The first time I had Kabuli Pilau was in my first year of college, at a local restaurant with my family. I remember seeing the dished out serving platter of lightly browned rice, scattered with glistening raisins and carrots and large chunks of meat and thinking ‘Oh, well. Guess I’m not eating tonight’.
Before that night, I was ethically against mixing sweet and savoury together. I thought it was a heinous culinary crime and the very thought of it sent my tastebuds sprinting away in disgust.
But that was before that night.
That night, I learnt that with the right flavours, textures and richness, combining sweet and savoury can turn into a celebration of flavours in your mouth. Kabuli Pilau just gets that combination oh so right! Oh, how the sweet raisins compliment the rich, moreish mutton chunks and how the crunchy nuts go so wonderfully with the soft, tender carrots and rice. This was a union made in heaven, I tell you.
After that night, I stopped wanting burgers and chips on those nights I went out for dinner. I began to actively search for Afghan restaurants to eat because now, the only thing that appealed to me was getting a good helping of The Rice From Heaven. I spent a year or so like this, always wanting to go out for Kabuli Pilau. It wasn’t till I began to venture into the kitchen and cook with aromatic whole spices that it occured to me that – perhaps I could cook The Rice From Heaven at home and have it more than once every 4 months!
Well, lets say it took more than a few trials before I got there.
You see, there are quite a few essentials for a good Kabuli Pilau, which took me quite some time to learn. Whilst I am not Afghan, nor do I have any Afghan influences on my cooking, I have learnt by asking friends, researching on the internet and of course eating out from as many Afghan restaurants as possible. Here is what I have concluded make a darn good Kabuli Pilau
- The meat should be mutton and should be cut into large, meaty chunks. It needs to be cooked till tender to the touch and should fall apart with no resistance at all
- The stock shouldn’t be spiced too strongly, nor should it be too bland. This is a tough combination to get to, but I feel like this recipe is the perfect balance
- The raisins and carrots should be tender. The raisins should be cooked till they swell up and the carrots should not have any rawness in them
- Rice used should be ‘sella’ rice, not basmati. Traditionally, Kabuli Pilau is made with sella rice. That doesn’t mean you can’t use basmati – it’s just that sella enhances the experience
- Kabuli Pilau should always be served with a salad. Always
Here we have it! Those are my essentials for The Rice From Heaven! I am very happy to be sharing this recipe with you all. It’s one that my little brother and husband regularly request from me and I love it all the more because I had to go through many botched attempts before I found the perfect recipe!
Enjoy, with love x