Dill pilaf is a light, fragrant rice dish, ideal in summer. It can be served on its own or with fish, eggs or meat. The basic cooking method for rice is to parboil it and then steam it. Azerbaijani rice should never be sticky. Qazmaq, a crust made at the bottom of the pan when the rice is steamed, is highly prized and is served in pieces with the rice or on a separate plate.
Preparation time: 30 min
Cooking time: 35 min
- 400 g/1 lb basmati rice
- 100 g/4 oz melted butter
- two medium-sized bunches of fresh dill
- a few threads of saffron
- For the qazmaq-crust
- 1 egg and 1-2 tbspns yoghurt
- 100 g/4 oz plain flour
- Put a few threads of saffron in a cup and add boiling water. Cover and leave to infuse.
- Wash and chop the dill.
- Rinse the rice.
- 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.
- Add the chopped dill to the rice, mixing it in gently.
- Prepare the crust or qazmaq: 2 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.
- Rinse and dry the rice pan. Return it to the heat and melt a generous knob of butter. Spread the qazmaq mixture or lavash over the bottom of the pan and fry for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the parboiled rice mixed with dill. Spoon it gently into the pan to avoid breaking the grains. When half the rice is in the pan, pour over some of the saffron infusion. Put the rest of the rice in the pan and pour most of the remaining saffron infusion over it. Put several knobs of butter on top. 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 30 to 45 minutes. The rice can be left to steam for longer without coming to any harm.
- Serve on a large dish. Pour the remaining saffron infusion over the top of the rice and add some more knobs of butter. The rice should be an attractive combination of yellow and white. Serve the qazmaq in pieces on top of the rice or separately.
- Dill pilaf can be served with fresh or smoked fish, pieces of omelette or fried meat.