Quabili Pilau – Lamb and Rice

Quabili Pilau, a lamb and rice pilaf, is considered by many to be the “national dish” of Afghanistan.


1 lb ground lamb or beef chunks (you can use ground beef in a pinch)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 Tbsp olive oil, for sauteeing
1-1/2 tsp sugar

1-1/2 cups long grain basmati rice
3 Cups lamb (or beef) stock, reserved from boiling the meat, adding water to make 3 cups total if necessary
1/2 tsp saffron thread, soaked in a small amount of boiling water
1-1/2 tsp ground Cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
1-1/2 tsp ground cumin
1-1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/3 tsp cardamom powder
salt & freshly ground black pepper

3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 Tbsp sugar
1/2 Cup golden raisins
more Olive Oil


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Soak saffron threads in a few Tbsp of hot water and set aside.
Using a large heavy pot like a dutch oven, combine plenty of water with the ground lamb, 2 Tbsp of the diced onion and salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook meat for about 15-20 min (meat will no longer be pink). Drain liquid from the meat, reserving all the cooking liquid (you’ll need this liquid later for the rice). Set meat aside.

In a heavy saucepan, combine the reserved meat-cooking liquid, basmati rice, the saffron threads, cinnamon, ground cumin, ground coriander and cardamom powder. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover the pan and simmer 20 minutes or until rice grains are tender.

While the rice cooks, add a Tbsp or two of olive oil to a skillet or saute pan, and saute the diced carrots with the sugar on medium heat. Stir frequently and saute, about 5 minutes, being careful not to allow sugar to burn. Next add the remainder of the onion and golden raisins, sauteeing another 3 min until carrots are slightly caramelized and tender but not squishy, the onions have begun to soften, and the raisins have plumped up. Remove skillet from heat and set aside.

Lightly oil an ovenproof casserole dish. Spoon half of the carrot-raisin mixture on bottom of baking dish, followed by some of the meat mixture, topped with some of the rice, then with more carrots, more meat, and more rice, making layers and ending with a layer of rice on top. Cover baking dish and cook until dish is heated through and fragrant, about 25 – 30 min, the oven.

Remove casserole dish from oven, and allow to cool for 5 – 10 min before serving.

Adapted from the Islamic Cooking Club blog.