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Sabzi Challow – Spinach and Rice with Lamb

Sabzi Challow is a traditional Afghani New Year’s Eve dish, made with spinach (sabzi), rice (challow), and lamb. This is a great recipe for a party. The rice is crispy on the bottom and caramel-coloured, but it’s not burned – this is the way it should be prepared. You can also use chicken thighs, which are a lot cheaper than lamb shanks. They don’t cook as long as the lamb shanks, but the time is less important since it turns into fall-off-the-bone delicious.

Sabzi Challow - Spinach and Rice with Lamb
Sabzi Challow is a traditional Afghani New Year's Eve dish, made with spinach (sabzi), rice (challow), and lamb. This is a great recipe for a party. The rice is crispy on the bottom and caramel-coloured, but it’s not burned - this is the way it should be prepared. You can also use chicken thighs, which are a lot cheaper than lamb shanks. They don’t cook as long as the lamb shanks, but the time is less important since it turns into fall-off-the-bone delicious.
Ingredients
Ingredients for lamb shanks
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 8 lamb shanks
  • 3 onions, thinly sliced
  • 1½ teaspoons turmeric
  • 5 cups baby spinach, stems removed (large leaves must be chopped)
  • 3 cups coriander leaves
  • 1 cup Italian parsley, stems removed
  • 16 to 18 spring onions, whole, outermost layer and tough upper green removed
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 - 5 cups beef stock
  • 3¾ tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Ingredients for challow
  • 4 cups uncooked basmati rice
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup olive oil
Instructions
Procedure for lamb
  1. Preheat oven to 175°C. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof Dutch oven and brown the lamb shanks on all sides. Remove the lamb and set aside. Add the onions to the pot and sauté until soft and lightly browned. Stir in the turmeric. Add the spinach, coriander, parsley, and spring onions.
  2. Sauté for 20 minutes, stirring constantly (add more oil if needed). The aroma of the herbs should rise — it is very important for the taste of the stew that this stage be completed. Add the garlic and sauté briefly.
  3. Return the lamb to the Dutch oven. Add enough beef stock to barely cover the shanks. Bring to a boil, then cover, transfer to oven, and cook for 2 - 2½ hours.
  4. When the meat is tender, remove from oven. Stir in lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over challow.
Procedure for challow
  1. Rinse and drain the rice three times in tepid water. Place the rice in a large bowl and add 8 cups of water and 1 tablespoon salt. Soak the rice for 2 - 3 hours
  2. Fill a medium-size pot halfway with water. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and bring to a rapid boil. Drain the rice well and add to the boiling water. Return to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Test the rice — it should soft on the outside and still firm, but not brittle, inside. Strain the rice and rinse with tepid water. Drain well.
  3. Rinse out the pot with water and add the oil. Place over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add the rice, ¼ cup water, and a pinch of salt. With the handle of a wooden spoon, poke five holes through the rice, one in the center. Cook for 1 or 2 minutes — do not stir. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cover with a lid wrapped in a kitchen towel. Steam the rice for 20 to 30 minutes (do not remove lid to check the rice during this time). The bottom should be crisp.
Notes
For saffron rice, soak 1 teaspoon saffron threads in ¼ cup boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove saffron and discard. Use this water in place of the final ¼ cup water.

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