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Weekend Recipe: Samarkand Rice Pilaf with Lamb:

A recipe from the heart of the Silk Road, Samarkand, with a true fusion of East and West - and perfect for winter.
By Motherpedia
Date: June 14 2014
Tags: recipe, silk road,
Editor Rating:

The Silk Road ran through the heart of what is now Uzbekistan and was instrumental in creating cities such as Samarkand that not only offered transit to travellers, but also resulted in the marriage of culture and cuisine from East and West.

This rice pilaf (or plov) is a quintessential Central Asian dish with its unique combination of long grain rice favoured by the Middle East and South Asia, hearty meat needed for warmth in the Russian steppes, the garlic and spices of the Levant and the root vegetables and flavours of the Slavic nations. Similar to the Pakistan/Indian biryani, the Samarkand-style rice pilaf with lamb offers so much complexity and flavour in just one pot. 

Serves 4


  • 500g lamb, cut into 1 inch chunks or pieces
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2-3 large carrots, scraped and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon each of cumin and coriander seeds, crushed lightly in a mortar
  • 1 teaspoon hot paprika powder
  • 1 pinch saffron threads (optional)
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup of long grain rice (basmati works well)
  • 1½ cups good lamb or chicken stock


1.  In a large pan over medium heat, brown lamb pieces well in olive oil. Remove and set aside.

2.  Sweat onions and carrots together in olive oil until soft and fragrant, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon occasionally to deglaze meat juices. Add garlic.

3.  Cook for another 3 minutes, then add ground/crushed spices salt and pepper. Stir well. Kitchen should be very aromatic at this point.

4.  Add rice and stir in. Cook for 30 seconds – 1 minute before adding stock.

5.  Bring to a boil for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, cover and reduce heat to very low. After second 10 minutes, turn off the heat but leave covered to steam for another 10 minutes.

6.  Stir rice well and incorporate the lamb back in. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve.

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