Just by looking at the ingredients list one can tell that the dish belonged to the elite families of Kabul who could afford to include caramalized carrots, raisins and pricey nuts in their rice. It is still believed among traditional families that a girl’s marriage prospects depend on her ability to cook perfect Kabuli pulao.
Some people pronounce it “Qabili” pulao too. It is believed to be the name given to the dish as it became more popular among common people of the society. The word “Qabil” means “skilled or expert“, which shows that the middle class focused more on cooking the perfect colour colour and texture of cooked rice, rather than the lavish garnishing. Perfect Kabuli/Qabili pulao means the rice should have a rich brown colour from caramelised onions and each golden brown grain should be seperate not clumpy.
My mom always cooked a slightly different, more urbanised version, with black chickpeas and lamb meatballs. I first came across the grander version of kabuli pulao in an Afghani eatery in the gorgeous valley of Naran Naran (Pakistan). We got the hot, aromatic rice packed up and went for a picnic lunch by the side of river Naran, which is basically a glacier melt (visit to the valley is as much recommended as this rice recipe).
It became an unforgettable evening and the dish is a family favourite ever since. I’ve tried to replicate the taste as closely as possible and my family says I’ve succeeded hugely. I’ve only omitted the use of animal fat to make it less fattening.
This very aromatic and rich recipe makes a spectacular centre piece for any formal dinner.
1/2 kg lamb cut ups
2 medium onions, chopped
4 pods black cardamom
1 tablespoon black peppercorn
5 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cup raisins
2 medium carrots, julienned
1/2 cup olive or ghee
This Is What You Do:
Stir till lamb and onions are golden, add black cardamoms, black pepper corn and 2 teaspoon salt. Add 5 cups water, lower the heat, cover and let simmer till the lamb is really tender and water reduced to half of its original quantity.
In another deep, wide mouthed pan heat the remaining oil. Add I onion, stir till caramelised. Add cumin seeds, rice, ground black pepper and remaining salt.
Add the the lamb broth and cut ups. The broth should be 1 inch higher than the surface of rice in the pan. If its not, add a little water to make it come up to the desired level. Cover the pan and let it cook over medium heat.
When the liquid evaporates and the rice are done (almost 15 minutes) turn down the heat to its lowest possible. Place a skillet/tawa under the rice pan.
Wrap the lid of the pan in a clean tea towel, put the lid back on. This process is called ‘dum’. Leave rice on dum for 10 minutes. Stir fry raisins and carrots in 1 tablespoon oil for 2-3 minutes. Serve over hot rice.