Uzbek Plov with Pomegranate Seeds

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Plov (aka Pilaf, Pilau, etc) is a prominent feature in the regional cuisines of the former Soviet Republics of Uzbekistan, Tadzhikistan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan, all located in the region called Middle Asia. Each country has its own variation of plov and different methods of preparation. Plov’s main ingredients are meat, rice, carrots, and onions with occasional addition of other goodies like raisins, dried apricots, pomegranate seeds, garlic, and various spices. In Middle Asia, plov is cooked in a thick-walled cast iron pot called kazan, which can sometimes be so huge that it is kept outside and is heated over a fire pit. In Russia, plov is a very popular dish, although an Uzbek or an Azerbaijani will almost certainly complain that Russian plov is bland, lacks authenticity, and is generally prepared without due diligence. Yet I heard so many times that a Middle Asian plov prepared in a traditional way is an amazing dish seen as a symbol of prosperity and is often served on festive occasions like weddings. They even have a saying in Middle Asia: “If you are poor, you eat plov. If you are rich, you eat only plov.”
I was so keen on the idea of making proper plov that I started researching various recipes and experimenting. Finally I arrived at a recipe that worked very well – my plov turned out moist, aromatic, and very tasty. It’s an Uzbek-style plov, which means that meat and rice are cooked together in the same pot.

Colorful Bell Peppers Stuffed With Beef and Rice

Last week I bought a bag of colorful bell peppers at a local veggie store and immediately thought of our traditional family recipe – stuffed bell peppers. When I was little, my mother made this on so many occasions when we had guests over. She would stuff the peppers with ground beef and rice mixture, simmer peppers in a creamy tomato sauce, then serve with mashed potatoes.

Holodets (Meat in Jelly)

holodets, studen, russian meat jelly

Holodets, or studen’, is a traditional Russian dish dating back many centuries. Holodets is essentially a meat jelly made by cooking pork legs, with addition of parts that contain skin and cartilage, such as ears and snout. These parts contain natural gelatin, which is what makes the jelly set. These days, many Russian cooks use powdered gelatin (same substance used in Jello-O). But I prefer to make holodets the old-fashioned way because the natural gelatin makes it set better – it’s neither too firm nor too runny.

Roasted Duck Stuffed with Apples

This is a variation of a traditional Russian Christmas recipe from the 19th and early 20th century. During the Soviet times, ducks were not easy to come by, and so this recipe unfortunately was half-forgotten. These days, roasted duck is popular again as a festive winter meal.

This was my first time ever cooking duck. I choose a European breed of duck which is supposed to have less fat than its Chinese counterpart (it still had a lot of fat under the skin though). I found several recipes online, each of which had some features that I liked. So I combined these recipes to create something that I thought would taste good. I stuffed my duck with a combination of fruit and nuts sprinkled with nutmeg to give it that extra special Christmas taste. I was pleasantly surprised how well this turned out. The skin was crispy, fat mostly melted out from long cooking in the oven, and the fruit-and-nut stuffing complemented the duck meat very well. The only problem was, it turned out that duck does not really have that much meat, and so my 2-kg duck was barely enough for 4 people to have a taste!

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken With Cream Cheese and Mushroom Filling

prosciutto wrapped chicken cream cheese mushroom stuffed filling brie

This recipe sounds fancy but it’s actually very easy to make and is great for entertaining. The crispiness of Prosciutto (paper-thin dry-cured ham from Italy) is offset by the mellow taste of cream cheese filling. If you can’t find prosciutto, it can be replaced by Parma ham or low-salt varieties of bacon. For this recipe, I’m using boneless skinless chicken thighs, but chicken breasts can also be used.

Chahohbili – Georgian Chicken Stew


Georgia is a former Soviet Republic with a distinctive cuisine much liked by the Russians. A lot of Georgian recipes were “borrowed” and then adapted to the Russian tastes. Ethnic Georgians living in Russia sneer at these adaptations and there is a lot of bickering going on over how a “real” Georgian dish should be cooked. In any case, the Hmeli-Suneli spice mix is what gives this chicken stew its distinctive taste. I use fresh tomatoes in this recipe. Vancouver hot house tomatoes are pretty bland and tasteless and are less acidic than the canned tomatoes from Italy. You can use these instead of fresh tomatoes if desired.

Beef Patties (Kotlety) in Beer Sauce

beef patties beer

Beef patties (kotlety) is a very basic, everyday type of food that a Russian family typically eats for dinner during the week. The beer sauce is my own invention, but it’s really excellent with the patties. Just remember to use a beer that’s less on the hoppy side and more on the malty side – non-bitter dark beers work well. I usually use a Czekh Beer brand called Baron. It’s sold in most BC liquor stores and is really good to drink on its own too 🙂 For those worried about the alcohol in beer – alcohol is a very volatile substance and is completely evaporated when the sauce is boiled!