Pages 88-91

by Fiona Maclachlan

Plov is another name for pilaf, the internationally famous rice dishes.

Plov is considered to be the national food of Azerbaijan and is part of its ancient culture. In the past, before the Russians influenced agricultural practice and cuisine, rice dishes were much more commonplace than they are now.

Today, Azerbaijani people eat plov, also known as ash, on special occasions, typically weddings, birthdays and other important family events, such as a farewell meal before a long journey. Ash is a very important traditional component of an Azerbaijani wedding. Dancers in national costume set the plov alight and present the flaming dish to the couple in a ceremony accompanied by fireworks like giant sparklers. The flame refers to the couple´s future life, signifying success, friendship and warm family feelings. The rice itself signifies wealth.

There are many different types of plov. For example Tursu Qovurma which typically contains horse chestnuts, dried apricot, onion, butter, raisins and usually lamb. Sabsi qovurma typically contains greens and meat. Fisincan plov contains chicken, walnuts, onion and special spices. But despite plov being an ancient dish, our Azerbaijani chefs are still inventing new types. One new variety is Shah´s Plov, or King´s Plov, which is encased in layer upon layer of baked, butter-coated lavash bread. It´s truly delicious.

The newest plov in Azerbaijan is Baku Sun - you can see why from the photos.

I spent an afternoon with Ilkin, one of Azerbaijan´s top chefs, and he showed me how to make this new creation. I carefully recorded every step, so I hope you can recreate it for yourself. For cooking and serving the plov, Ilkin used a pan more commonly used in Azerbaijan to serve saj (another delicious dish). A saj is a cast iron skillet – we bought one at Baku´s Taza Bazar. Ilkin recommends buying an un-oiled one – he says the oiled ones are oiled with engine oil! It cost 10AZN (approx 12 USD) including the stand. Wash the saj thoroughly, scrub it with olive oil and then with washing-up liquid, rinse and allow it to dry. Your saj is now ready to use.


Chicken breasts (600-700g)
Rice (Basmati type) 500g
Red pepper
Green peppers (2)
Gouda cheese (350g)
Eggs (6)
Cashew nuts (50g)
Sesame seeds (1 teaspoonful)
Sunflower oil
Olive oil
Black pepper
Zirinj (barberries)
Bahara Arabian spices
For the decoration:
Lavash bread (like very thin floury tortillas)
Tin of pitted black olives
Tomatoes (2)
Curly leaved parsley.

This is a method Ilkin used to create his own Baku Sun!

Clean and de-seed the peppers
Peel the onions and put them in a bowl with the peppers
Put a large pan of water on to boil (approximately four litres)
Wash the rice three times, and leave to soak in water.
Prepare the saj skillet (as above)
Chop the chicken fillets into big chunks, each breast into three or four pieces. Put them into a bowl and add black pepper, the bahara Arabian spice and a generous amount of salt
Prepare the lavash: take four slices and cut them into strips about 4-cm wide, then cut them across the diagonal to make diamonds (the same shape as Baku paxlava). You need to have lots of diamonds. Discard the edges
Take a medium frying pan and cover the bottom with a generous amount of sunflower oil and put onto a high heat
Fry the lavash diamonds in the fry ing pan a few at a time, turning with tongs, till golden. Put on a plate and allow to cool
Discard the oil and add a small amount of sunflower oil to the frying pan - don´t put on the heat yet
Chop the peppers into narrow strips
Halve the onions and slice finely into semicircles
Turn on the heat under the frying pan
Cut one tomato in half with a zig-zag cut
Fry the chicken on a high heat for approximately three minutes, turn and fry for another three minutes (fry for six minutes in total). Remove and put into a bowl
Fry the peppers until soft and then add the onion
The water for the rice is now boiling. Add one tablespoon of salt
Add ground pepper to the frying vegetables (Ilkin says that white pepper is better for
Baku Sun – a New Azerbaijani Plov! Baku Sun – a New Azerbaijani Plov!
vegetables) and mix
Add the sesame seeds to the frying vegetables.
Add the cashew nuts
Place the chicken on top of the veg, adding any juice. Cook like this for a few minutes then mix. Turn off the heat and cover
Add the prepared rice to the water, high heat
Grate the cheese
Add the saffron to the boiling rice and cook for 10-12 minutes
Drain the rice, rinse with a little boiling water from the kettle
Crack open the eggs and add them to the grated cheese and mix with a wooden spoon
Add a little freshly ground salt
Put the cheese and egg mixture into the fridge for approximately 10 minutes
Switch on the oven (230 degrees C)
Halve the black olives and leave them in their juice so they don´t dry out
Put the saj onto the heat
Place the chicken and vegetable mixture into the middle of the saj and cook for 10 minutes
Start to make a tomato rose out of the other tomato - cut the tomato in half and slice thinly, discarding the ends. Put it in the fridge with the parsley and the other tomato
Remove the saj from the heat. Pile rice onto the chicken mixture, making a big mound in the centre of the saj dish. Neaten the mound with the back of a wooden spoon, making it round like a sun
Sprinkle the zirinj or barberries onto the rice
Take the egg and cheese mixture from the fridge and spread it neatly over the plov, coating the plov completely
Put the plov into the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes
Make the tomato rose and put it back in the fridge
Remove the plov from the oven once it is light golden and firm to the touch
Decorate with lavash, tomato flowers (attach with cocktail sticks) and olives

Nush olsun or Bon appetit!

To contact Ilkin, call him on (050) 4030701, or email: