften. Stir in the sugar and continue to cook for 1 or 2 more minutes to lightly caramelize the sugar, taking care not to let it burn.
- Remove from heat and carefully stir in 1 cup of the reserved broth. (Be careful. It may splatter a bit). Then stir in the raisins, cardamom and salt to taste and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drain the soaked rice and stir it into the boiling water. Return to a boil and cook the rice for 3 or 4 minutes. Then drain the rice, discarding the water, and place it into a large bowl.
- Lightly oil or grease the inside of an large ovenproof pot with a lid. Mix the remaining broth with the reserved rice. Spread half the rice smoothly over the bottom of the greased pot. Spread the reserved meat and onions evenly over the rice. Top the meat with the carrots and raisins. Finally, layer the remaining rice smoothly over the other ingredients in the pot.
- Use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke four or five holes through to the bottom of the pot. These holes allow excess liquid to boil out of the rice so that it doesn't get soggy. Cover the top of the pot with a clean kitchen towel. This keeps condensed steam from dripping back onto the rice. Finally top the pot with a tight-fitting lid and fold the overhanging towel over the lid.
- Set the pot over medium-high flame for 3 to 5 minutes. Next reduce heat to low and simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let it rest, covered, for another 10 minutes.
- Gently stir the rice and meat together with a large fork. Mound the pulao on a large serving dish and garnish with the toasted almonds and a sprinkling of garam masala. Serve warm.
- KABULI PULAO VARIATIONS
- · Meats: Feel free to substitute stewing beef for the lamb. Or for a lighter dish, use cubed chicken breast or thigh meat. Chicken won't have to simmer as long to become tender.
- · Dried Fruit: Use golden raisins (sultanas), a mix of golden and black raisins or some dried apricots.
- · Nuts: Use pistachios or a mix of pistachios and almonds.
- · Toasting the nuts: Heat an un-greased saute pan or skillet over medium flame. Add the nuts, stirring occasionally until they are lightly browned and release their aroma. Remove immediately to a plate to avoid over browning and set aside to cool. You can also spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast in a 400° oven
- 2 cups basmati rice
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 kg cooked and cubed lamb or beef or chicken
- 2 onions, thinly sliced
- 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 4 cardamom pods
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 level teaspoon ground cloves
- Water according to the cooking instructions on your packet of rice
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks or shredded
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom powder
- Optional Extras
- ½ cups of raisins, soaked in hot water and drained
- ½ cup of flaked and toasted almonds or whole pistachios nuts
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- In a sieve rinse your rice very well until the water runs clear.
- Heat ½ of the oil in a large pot with a lid and add the onions, stirring occasionally brown the onions.
- Add the garlic and spices (ground and whole) to the onions and allow the flavour to be released from the spices this only takes a few seconds. Remove the onions and spices from the pot and set aside.
- Add the remaining oil to the pot and add the carrot and sugar stir the carrots together and allow the sugar to coat and caramelise the onions. This takes a couple of minutes, remove the carrots from the pot and set aside.
- In the same pot cook the rice according to the instructions on the packet but using the absorption method rather than cook in plenty of water and drain method.
- Add the onions and spices to the rice as it is cooking.
- Place a cotton serviette or tea towel on top of the pot and under the lid to absorb the compensating water. Cook the rice for ¾ of the time stated on your packet and then switch off the pot, using a wooden spoon twist four holes to vent the steam from the rice and cover the pot with the lid and tea towel. Leave the rice to steam for 10 more minutes, checking half way to ensure the rice isn’t getting soggy and if it needs more cooking boast it over a medium heat for another 5 minutes and then allow it to steam for 5 more minutes.
- Once the rice is cooked through heat your left over meat.
- I used a dome shaped soup bowl to heat the meat in the microwave and then I made up individual Kabuli Pulao for each family member, the base was meat and rice for everyone but my son had it plain, my daughter with pistachio nuts and my husband with the works.
- I am not a raisin fan but I did try my husband's combination and the raisins when eaten with the rice, nuts and meat enhanced the favours and heightened the taste of the mild spices.
- This is usually made as a huge sharing dish that is moulded into a dome. I achieved the same traditional look by pressing down the portions of Kabuli Pulao and turning it out onto a plate and adding a few carrot sticks and nuts for garnish and a sprinkling of garam masala.
- KABULI PULAO VARIATIONS
- Meats: Feel free to substitute stewing beef for the lamb or for a lighter dish, use cooked cubed chicken breast or thigh meat.
- Dried Fruit: Use golden raisins (sultanas), a mix of golden and black raisins or chopped dried apricots.
- Nuts: Use pistachios or a mix of pistachios and almonds.
A huge bowl of beautifully spiced rice and if cooked in vegan friendly stock you can cater for vegans, vegetarians, coeliac and lactose intolerant friends and family with one dish.
In separate bowls you can have the shredded 12 hour slow cooker lamb recipes currants or sultanas, nuts (almonds and pistachios) and glazed carrots. People can construct their own Qabuli/Kabuli Pulao.
Next time you want to serve a rice dish to your family or are looking for a fun and different party menu I hope you try this recipe and when you do please send me an email or leave me a note on social media.