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Bean pilaf with fish – Chilov pilaf

Chilov pilaf - bean pilaf with fish
Rice with beans and fish is one of the many versions of pilaf in Azerbaijan.

It is usually prepared on the last Tuesday before the Novruz spring holiday. The first day of Novruz falls on the spring equinox, the day when the hours of daylight equal those of darkness. The four Tuesdays preceding Novruz are called Water Tuesday, Fire Tuesday, Earth Tuesday and Last Tuesday. Each of these days is marked by its own celebrations. Bean pilaf is traditionally served with dried fish, but can also be served with smoked fish. The basic cooking method for the 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: 40-45 min
Cooking time: 45 min
Serves: 6-7


  • 800 g/ 2 lb basmati rice
  • 500 g/1 lb 4 oz white (haricot) beans
  • butter
  • salt
  • dried fish
  • For the qazmaq-crust
  • 1 egg and 1-2 tbspns yoghurt
  • OR 200 g/8oz plain flour


  • Soak the beans in plenty of water overnight.
  • Drain and rinse the beans. Put in a pan of water, add salt, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • 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: 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.
  • Put a 2-2.5 cm/0.8-1 inch layer of the parboiled rice on top of the qazmaq. Spoon it gently into the pan to avoid breaking the grains. Add a layer of beans and then rice and alternate until all the beans and rice are used up. Rice should form the top layer in the pan. Alternatively, mix the rice and beans together and place on top of the qazmaq.
  • 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 about 30-45 minutes.
  • Put the dried fish into a pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove any scale from the cooked fish, break into pieces. Serve hot on top of the chilov pilaf or on a separate plate.
  • While it is traditional to serve dried fish with chilov pilaf, smoked fish can also be served.

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