Narenj Palaw (Afghan Rice with orange)

Narenj Palaw or Norinj Palau (Rice with orange) is one of traditional Afghan dishes and it has a lovely delicate flavour. This pilau is prepared with the peel of the bitter (or Seville) oranges. It is quite a sweet dish.



  • 450 g long grain white rice, preferably basmati rice
  • 75 ml vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 medium chicken or 700–900 g lamb on the bone cut in pieces
  • 570 ml water, plus 110 ml water
  • peel of 1 large orange
  • 50 g sugar
  • 50 g blanched and flaked almonds
  • 50 g blanched and flaked pistachios
  • ½ tsp saffron or egg yellow food color (optional)
  • 25 ml rosewater (optional)
  • 1 tsp ground green or white cardamom seeds (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Measure out the rice and rinse several times until the water remains clear.
  2. Add fresh water and leave the rice to soak for at least half an hour.
  3. Heat the oil and add the chopped onions.
  4. Stir and fry them over a medium to high heat until golden brown and soft.
  5. Add the meat and fry until brown, turning frequently.
  6. Add 570 ml of water, salt and pepper and cook gently until the meat is tender.
  7. While the meat is cooking, wash and cut up the zest of a large orange into matchstick-sized pieces, removing as much pith as possible.
  8. To remove any bitter taste, put the orange strips into a strainer and dip first in boiling water and then in cold.
  9. Repeat this several times. Set aside.
  10. Make a syrup by bringing to the boil 110 ml of water and the 50 g of sugar. Add the orange peel, the flaked almonds and pistachios to the boiling syrup.
  11. Boil for about 5 minutes, skimming off the thick froth when necessary. Strain and set aside the peel and nuts.
  12. Add the saffron and rosewater to the syrup and boil again gently for another 3 minutes.
  13. To cook the rice, strain the chicken stock (setting the meat to one side), and add the syrup.
  14. Make the syrup and stock up to 570 ml by adding extra water if necessary.
  15. The oil will be on the surface of the stock and this should also be included in the cooking of the rice.
  16. Bring the liquid to the boil in a large casserole. Drain the rice and then add it to the boiling liquid.
  17. Add salt, the nuts and the peel, reserving about a third for garnishing.
  18. Bring back to the boil, then cover with a tightly fitting lid, turn down the heat to medium and boil for about 10 minutes until the rice is tender and all the liquid is absorbed.
  19. Add the meat, the remaining peel and nuts on top of the rice and cover with a tightly fitting lid. Put into a preheated oven – 150°C (300°F, mark 2) – for 20–30 minutes. Or cook over a very low heat for the same length of time.
  20. When serving, place the meat in the centre of a large dish, mound the rice over the top and then garnish with the reserved orange peel and nuts.

(Source from

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