We were on a short trip to Ankara during the weekend. I came to understand why my brother’s way of describing Ankara is so true, he says the city should be called a “staff only” place. We came back to Istanbul on Sunday arvo and I decided to make soup and pilaf for dinner, easy and elegant. I ended up making chicken flavored almond and apricot pilaf. It’s a classic, yet almost forgotten by the general public in Turkey. What a shame!
Rice was a favorite ingredient in Ottoman palace kitchen. Meat, nuts, fruits, vegies and spices accompanied rice to make various sorts of pilafs. Some say that there were over 500 pilaf recipes served to the Sultan.
1/2 cup of almonds
2 cups of rice
100 g of butter, preferably clarified
1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
6-8 dried apricots, julienne
1 chicken bouillon cube or 1 teaspoon of chicken stock powder
1 teaspoon of dried mint flakes
3 1/2 cups of boiling water
Boil almonds in water, rinse with cold water and peel off their skin.
Soak rice in cold water and rinse. Repeat this three times and drain well.
Melt butter in a nonstick wide saucepan. Add sunflower oil. Fry almonds until light pinkish brown. Add all the spices and cook for another 2-3 minutes on low heat. Add in the apricots, chicken bouillon cube and mint flakes.
Pour boiling water into the saucepan and add rice. Boil on high heat for 30-40 seconds and then lower the heat, cover and simmer until it absorbs all the water. Check if the rice is cooked, if not, add a little more boiling water and continue to simmer.
Remove from the heat, wrap the saucepan with a very large cotton cloth, leave aside for 30-40 minutes. Uncover and stir lightly to distribute almonds and other ingredients evenly.