This infamous dish is originally called Qozon Kabob, which literally means Kabobs in the Dutch Oven. Seared Lamb and Potatoes (Qozon Kabob) is finger-lickingly good. It will also have you going for seconds and thirds, if you are brave. Laden with calories, this food is a powerhouse! So, watch out for the portions there.
In the context of the late Russian Empire, Mayovka (Russian: Маёвка) was a picnic in the countryside or in a park in the early days of May, hence the name.
May in Uzbekistan meant going out to the mountains and organizing picnics. As children we waited for “Mayovka” the entire year. Aside from a lot of other food, the staple entree for Mayovka in our family was Qozon Kabob. We would watch in amazement how my father would set up his big dutch oven over a fire pit. After prepping the wood, he would take out ingredients for Qozon Kabob and start searing. The tantalizing smell coming out from the dutch oven would torture us in anticipation of a special treat. Even though it is well known among Uzbeks and those who were part of former USSR, I cherish this recipe because it comes attached to my most delicious and fun memories from my childhood.
There are different variations for this recipe. But this one is bullet proof and comes out great every time. This recipe requires minimal ingredients but all the ingredients are necessary to make an impacting presentation. However, there is a secret ingredients which I am going to disclose in this recipe!!! Read on.
- 2 rack of lamb chops or your choice of lamb meat (for the original recipe the fattier the better)
- 8 medium potatoes (I take 1 potato per 2 medium pirzolas)
- 1 Tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 Tbsp cumin seeds
- 2 cups of oil to fry (you are not going to ingest all of it :), I take part 1/2 ghee, part 1/2 avocado oil
- 2 tsp salt (preferably kosher salt)
- black pepper to taste
- Secret ingredient: 1/2 cup of strongly brewed black tea (story and explanation in the directions)
The usage of dutch oven is not critical. You can pick up a non-stick pan or a stainless steel pan, big enough to accommodate all the ingredients. The reason why I like to cook with a cast-iron dutch oven is, it keeps the inside temperature very stable and hot enough to give food a chance to cook well, even in low temperatures. I also love how it quickly gives me the desired caramel color crust for the meat and golden color for potatoes, much faster than its other counter parts.
Peel the skin of the potatoes and remove all the imperfections. If the potatoes are too large, cut them in two or three equal semi circles. the rack of lamb I used it relatively small, so, instead of cutting it in single cutlets, I cut some in doubles. Too thin of a cutlet means a dryer meat. So, watch out for that.
Heat the dutch oven on medium high. Add your choice of liquid oil and heat it well.
Season the potatoes with 1 tsp of the salt and add them to a hot dutch oven. The purpose of this step is to 1. dehydrate the potatoes from its moisture, 2. give it a nice golden crust. If you have too many potatoes, make sure to fry them in two batches. Otherwise instead of frying the potatoes, you will end up steaming them. Which is not our intended purpose here. Occasionally give potatoes a stir to make sure they are getting fried evenly from all sides. At this time turn the heat up a notch.
While potatoes are cooking, it is time to brew the black tea. All you need is 1 tsp of black tea leaves, 1/2 cup of hot water and a tea strainer. Brew the tea for 3 minutes before straining the leaves out. Set aside until needed.
This ingredient came about our family with an interesting story. My parents invite chefs to help us out when we have big gatherings at home. With 100 to 300 guests we couldn’t manage it all. Plus a professional chef, is a professional chef, come on! This time around I wasn’t home, and my sister-in-law, Julie, was helping the chef in the kitchen, assuming the responsibilities of a Sues Chef. After a long day of cooking the tired chef shared this secret ingredient, to his Qozon Kabob as a token of appreciation to Julie – I love you, too Julie!!!
It was non other than a simple brew of black tea, which apparently gives this dish a rich, earthy flavor and tenderizes the meat splendidly.
Place coriander and cumin seeds in a mortar and gently pound with a pestle to release the aroma of the spices. If you do not have a mortar, just give the spices a roll with a rolling pin or crush the spices between your two palms, using a circular motion. It is a little painful, but still works. Set aside until needed.
Meanwhile the potatoes are wrapped in a nice golden color and are ready to be taken out from the dutch oven. Simply beautiful!
Toss quarter of the spices with potatoes and set them aside.
It is time to sear the meat. Same as with potatoes, if the meat does not fit the bottom of the dutch oven evenly, divide it into two batches. Our aim is not to steam the meat at this point. Our aim is to give a nice crust and caramel color to our meat. Turn the meat on the opposite side to get an even color and even sear.
Once you are done with all the meat, take them out from the dutch oven and place them in a container where you can toss the rest of the spices along with some salt and pepper.
Take out half the oil from the dutch oven. Once the searing process is done, we do not need this much oil for the second part of the cooking.
Put back potatoes and meat in the dutch oven half a batch at a time. Potatoes go in first as they need the most cooking at this point. Try to place the meat on the sides of the dutch oven and smaller pieces can rest on top of the potatoes. Things are a little hot at this time, so be careful not to burn yourself!
Before you add the black tea, keep a dutch oven lid handy. Quickly pour the black tea to the sides of the dutch oven, which will create an immense steam. Immediately close the lid of the dutch oven to trap the moisture in. Make sure the lid you chose fits the pan of your choice perfectly, without leaking any moisture. As soon as the pressure inside builds up, within about 1 minute, turn the heat down to low and let everything cook for 40-60 minutes. The longer the better. Do not bother the lid until the time is up.
Once the time is up, carefully open the lid. Oh, the aroma and the scene! I am getting hungrier as I type this recipe. Also be careful while taking the potatoes out. They are very tender and very prone to breaking down. There is no stirring involved. So, carefully take out all the ingredients into a serving plate.
One more thing – I learned this trick from my father-in-law (you can tell we are food loving, cooking, baking kind of a family, right? :D) You can use a couple of slices of bread and sear them on both sides in the remaining oil, on the bottom of the dutch oven. This is a perfectly toasted, crispy slices of bread, which soak up all the juices from the meat and potatoes. For me it is simply divine! Although it means I will probably completely stop eating for 2 days after this dish :P
Viola! Your dinner is ready! Let me know how it turned out. We serve Qozon Kabob with thinly sliced onions soaked in a little bit of vinegar. You can also toss a fresh salad and serve along with this dish.