Recipe: Kabuli pulao

Pulao, much like many traditional pilaf, is a rich and complex combination of spices and pull-apart meat.
Aaron McLean

Pulao, much like many traditional pilaf, is a rich and complex combination of spices and pull-apart meat.

Ayesha Slimankhil is originally from Saudi Arabia, but on marrying an Afghani man and moving to Afghanistan, she learnt to cook the traditional dishes of her adopted country, such as this famous rice dish named after the capital.

Ayesha used a Saudi packaged spice mix called Kabssa Rice Spices, which is available at Lotus Supermarket and Shefco, both on Stoddard Rd in Auckland's Mt Roskill.

The spice mix outlined in the recipe can be used instead, or you could substitute with 3 tablespoons of ras el hanout. 


Serves 6-8 / Preparation 40 minutes / cooking 3 hours

For the meat
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
800g-1kg pieces of a slow-cooking cut of beef, ideally with bone (such as osso buco); or use chicken or lamb
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons ground cumin 
2 teaspoons ground coriander 
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground fennel
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tomatoes, deseeded, roughly chopped
¼ cup tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf

Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and garlic and fry until soft. Add the beef (in batches if necessary) and brown.

Add the spices and fry for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, bay leaf and enough water to barely cover the meat (about 1-2 cups). 

Bring to the boil, then simmer, half covered, for about 2 hours or until tender. You can make this the day ahead, and reheat before cooking the pulao. At this point you could remove the meat from the bones.

For the pulao
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 carrots, scrubbed and cut into batons
½ cup sultanas or raisins
2 tablespoons sugar
2 oranges
½ teaspoon saffron threads or powder
2 tablespoons rosewater
500g long thread basmati rice 
1 teaspoon whole cardamom pods
2 teaspoon whole cloves
1 cinnamon quill
2 bay leaves
75g slivered almonds 
coriander leaves, sliced spring onion and sliced lemon to serve

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil, add the carrots, sultanas or raisins and sugar and fry for a few minutes, then add a dash of water and cook until the carrots are tender. Set aside.

Peel the orange skins, trying not to get too much of the white pith. Thinly slice the peel and blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes then drain and refresh in cold water. Set aside.

Soak the saffron in the rosewater for 1 hour. Soak the rice in cold water for 1 hour, then drain and rinse. Put the spices and 2 tablespoons of the oil in a saucepan of water, add a good tablespoonful of salt and bring slowly to the boil. Add the rice and cook for 5 minutes, then drain well.

The July issue of Cuisine is now on sale.

The July issue of Cuisine is now on sale.

Put the rice into a large saucepan. Add the braised beef on one side, the carrots and sultanas on the other, and scatter over the orange peel and the saffron-infused rosewater. 

Cover with a tight-fitting lid and steam very gently over low heat for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice steam for another 10 minutes. 

While the rice is cooking, fry the almonds in the remaining 3 tablespoons oil until golden. Drain the almonds and spread on paper towels.

Gently scoop the carrots and sultanas out of the saucepan and set aside. Mix the beef through the rice then remove from the heat and put onto a warmed platter.

Scatter over the carrots and sultanas and the almonds. Garnish with coriander leaves, sliced spring onions and lemon slices.

Serve with a salad of equal parts batons of cucumber and carrot, seeded and sliced tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, spring onions and chopped coriander. Season with salt and lemon juice just before serving.  

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