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Kuku plov – Pilaf with smoked fish and herb omelette

kuku plov
Azerbaijan has a rich variety of rice dishes, known as pilaf or plov.

Rice and beans are often served with fish in a variety of guises. This recipe teams the rice and beans with an omelette, known as kuku (kükü), packed with herbs and smoked fish. The kuku and pilaf are cooked separately, then served together. The basic cooking method for rice is to parboil it and then steam it. The beans are added at the steaming stage. 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: 1 hour
Cooking time: 90 minutes
Serves: 4-5


  • For the kuku
  • 400 g/1 lb cold smoked fish (kutum, bream, sea bass, grey or red mullet, snapper or chub mackerel)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 large bunch of spring onions
  • 1 large bunch of coriander
  • 1 large bunch of dill
  • 50 g/2 oz white breadcrumbs (optional, but these help to hold the kuku together)
  • salt & pepper
  • butter
  • For the pilaf
  • 400 g/1 lb basmati rice
  • 100 g/4 oz melted butter
  • 200 g/8 oz kidney beans
  • salt
  • For the qazmaq-crust
  • 1 egg, 1-2 tbspns yoghurt, pinch of turmeric
  • OR 100 g/4 oz plain flour, water


  • Cover the dried beans with cold water and soak overnight in a cool place.
  • Discard the soaking water and rinse thoroughly.
  • Put the beans in a pan and cover with cold water up to 2 inches above the level of the beans.
  • Bring to a rapid boil for 5 minutes, then leave to simmer for 60 or so until the beans are almost tender. The beans should not be too soft as they will cook further with the rice. Keep the pan of beans partially covered and skim off any scum that may form on the surface of the water.
  • If using smoked kutum in the kuku or another fish that is tough when smoked, boil for 10 minutes then scale and fillet.
  • If using a softer smoked fish, such as chub mackerel, just scale and fillet.
  • Wash and finely chop the spring onions. Wash and coarsely chop the coriander and dill.
  • Break up the smoked fish into flakes.
  • Beat the eggs. Add the chopped herbs, fish pieces and breadcrumbs, salt & pepper and beat again.
  • Melt the butter or oil in a heavy frying pan. When the butter is sizzling pour in the whole mixture.
  • Cover the pan and turn down the heat. When the egg has solidified, remove the lid, cut the kuku into pieces and turn the pieces over.
  • Leave to cook for another 10 minutes until the eggs are cooked through. Don’t replace the lid, as this will cause the herbs to water.
  • 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 and 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 rice and beans on a large serving dish and place the kuku and qazmaq on top.

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