“We have been celebrating Ramadhan in the Sultanate for more than 10 years now. I like to spend Ramadhan in Muscat as it is calmer and comfortable. During iftar we have all sorts of dishes on the table ranging from cold soup called Dovgha to traditional foods like Shah Pilav. Our hope is that we will be able to hold iftar gatherings and spend the next Ramadhan together with family and friends more freely”
Dr Saida Khalilova,
Director, Muscat Music
& Art Academy (MMAA)
“Life in Oman is very peaceful. Ramadhan here is very quiet this year due to the pandemic situation. Every year we used to come together with Azerbaijani families as a community around the iftar table. But this year is different due to the pandemic from Coronavirus. We are trying to keep in touch and at the same time following the restrictions of social gathering”
The Azerbaijani expatriate community in the Sultanate is a close and tight-knit community. The sparse community includes working professionals based in Muscat who spend their time together with everyone knowing each other well.
Azerbaijan has a colourful and delicious cuisine due to its unique nature and favourable climate with the influence of other minorities. With its unique cooking methods, there are juicy, dry, dough dishes such as roasting, boiling, barbecue and other cooking methods. Usually rich in calories, these dishes are remembered for their amazing taste.
Two of their main dishes prepared for iftar are the Pilaf or Pilov, the national cuisine of Azerbaijan.
No Azerbaijani holiday or celebration of springtime and special occasions such as wedding ceremonies or iftars are complete without Pilaf or ‘Ash’. With another name called ‘Shah Pilaf’ (Sultan’s pilaf) this is a meal rich in calories with rice, meat and covered with the fried dough. The name of the pilaf already declares it as the ‘king of pilafs.’ Some people count 40 different types of pilaf (or plov), though there are probably many more. Rice is usually cooked separately from the rest of the ingredients, and only mixed when served.
The most distinctive detail of Shah plov is the crust, made of light and flaky flatbread that lines the dish where the pilaf is cooked. There are different ways of making Shah plov, but all start with a base of saffron-infused rice. Chicken, meat, rice, raisins, nuts, dried apricots, roasted chestnuts, prunes and other dried fruits and seasonings are used as toppings and additions on the top.
RECIPE FOR SHAH PILAF
Rishta plov – Noodle pilaf
Lamb stew with chestnuts and dried fruit
Lobya Chilo – Bean pilaf
Parcha doshama – Lamb under rice
Plov with pumpkin
Plov – Rice with accompaniments
Necessary Products: For 2 persons
1 cup = 220 ml
1 cup of Basmati Rice to 2 persons
3 cup of water
2 teaspoon of salt
100 gram Butter (not oil)
15 thread of saffron
Begin with the rice from evening before preparing. Rinse the rice in cold water several times to remove excess starch. Pour cold water into the bowl with the cleaned rice. Let it be for 8 hours or overnight.
Before you begin with rice cooking, about 1-2 hours, prepare saffron extract. Put a few threads of saffron in a cup and add boiling water. Cover and leave to infuse.
Fill a large, heavy pot with water and add salt. Bring to the boil. Add the rice to the boiling water. Cook the rice for approximately 5-10 minutes. Be careful not to cook for too long or the finished rice will be sticky. To see if the rice is ready, take a couple of grains out of the pot and test them on your finger. The grain should be soft on the outside, but still firm on the inside. When you bite into the grain or break it with a fingernail, the hard white interior should still be visible.
Strain the rice through a rice colander.
Take the same pot, put some butter in the bottom of the pot and put gazmakh or lavash. You can also use potatoes instead of gazmakh or lavash. Add the parboiled rice into the pot. Put several knobs of butter on top. Make holes in the rice with the handle of a wooden spoon to allow the steam to escape. Place a well-fitting lid on top of the pot, covered underneath with a clean tea towel. The towel helps to absorb the steam. Set the cooker on the lowest flame. After 5-10 minutes open the pot, put the remaining butter on the rice, pour saffron extract and place the lid again on the pot.
Continue steaming of the rice for 45-60 minutes. Plov is ready when the rice is stuck out.
Serve Plov on a large dish. Pour the golden rice on the top of the remaining rice. The rice should be an attractive combination of yellow and white. Serve the qazmaq in pieces on top of the rice or separately.
The filling is completed by pouring a small amount of saffron water into the bowl, after which it is covered with lavash and baked until golden brown.
Because the dish can remain warm for up to several hours, it is a favourite at weddings, dinner parties and other special occasions.