A certain historical interest attaches to the pilaw, which was sweetish and flavoured with the curious combination of beans and currants. The dish is traditional among the Mevlevis, having been made in precisely the same proportions and cooked for precisely the same number of minutes daily for six centuries. It is the pilaw which was always prepared for Hazreti Mevlana by his faithful cook, whose turbeh is still to be seen in a grove of reeds by one of the streams of Meram.
This pilaf is similar to one enjoyed by William Seabrook at the Damascus Mevlevi tekke in the 1920's, and by visitors to the Istanbul Mevlevi community in the 1980's.
Preparation: ½ hour
Total second-day time: 1 hour
2 cups currants
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 lbs. boneless chicken
4 tbsp. butter (for almonds)
2 cups whole, unblanched almond
½ cup olive oil
2 cups onion, finely chopped
½ tsp. ground clove
1 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. finely chopped garlic
9 cups water
6 cups rice
4 tbsp. butter (for rice)
3 cups cooked chickpeas
1 cup fresh cilantro or parsley, finely chopped
Marinate the currants for 30 minutes in the lemon juice.. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and put it into a container with a tight cover. Drain the currants and pour the lemon juice over the chicken. Stir the chicken pieces well to distribute the lemon juice evenly, cover the container, and refrigerate the currants and chicken overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then pour it over the almonds and stir to coat evenly. Pour the almonds in a single layer onto a baking sheet and roast them until they begin to give off an aroma, about 10 minutes. Turn off the oven, stir the almonds around, then let them sit in the warm oven with the door slightly open while the rest of the dish is being prepared.
In a large, tight-lidded pot (at least 4 quarts capacity), boil 9 cups of water with 2 teaspoons of salt. Add rice, currants and butter; stir well to combine. Bring the water to a boil again, stirring to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot, then cover the pot, lower the heat, and steam for 15 minutes.
While the rice is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté the onion until golden, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the ground cloves, coriander, salt and pepper over the onions. Add the garlic and chicken, stir well, cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until the chicken is just barely cooked. Stir in the chick-peas and cook for another 5 minutes, until the chickpeas are heated through and the chicken is cooked all the way.
Combine the rice, chicken and almonds in a serving dish and sprinkle with chopped cilantro or parsley.
from Serving the Guest: A Sufi Cookbook