Kabuli (Qabli) Afghani Pilao

Kabul is the capital of Afghanistan, a country famous for cuisine that’s similar to Pakistani cooking.  The influx of Afghan people into the UK has meant that we have been exposed to their lovely hospitality and food in their newly opened restaurants.  Kabuli/Qabli/Afghani Pilao is a world famous rice dish.

There are a few different stages to this dish, each one equally important, but the completed dish is so worth it and can be served as a ‘solo’ mains due to the effort that goes into it.  I have tried to write it out in steps to make it easier for you to make in Western kitchens.


2 mugs Sela Basmati Ricem If not available use Basmati rice.

Stage 1

  • 1kg lamb cut into pieces
  • 1 large onion
  • 10 mugs of water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 200g fresh ginger

Stage 2

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 3 tbs vegetable oil
  • 700g carrots cut into long thin strips (Julienne)
  • 1 cup of raisins, soaked for 30mins then drained
  • 1 cup of sliced pistachio and almonds (optional)
  • 4 tbs of dried orange peel (Optional)
  • 2 tsp cardamoms seeds
  • 2 tsp saffron
  • 1 tbs sugar 

Stage 3

  • 1.5 cups oil
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 2 tbs freshly crushed ginger and garlic
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 mugs stock from above 


Switch oven to GM 3 160C

Gently wash the rice in 3 changes of water and soak for 4 hours or longer.

Stage 1

  1. To make the stock, add all of the ingredients from stage 1 into a large saucepan.
  2. Bring to the boil, then place on a rolling boil until the meat is soft and cooked right through. Spring lamb cooked in the UK can take around 30 – 40 mins to get to this stage.
  3. Use a slotted spoon to remove the meat into a dish, strain the stock and measure out 4 mugs to keep aside. Throw away the contents of the strainer. Note – You may need to add water to make the liquid up to 4 mugs if its less, and discard it if there is any surplus.

Stage 2

  1.  Place the butter and oil in a frying pan, heat to medium, add the sliced carrots, stir on high heat until softened and remove into a flat plate. Add the raisins, fry for 2 minutes and remove into a dish.
  2. Fry the nuts and orange peel if using. (you may need to add more oil/butter)
  3. Add cardamom powder and saffron to the remaining oil, add the sugar, once sizzling switch off.
  4. Mix all the fried ingredients together top with the cardamom and saffron mixture and keep aside.

Stage 3

  1. Put the oil into a large saucepan, add the sliced onion, brown the onion and add the ginger and garlic, cook together for 2 mins, add the salt then the cooked pieces of meat, brown for a few minutes.
  2. Add the stock (x2 for Sela rice), (x1.5 for basmati rice).
  3. Bring to the boil, drain the water from the soaked rice and add the rice to the boiling water. Cook on medium heat until holes appear on top of the rice,
  4. Spread the fried mixture of carrots, raisins, nuts and spices over half the rice.
  5. Cover tightly with foil and the lid, put in the heated oven for dhum for 20mins, or finish cooking on the lowest heat setting on the stove top. Switch off.
  6. Once rice is cooked, open carefully and fluff up the rice gently.
  7. Serve on a large platter with plain yoghurt and a fresh mint chutney. 

Sometimes the meat and the fried stuff is kept separately, rice is fully cooked, placed onto a large platter and then topped with the meat and fried ingredients.


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About Me

I am Sabiha Khokhar, born in Kenya now living in London – a busy working mother, wife, published author and passionate cook. Despite having many interests in life, my greatest joy is FOOD!

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