Azerbaijani Lamb Pilaf

  • 2-3 T vegetable oil
  • 1 lb 7 oz boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 7 oz risotto rice
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1 t saffron threads
  • scant 1/2 cup pomegranate juice
  • scant 3 1/2 cups lamb stock, chicken stock, or water
  • 4 oz dried apricots of prunes, halved
  • 2 T raisins
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 T shredded fresh mint
  • 2 T shredded fresh watercress or arugula

Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole or pan over high heat. Add the lamb, in batches, and cook over high heat, turning frequently, for 7 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Add the onions, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 2 minutes, or until beginning to soften. Add the cumin and rice and cook, stirring to coat, for 2 minutes, or until the rice is translucent. Stir in the tomato paste and the saffron threads.

Add the pomegranate juice and stock. Bring to boil, stirring. Stir in the apricots and raisins. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the lamb and rice and tender and all of the liquid has been absorbed.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, then sprinkle the shredded mint and watercress over the pilaf and serve straight from the casserole.

Yield: 4 servings

From All in One

Katie: I was excited to make this recipe. I even got to use my chicken stock that I made when making Chicken Divan. It was fun to make, even though I turned my one pot meal into a 10 bowl/pot one by prepping everything. It was worth it, as when it was time to add something, it was ready to go! I read the recipe and if I added two items at one time, I put them in the same prep bowl so I could just add at the same time. It turned out just perfectly and was beautiful! I was so disappointed when I took a bite and it just was not something that I really like. I ate about half of it, but it never got any better to me.

This is part of what our project is about – trying new things and figuring out what we like! I would make something similar again, in order to try to figure out exactly what it is that I don’t love about this dish. However, this particular recipe will probably not be made again! We think that we probably used too much saffron. We followed the recipe, which said 1 teaspoon. However, ours were pretty packed down, and we didn’t fluff before trying to measure. We also don’t think that the dish really needed a whole teaspoon, so we suspect that maybe we didn’t love it because it had too much saffron. We plan to test this theory later, so we will share if we find anything out!

Also, it seems after a little research that it can be hard to find saffron threads. We would like to share that we found them at our local Penzeys Spices store. Check out the Penzeys website to see if there is one near you! Penzeys says that the amount of saffron we bought should be enough to make five dishes of saffron rice, and that it was actually 1 teaspoon. So, we believe that perhaps there was a typo in the quantity of saffron called for in the recipe. Maybe it was supposed to be one pinch? If anyone tries this recipe, please comment and let us know how yours turns out!

Gray:  We were really disappointed with how this turned out. The whole time it smelled great, and looked great, but the flavor fell flat.  Katie mentioned above about our questions about the quantity of saffron, etc.  We talked about this some more and evaluated our ingredients, and realized that the chicken stock had rosemary in it.  We believe that our problem with the lamb pilaf was a combination of too much saffron and having rosemary flavor in the stock.

Rather than let it get us down, we decided to go and get some more saffron threads and make saffron rice to go with a chicken we roasted tonight.  It turned out great and we are encouraged!  We plan to try other saffron and/or lamb dishes in the future with hopefully better results.

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3 Responses to Azerbaijani Lamb Pilaf

  1. Looks and sounds really good!

  2. April says:

    I have this cookbook and have made this recipe in a modified version several times. I didn’t have saffron threads when I first made it, couldn’t find them, so I did the next best thing: I used Mahatma brand Yellow (Saffron) Rice pouches. One pouch equaled the amount of rice called for in this recipe, I used two because I doubled the recipe. I also omitted the watercress/arugula. It was fabulous this way. I’d like to make it again but haven’t been able find lamb at an affordable price where I am.

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