Cooking Plov in Tashkent: CookBook Workshop
The one dish, which you have to try in Uzbekistan, is plov. Plov is many things: it is love, it is family, it is a wedding and it is health. I recommend that you try plov in every city and town that you go to in Uzbekistan, as they will be all different, but delicious.
My mum cooks plov, but somehow her version is far removed from the original, I suppose she adapted it for quick cooking after work.
While I was trying all different versions of plov in Uzbekistan, I really wanted to try and cook one myself. I was extremely lucky to cook my first plov and another two Uzbek dishes (hanum and manti) at a prominent cooking school in Tashkent, called CookBook Workshop.
Apart from the cooking school, there is also an Italian inspired restaurant inside the CookBook Workshop with a soft pink and blue colour scheme, which would greatly appeal to all of us, who is Instagram conscious. There is also a shaded terrace and a few seating areas inside, which use a different styling theme. Cooking classes take place in a beautifully designed room, full of modern amenities for cooking.
The school is great for families, as while mum or dad is cooking, the other half can have a coffee or a light meal and children will be busy in a playroom, where childcare is provided.
If kids want a break from playing, there is always a genuine Italian gelato to try. I have been occupied with cooking for several hours and I have not heard any noise from my son, he did not want to leave the playroom, if only for a gelato break.
Last but not least, at the end of the class, you can eat your creations, so dinner is taken care of as well!
I have been guided in my plov cooking by a fantastic chef Saken, who was all smiles and full of stories about Uzbek cuisine and methods of cooking. Three hours flew by and I did not even notice how we ended up with so much good food, that my husband Claudio was so desperate to try.
I have to be honest with you that my plov did not taste as good as the versions I tried in Samarkand or Bukhara. I told myself that the local chefs had years to perfect their cooking!
I want to share with you a recipe for plov, which is quite easy to recreate at home. The only thing you definitely need is kazan, otherwise the flavour and cooking process can be affected. Kazan is a cast iron cauldron shape dish, used widely in Uzbekistan.
The ingredients that you will need are:
one ladle of oil, we used olive, but you can use sunflower or any vegetable oil you like
200g carrots, which you will need to slice in a french fries shape
1-2 onions, chopped
200g chickpeas, canned
Some raisins and Zira/cumin
Fry the onion in the oil till it turns golden, add the meat and carrots and fry together for a few minutes. Add some cold water, which should cover the ingredients in kazan by about 3cm, add some chickpeas and wait for the water to boil. Add zira/cumin.
Let everything cook together for about 30-40 minutes , add some raisins and then start increasing the heat. Add rice and wait for all water gets absorbed by the rice.
As soon as water got absorbed, switch off the heat and put the lid on your kazan and let the rice cook with the remaining steam.
Serve on a big plate and invite as many friends as you can.
If you want to try your hand at cooking Uzbek dishes or find out about any other cooking classes that are being organised , feel free to contact CookBook Workshop on their Instagram page @cookbookworkshop. They will be happy to organise a class which is tailored to your level, or give you a general introduction to Uzbek cuisine.
I was hosted by CookBook Workshop for a cooking class but all opinions are my own.