The method for making game bird pilaf is almost the same as for chicken pilaf. The bird is parboiled and then steamed together with the rice.
Preparation time: 40 min
Cooking time: 60 mins
- 500 g/1 lb 4 oz game bird (grouse, quail, pheasant or partridge)
- 400 g/1 lb basmati rice
- 100 g/4 oz melted butter
- 75 g/3 oz raisins
- 75 g/3 oz cornelian cherries (fresh or dried, if you cannot find Cornelian cherries, use prunes)
- 75 g/3 oz chestnuts
- 1 large onion
- a few threads of saffron
- salt & pepper
- 1 tbspn allspice
- juice of half a lemon
- For the qazmaq-crust
- 1 egg and 1-2 tbspns yoghurt
- OR 100 g/4oz plain flour
- OR 1 large potato
- Pierce the chestnuts. Cover with water in a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the water and shell. Don’t take all the chestnuts out of the water at once, as they are difficult to shell when dry.
- Rinse the bird (or birds if using quail) and place in a plan. Add water to cover the bird completely and salt. Bring to the boil, skim off the scum that forms on top of the water, add 1 tablespoon of allspice and lemon juice, cover the pan and simmer until the bird is half cooked (about 15-20 minutes depending on the size of the bird). Do not let the bird cook completely or it will be overcooked in the finished dish.
- Chop the onion and fry until golden.
- Soak the raisins, dried Cornelian cherries or prunes in boiling water for 2 minutes then dry and chop. Chop the shelled chestnuts.
- Mix the onion, fruit and chestnuts.
- Once the bird is half-cooked, remove it from the pan and leave to cool. The bouillon can be used to make soup.
- If necessary, remove the ends of the wings from the cooled bird (or remove them before cooking). Stuff the bird’s cavity with the onion, fruit and nut stuffing. Wrap the bird in a gauze or fine teacloth.
- Put a few threads of saffron in a cup and add boiling water. Cover and leave to infuse.
- Fill a large, heavy saucepan with water and add salt. Bring to the boil. Add the rice to the boiling water. Turn the heat down slightly but cook at a rapid boil for 5 to 10 minutes. Be careful not to cook for too long or the finished rice will be sticky. To see if the rice is ready, take a couple of grains out of the pot and test them on your wet finger. The grain should be soft on the outside but still firm on the inside. When you bite into the grain or break it with a finger nail, the hard white interior should still be visible. Strain the rice through a rice colander.
- Prepare the crust or qazmaq: 3 varieties are given here. a) Mix together 1 egg, 4 tablespoons of the parboiled rice and 1-2 tablespoons of yogurt. Add some of the infused saffron water or a pinch of turmeric. OR b) For lavash qazmaq, make lavash by mixing together 1 glass (200 g/8 oz) of flour and a little water and butter. (Add 1 egg to the dough if you want an eggy flavour to the qazmaq.) Knead the dough until it is soft and roll out to a thickness of 3mm/0.2 inches. OR c) For potato qazmaq, peel and slice the potatoes widthways.
- Rinse and dry the rice pan. Return it to the heat and melt a generous knob of butter. Spread the qazmaq mixture, lavash or potato rounds over the bottom of the pan and fry for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Put a 2-2.5 cm/0.8-1 inch layer of the parboiled rice on top of the qazmag. Spoon it gently into the pan to avoid breaking the grains. Place the game bird covered with a fine teacloth or gauze on top of the rice and cover with the remaining rice (the cloth prevents the rice from sticking to the bird).
- Put several knobs of butter on top and add ¼ glass of boiled water. This helps the bird to steam. Make holes in the rice with the handle of a wooden spoon to allow the steam to escape. Place a well-fitting lid on top of the saucepan, covered underneath with a clean tea towel. The towel helps to absorb the steam. Once the rice is steaming, turn down the heat and leave to continue steaming for about 45 minutes.
- When the dish is ready, remove the rice from on top of and around the bird. Place on a serving dish and add the saffron infusion. Take out the bird and remove the cloth. The bird can be taken whole to the table on a separate dish or on top of the rice. Alternatively, remove the stuffing from the bird and serve in a separate dish. Cut the bird into pieces to make it easier to serve individual portions and serve in a separate dish or on top of the rice.
- Usually the rice underneath the bird is not served to guests, but this can be the tastiest part because it has absorbed all the juice from the bird.