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Sehvar's Grandma's
Özbek Pilaw
Traditionally known as Mevlana's favorite dish, Özbek pilaw continues to be enjoyed throughout Turkey and Central Asia. The addition of allspice and oregano reflects Turkish style; in Kazakhstan, these are omitted, and dried apricots or apples are added.
Total time: 1-¾hours
5 cups rice
1 tbsp. salt (for rice)
8 cups water (to soak rice)
3 tbsp. olive oil or clarified butter
3 lbs. boneless beef or lamb, cut into in bite-sized pieces
2 cups onions, coarsely chopped
2 tsp. salt (for meat)
1 tsp. pepper, or to taste
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cardamom
1 cup water or stock (to stew meat)
4 cups carrots, sliced into ¼" rounds
1 tbsp. oregano
7 cups water or stock (to cook rice)

Measure out rice and 2 teaspoons salt into a large bowl. Bring 8 cups of water to a boil, pour it over the rice, and let sit until the water cools, about 30 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a large, tight lidded pot (at least 4 quarts) over medium heat. Add the meat and onions and sauté for 8 minutes, stirring frequently. The meat and onions will give off a lot of liquid. Sprinkle over 2 teaspoons salt, the pepper and allspice. Add 1 cup of water or stock, bring to a simmer, cover the pot and let the mixture stew over low heat for about 10 minutes. Uncover the pot, add the carrots and oregano, and stir well to combine them with the meat and onions. Bring the mixture back to a simmer and let cook over low heat for another 10 minutes, until the meat and carrots are barely tender. Do not overcook the meat and carrots.

Bring 7 cups of water or stock to boil. Drain and rinse the rice. Distribute the rice evenly over the stew; do not stir them together. Pour the boiling water over the rice, cover the pot and let cook, covered, over very low heat for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the lid of the pot, cover the pot with a dish towel, put the lid back on the pot and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Use a very large serving bowl, greater in diameter than the cooking pot. Uncover the pot, remove the dish towel, and run a knife around the inside of the pot. Put the serving bowl upside down on top of the pot. Turn the pot upside down so that the bowl is resting on the work surface. Gently lift the pot, allowing the rice to fall into a mound on the plate, with the stew on top of the rice. Let the pilaf rest for several more minutes before serving, so that the juices may permeate the rice.

If the pilaf is being prepared in a quantity that makes it inconvenient to serve in the above manner, the rice may be cooked separately from the stew

5 cups rice to 7 cups water, steamed for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, stir in the stew, cover the pot with a dish towel, put the lid back on the pot and let the pilaf rest for 30 minutes before transferring to serving bowls. Do not worry if the rice seems a little underdone; it will continue to absorb the stew juices as it rests.