3 cups basmati rice ***Garnish*** 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 3 carrots, peeled and cut in julienne strips 2 tablespoons water 3/4 cup raisins, soaked for 5 minutes in warm water 1/3 cup shelled pistachio nuts, skinned (see note) 1/3 cup blanched slivered almonds 1 tablespoon granulated sugar 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom ***Caramel Sauce*** 2 tablespoons granulated sugar 1 tablespoon salt 3/4 cup water 1/2 cup vegetable oil 2 teaspoons garam masala (see note) 2 teaspoons ground cardamom 1 tablespoon salt 1 whole cooked chicken, cut into serving-sized pieces
At least 4 hours before cooking, gently rinse rice several times in cold water. Place rice in a bowl and cover generously with cold water; let soak 4 hours or overnight.
For Garnish: In saucepan, heat oil. Add carrots and saute 3 to 4 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water, the raisins, pistachios, almonds, sugar and cardamom. Cover and cook over low heat about 10 minutes or just until carrots are soft but not soggy. Remove from heat and set aside.
For Caramel Sauce: Place sugar in small saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat without stirring until sugar melts and begins to caramelize. Watch carefully because sugar turns brown quickly and burns easily.
When color is medium-dark brown, remove from heat immediately and cool slightly. Add salt, the water, oil, garam masala and cardamom. Sugar will harden. Return pan to heat and cook, stirring over medium heat, until sugar is melted again; simmer 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
For Rice: Bring a large pot of water to a boil; exact amount is not important, but be sure to use at least 12 cups. Add 1 tablespoon salt and drained rice. Cook 8 to 10 minutes or until rice is just cooked but not soggy. Drain off water and reserve rice.
In same pot, pour half of caramel sauce. Carefully spoon cooked rice over mixture but do not stir. Pour remaining mixture over rice; do not stir. With the handle of a long spoon, make 4 or 5 deep holes in rice all the way to the bottom of the pan; do not stir.
Cover pan with dish towel and tight lid. Place over medium heat and cook about 8 to 10 minutes or until the rice in the bottom sounds like rain hitting a window. Turn off the heat but do not remove lid. Let rice rest for up to 30 minutes.
When ready to serve, remove lid and towel and very gently mix rice, being careful not to break the grains of rice. Place half of rice on large serving platter. Cover with cooked chicken and spoon remaining rice over chicken. Spoon carrot-raisin mixture over rice and serve.
NOTE: To remove skin from pistachio nuts, cover nuts with boiling water and let stand 15 minutes. Drain and skins will slough off. The clean green nut is prettier than the skin-covered nut.
One of Afghanistan's most famous dishes, this recipe looks complicated. But choose a time when you have a couple of hours, prepare it step by step and you'll be well-rewarded. It's spectacular.