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In these times of uncertainty, try this Uzbek comfort food!

Plov, Meaty Pilaf

Foodie Lit

Plov is a slow cooked meat and rice dish that many countries claim, including Uzbekistan, which considers Plov its national dish. Plov (with its cognate pilaf --the P-L-F/V, ok, I’m a linguistics lover!) Is popular from India and Persia to Bukhara, Uzbekistan, Russia to Israel.  Made with lamb, chicken or beef, savory or a bit sweet with dried fruit, Plov is a delicious and ultimate comfort food. The rice is cooked until a bit crispy, with whole garlic cloves nestled in. Cumin, coriander and paprika are the main spices, although spices vary a bit with the region.

I have made pilaf for years, usually as a side dish sautéed with vegetables. While similar to pilaf, this plov is usually made with meat and cooked for a 

longer period of time, sometimes stove top, in the oven or outdoors in a heavy pan over an open flame. The dish is said to have been made for Alexander the Great 2,500 years ago when he visited Samarkand, in today’s Uzbekistan. He brought it back home and its popularity spread throughout Central Asia to Eastern Europe.

Note: The dish is not typically made with wine. I cook with a lot of wine since my time living in France and like the way it enhances the flavor. This is a personal choice, however. Let me know how you make it!


“Courage. Resolve. Empathy.”  These are the words of author Irene Drago describing to me what she considered the ingredients necessary for success in one’s personal and professional life. Main character Lavinia Wren certainly can be described with all three, as she creates a successful life for herself despite being orphaned, despite the barriers again her gaining a college degree and despite her unpopular mission for judicial and prison reform. She was a wife, a mother and had a career. Quite a “success” story for a woman born in the middle of the 19th century!



Serves 4


1 cup basmati rice

1 pound beef, cut into 2-3” cubes

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks

1 medium onion, halved and then sliced thinly

2 heads garlic, with top cut off

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup red or white dry wine, optional 

1 1/2 cup stock



1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

1/2 teaspoon coriander

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350F.

  2. Rinse rice and soak in water for 15-20 minutes.

  3. Cube meat. Sprinkle with salt. Slightly fatty meat is fine for this recipe.

  4. Add olive oil and meat to a heavy, oven-proof lidded Dutch oven  or skillet over a medium flame. Brown beef, stirring to keep from sticking.

  5. Add onions and carrots. 

  6. Mix spices together and stir into beef.  

  7. Drain rice and add to beef mixture.

  8. Divide head of garlic into cloves and nestle them into the mixture. Add Bay leaf. If you are using wine, add now.

  9. Pour stock over rice-beef mixture. Make sure entire mixture is covered by stock.Halfway through, check top ee if there is enough liquid. Remove from oven and let rest, without opening lid, for an additional 10 minutes.

  10. Fluff rice with fork. If the mixture seems too wet, place back in oven for a few more minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. 

  11. If you are ready to serve, plate family style or serve from Dutch oven.  If you want to see later, let cool to room temperature and refrigerate. Warm in oven before serving. This dish reheats well.

  12. To freeze: Bring to room temperature. Add 1/4 cup of stock or water. Place mixture in zip lock freezer bags or freezer proof container. Defrost and reheat in an oven proof dish before serving.

Expandthetable suggestions

Vegan:  Omit meat and use 1 can of chick peas, drained and rinsed. Add other matchstick chopped veggies of your choice, such as bell peppers, celery or root vegetables.

Meats: Use your choice of meat from lamb to chicken to veal.

Add dried fruit: Add 1/4 cup golden raisins and 1/4 cup diced dried apricots before you pour in the stock.


Adapted from Sonya Michelle Sanford

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