Rice pilaf with dried fruit is a popular Azerbaijani dish, which is thought to have originated in Baku.
Shirin pilaf is usually served on its own but can be served with fried veal or lamb.
Preparation time: 60 min
Cooking time: 40 min
- 800 g/2 lb basmati rice
- 150-250 g/6-12 oz raisins
- 125-150 g/5-6 oz dried apricots
- 125 g/5 oz dried plums
- 125 g/5 oz dates with the stones removed (optional)
- 500 g/1 lb 4 oz chestnuts (optional)
- saffron (or turmeric if saffron is not available)</li>
- For the qazmaq-crust
- 200 g/8oz plain flour
- Put a few threads of saffron in a cup and add boiling water. Cover and leave to infuse.
- 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.
- Pour boiling water onto the dried fruit, soak for 3-4 minutes and drain. Cut the dried apricots in half if they are large.
- 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.
- Fry the larger dried fruit and chestnuts in clarified butter or any vegetable oil other than olive oil until soft. Add the raisins after the other fruit has been cooking for 5 minutes or so. Stir often to prevent the fruit from burning.
- 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 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 lavash over the bottom of the pan and fry for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Gently mix the fried fruit and chestnuts with the parboiled rice. Carefully spoon the mixture on top of the lavash in the pan. 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.
- Serve on a large dish. Pour the remaining saffron infusion over the top of the rice and add some more knobs of butter. Serve the qazmaq in pieces on top of the rice or separately.