November 01, 2021

A Perfect Holiday Centerpiece



A Perfect Holiday Centerpiece
Pilaf with mutton Alexander Mychko

It’s that time of the year again, when afternoons are short, the colors are subdued, and the appetite for rich spicy foods is at its highest. What a perfect occasion to cook a hearty Central Asia pilaf with mutton, lots of cumin, and (if you can find them) barberries (also known as berberis or “northern lemon”).

I grew up in the shadow of my mother’s cooking, spending countless hours in our kitchen, watching her cook and bake – and never imagining myself stepping into those shoes. She was (and is!) a wonderful cook, and people visiting the observatory where I grew up were often brought to our apartment to give them a taste of good cooking. No surprise then that it took me many years to even think about attempting some of my mother’s signature dishes. Many of them – such as borshch and pelmeni and (until very recently) pilaf – I still haven’t approached. Partly, it’s because she cooks them without a recipe and cannot give me any solid advice. But also because the taste of these dishes the way she makes them sets such a high threshold for me that I get a dose of imposter syndrome just thinking about cooking them.

But her pilaf is actually a very easy and versatile dish that may not be very traditional, but is guaranteed to warm you up. And doesn’t require many ingredients (but do get those dried barberries online, their slightly sour taste is always a nice surprise when you bite into a mixture of meat, rice, carrots and onion – and balances the rich, fatty taste of the pilaf well).


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See Also

The Meskhetians

The Meskhetians

Banished to Central Asia in 1944, chased from Uzbekistan in the 1990s, this persecuted minority has been scattered to the four winds, unable to return to their ancestral homeland.

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