Qabili Palau is widely regarded as Afghanistan’s national dish. It is best describe as rice cooked in a broth-like sauce, then baked in an oven and topped with julienned carrots, raisins and chopped nuts. If meat is added, it’s usually lamb, chicken or beef; the meat will be covered by the rice.
The most important step towards any good palau is the rice; use the best Basmati rice you can find, and don’t be cheap about it. The rice should be cooked so that is neither dry nor wet: sticky rice is a big no-no. If you’ve spoiled the rice, it’s better to make another batch than to continue; all the Afghan people will thank you for it.
3 cups Basmati Rice
10 chicken pieces (drumsticks and top portion of wings are great! Alternatively – used lamb)
2 yellow or brown onions, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chicken broth
2 small carrots
1 cup of raisins
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1.5 table spoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
12 cups of water (estimate – use your judgment!)
Salt (according to your tastes)
Browning Sauce (this is optional – it’s purely to make your sauce look more brown)
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
Chop and sauté some onions in a pan over high heat until the onion is a nice brown; this should take about 5-6 minutes. Don’t burn the onions!
If the chicken pieces are too big, cut them into tiny pieces. However, if using drumsticks and wings, it’s best to leave them as is there is nothing nicer than biting into a nice, juicy drumstick.
Add the chicken into the pan and sprinkle with kosher or sea salt (both of which provide a much better taste than regular table salt.
Cook the chicken over medium-to-high heat for about 6 minutes, turning occasionally to get an even golden brown on all sides.
At this point in time, the onions will start to caramelize nicely, and there’ll be a nice, thick sauce.
Add about a quarter cup of chicken broth, then continue stirring until the liquid dries up, at which point put another quarter cup in again, and repeat until you’ve used all the chicken broth.
This really gives the chicken that extra flavor! Once the thick sauce is truly good and going, bring to a boil, cover with a lid, and let the whole thing simmer for around 10 minutes. Then, remove the chicken from the brown broth, and set aside (keep warm).
Stir in the ground cumin (2 teaspoons), ground cardamom (1.5 teaspoons) and the crushed black pepper (0.5 teaspoon) into the broth and continue to cook on low heat for another 5 minutes.
This allows the spices to get their flavor into the broth.
Immerse the rice completely in a bowl of water, and drain in a colander. Repeat this step a few times, until the water that you’re draining becomes clear.
Meanwhile, cook the rice in a dutch oven, or really any sort of pot that has a fitted lid. This is where the 12 cups of water come in. Put some salt into the water before cooking the rice, so that your rice will just have that hint of saltiness to it when cooked.
Cook the rice until it is just ever so slightly crunchy (nearly cooked), then strain any remaining water.
Put the rice into a cooking pot, add the prepared broth. Make sure the broth and the rice mix well and add the chicken pieces on top.
Cover the pot with foil, and then with the lid.
Bake the rice for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.
Once you’ve put the rice into the oven, julienne the carrots, and do a quick stir-fry with them, along with raisins. You’ll be putting them into the pot, but you want to be stir-frying them just enough so that they’re slightly cooked, but do not overdo it, as you will be putting them into the pot, and let the cooking process complete in the oven. Set aside.
Once the 20 minutes have passed, take it out, and put the julienned carrots and raisins into the pot.
Reduce the oven’s temperature down to 250 degrees, and let it cook for another 20 minutes.
Once that’s done, take the pot out from the oven.
Arrange the chicken pieces on a large platter. Then cover it with the rice. Make sure that the carrots and raisins are evenly spread in the rice; you don’t want them to be just piled all up in one spot (it’s all about aesthetics!).
You may also visit World Cuisine for a comprehensive list of mouthwatering recipes.