Uzbek Plov / Lamb Rice Pilaf in Instant Pot


My version of Uzbek plov, cooked in an Instant Pot.

Plov in an Instant Pot instead of a kazan? Isn’t that sacrilege? Possibly. But I’ve discovered that cooking plov in an Instant Pot or electronic pressure cooker is faster, easier, tastes just as good as cooking in a kazan (dare I say it, maybe even better), and most importantly – the results are consistently repeatable!

Learning to cook plov properly in a kazan can take many failed attempts and even after 3 years I will admit that my results can vary a lot. The hardest part about cooking plov in a kazan is the final stage when you are cooking the rice and simultaneously boiling off water – it’s very easy to mess up and overcook or undercook the rice. Because the pressure cooker is fully sealed, it provides the perfect environment for cooking rice, and there is little water left to evaporation – meaning no guesswork and eyeballing while cooking the rice – just measure out a 1:1 ratio of water to rice, hit a button, and it comes out perfectly. And no longer do you need to stand over the stove cooking the carrots until they are soft – the pressure cooker does that for you. I also find the meat is more tender when cooked in the Instant Pot, and nothing gets burned at the bottom.

If you are still skeptical (I know I was when I entertained the idea of plov in a pressure cooker) – I can assure you the rice turns out perfectly al dente, the flavors are great, the carrots are soft, the garlic is nearly a soft puree, and the lamb meat is tender and moist. This is real plov (and believe me, I am picky about my plov). Honestly, if you have an Instant Pot, there’s no reason NOT to cook plov this way. I don’t get compensated in any way for advertising Instant Pot products – and at any rate, this recipe should work in any electronic pressure cooker. I’m genuinely just amazed at how much easier this makes cooking what would otherwise be a highly inaccessible recipe for most people.

Ingredients (4 portions)
4 180 mL cups of rice (720 mL) – long discussion of rice type in the original plov post, but long story short – don’t use East Asian varieties of rice, use any round medium-grain rice – e.g. risotto rice, paella rice, Turkish baldo rice, and in a pinch you could use basmati
4 180 mL cups of water
1 lb lamb meat
Small piece of lamb fat, chopped into small pieces (optional)
Vegetable oil
3 medium-sized carrots, sliced into sticks 5-6cm long and 0.5×0.5cm thick
1 medium to large onion, sliced into half-moons
1 small onion, halved (optional)
Cumin seed, roughly ground in mortar and pestle
Salt
Garlic head
A few dried chili peppers
Barberries (optional) – they add a nice sour flavor,

Time budget: 30 mins prep, 15 minutes sauteing, 15 minutes pressure cook + 10 depressurize, 5 minutes pressure cook + 10 depressurize, 20 minutes steaming = roughly 2 hours

Instructions
1. Put the instant pot on ‘saute’ mode and put in the lamb fat pieces. Let them fry until they have released most of their fat and only the cracklings are left. Remove the cracklings (they make a nice snack). Skip this step if you don’t have any lamb fat.

2. Pour some vegetable oil in, enough to coat the bottom of the pot (if you put enough fat in from step 1, you might not need any). Then put your small onion in, and roll it around in the oil, letting it fry until slightly brown on the outside, then remove the onion and discard it. People do this because they claim that the onion ‘absorbs’ the bad taste of the vegetable oil. I just do it for the sake of tradition, but you can probably skip it if you want.

3. Put in the onion slices and let these fry 5-10 min until they are a nice brownish color – they don’t need to be caramelized.

4. Put the meat in and fry it for a minute or two until it’s lightly browned on the outside – don’t need to go overboard in cooking it, since we are going to pressure cook it.

5. Put the carrots in along with a pinch or two of cumin seed and mix everything up.

6. Pour in the water (remember, 1:1 volume of water to rice). Put a pinch or two of salt in, the chili peppers, and stir everything. Close the instant pot lid, set the vent to ‘Seal’, and set the Meat/Stew setting for 15 minutes. You will notice a garlic in the photo, but I am still undecided about when to put it in. If you put it in now, it will help flavor the broth, but it gets too soft and nearly disintegrates. At any rate, you can put in the garlic in a later step with the rice.

7. After the 15 minutes are up, let it sit for 10 minutes. Wash your rice until the water runs clear. Then quick release the pressure and place the rice in an even layer ON TOP of the other ingredients – DO NOT MIX. You want the rice layer to be as flat and even as possible. You can put in the garlic head if you didn’t in step 7 (bury it in the middle of the rice). You can put in the barberries at this stage as well. Then again close the lid, set the vent to ‘Seal’, and set the ‘Pressure Cook’ setting for 5 minutes.

8. After the 5 minutes are up, let it sit for 10 minutes, then quick release the pressure. The next step should be done quickly to preserve steam. Open the lid and sprinkle a few pinches of cumin, then make a few holes in the rice (this helps the steam circulate), then close the lid, seal it, and leave it on ‘Keep Warm’ setting for 20 minutes. What we are doing in this step is steaming the rice like in the original recipe.

10. The plov is ready! Plate it with the rice on bottom, meat/carrots on top, and garlic in the middle. You can use a fork to gently fluff up the rice. It may be sticking together slightly in the Instant Pot, but come apart easily with a fork. The rice grains should be individual and slightly chewy, though cooked through – ‘al dente’.

Summary:
Measure out 1 180mL cup of rice per serving. Measure out a 1:1 ratio of water to rice.
1. Prepare the oil/fat
2. Saute the onions until brownish
3. Brown the meat
4. Put in the carrots and cumin
5. Put in the water, put in salt, chilis
6. Meat/stew setting for 15 minutes, release pressure after 10 minutes
7. Wash rice, put in an even, flat layer on top, put barberries, put garlic
8. Pressure cook on high for 5 minutes, release pressure after 10 minutes
9. Put cumin seed, make holes
10. Cover and keep warm for 20 minutes

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