Piti is a type of bozbash or meat broth. Long, slow cooking is the secret to a good piti. Traditionally, piti is cooked in individual earthenware pots and tipped out of the pot to be eaten. First the juice from the stew is poured over pieces of old bread and they are eaten together with some raw onion and sumac. The meat, chestnuts and chickpeas are then tipped onto the plate, mashed together with more sumac and raw onion. Piti used to be eaten with sangah bread, a type of flatbread. Cafes serving piti, known as pitikhana, were often found close to bread shops. Nowadays, piti is often eaten with unleavened bread, known as lavash. Chestnuts are traditional in Azerbaijani piti, but can be replaced by potatoes.Tomatoes or, in autumn, quince can be added. Piti should be made in stone ovens, but we give below a recipe for a traditional Azerbaijani piti that can be made in a modern kitchen.
Preparation time: 90 min
Cooking time: 60 min
- 1 kg/2.2 lb boneless lamb, at least 3 pieces per person
- 200 g/8 oz lamb fat, chopped into 50 g/2 oz pieces
- 500 g/1.1 lb chickpeas
- 120 g/4.2 oz chestnuts (30 g/1.05 oz per person)
- 3 onions
- 8 dried greengages or plums
- 2 or 3 threads of saffron
- salt & pepper
- Soak the dried chickpeas overnight in cold water. Rinse.
- Preheat the oven to 160C/320F/Gas Mark 2.
- Chop the onions.
- Put the chickpeas, onions, lamb fat and lamb into a flame-resistant casserole dish or large saucepan and cover with water, 5 cm/2 inches above the level of the meat. Bring slowly to the boil and skim off the foam that forms on the surface.
- Transfer the piti to a casserole dish, if not already using one, cover and place in the warm oven. If you have individual piti pots, divide the piti into them. Cook for two hours.
- 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.
- Put a few threads of saffron in a cup and add boiling water. Cover and leave to infuse for at least 30 minutes.
- Add the chestnuts (or potatoes), plums, saffron infusion, salt & pepper to taste (and tomatoes or quince slices, if using) to the piti after it has been cooking for two hours and return to the oven. Cook for another hour.
- Serve with bread (old dry bread is traditional!), rings or quarters of raw onion and sumac, a red powder from barberry bark which has a zesty flavour. Alkaline sumac is thought to aid digestion of acidic meat.