Beef pilaf is a great dish for everyday and for special occasions. It doesn’t lose its tastiness after reheated, so you can make a large casserole and enjoy for a couple of days.
Even the leanest beef parts will end up very tender, when used in this recipe.
This dish also a big winner for serving at parties to guests from different cultural backgrounds as it has very balanced taste, but is still something unusual and intriguing for most of Americans.
Let's start from a little bit of history (I’m a NERDY green mom after all…).
Short History of Pilaf
English term pilaf came from Modern Greek pilafi, which subsequently was borrowed from Turkish pilav. Pilaf in its variations has spread to numerous countries of the world. But one thing is always the same it’s made with rice.
It’s believed that everything started in India, as the first mentioning of "pulao" or "pallao" (meat and rice cooked together) was in Mahabharata. Most likely this dish became well known in Europe with the help of the Alexander the Great and his soldiers, who first tried it after the conquest of Marakanda (modern Somarkand).
The first who documented the recipe of pilaf was a Persian scholar Avicenna. Tajiks and Uzbeks believe that Avicenna is a “father” of plov or polow/polo (how it was called in Persia).
N.b. Tips on how to cook beef for polow so it's super tender I got from one of my Persian friends.
During the years of USSR pilaf or plov (as it known in post-soviet countries) spread through all soviet republics from Caucasus region and is very popular until now.
- Beef 2 lb
- Carrots 4 large
- Onions 3 large
- Rice 3 cups
- Barberries (aka Iranian Zereshk) ½ cup
- Butter 1 Tbl.sp.
- Salt and pepper
N.b. For you not to be confused about what is 4 large carrots or 3 large onions, aim to use an equal parts by volume of the main ingredients, such as beef, carrots, onions, and rice.
- A couple of hours or night before you plan to make pilaf pour rice with cold water and let it soak. In terms of what kind of rice to take I like parboiled rice the most, as it’s the least sticky, but other types of rice will work too.
- Put dutch oven on heat and add oil of your choice. Cast iron dutch oven or casserole is the best option as it will spread heat more evenly, but any other type of cookware will do. On regard of oil, beef tallow is the best choice, but refined coconut oil is great too, or you can use whatever refined oil you have (it's not good for your health but won't influence the taste of the dish). Use it plenty: whole bottom of Dutch oven should be covered in thick layer.
- When oil is fully heated add cubed beef to the Dutch oven. Cubes can be anywhere between ½ to 1 inch in size.
- Fry meat on high heat until it’s browned
- Add onions cut in half-rings. Fry for a several minutes on high heat, mix regularly, then decrease heat to low and cover with a lid. Cook with a lid on until meat is soft (around 30 minutes)
- While meat is cooking, take ½ cup of barberries and cover with boiling water. Let it soak for 20 minutes, then drain.
- In saucepan or small skillet melt 1 tablespoon of butter, add barberries, sauté for several minutes, and set aside
- When meat became soft add grated carrots, and fry on medium heat without the lid until carrots almost cooked. If all oil absorbed into vegetables, add more.
- Reduce heat to low.
- Meanwhile bring a kettle of water to boil.
- Before adding rice add salt and pepper to meat with onions and carrots. Use more than you would add normally as rice will absorb some of it. Mix well.
- Drain rice, rinse and spread it over meat with vegetables. Transfer rice with a spoon rather than dump it all together. Don’t mix!!!
- Add a teaspoon of turmeric, barberries, and pour hot water until rice is fully covered.
- Cover with lid and cook until all water is gone. To check if water is still there, gently insert a spatula in the center and move pilaf toside.
- When all water is gone, turn off the heat and let the pilaf to rest for 30 minutes.
- Now you can mix everything together and serve. Enjoy!
Beef pilaf makes a good pair with pickles and sauerkraut, as well as dry red wines as Merlot or Cabernet-Sauvignon.
Have you ever tried to make pilaf before, share your experience below?