I love one-stop meals - one pan creating all the magic, so that all you need is a spoon and some elasticated clothing. Rice pilaf recipes (also going under the name of Pilau, Pilav, Pulao, Palaw, Plov and Polao) are popular across Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, Iran and the Middle East. They come in a mind-boggling array of varieties and use can meat, vegetables and fruit. The dish is said to have originated in Persia.
This recipe takes inspiration from Iran and the Middle East in its use of ingredients. Warm spices create a wonderfully fragrant dish that marries perfectly with the soft chicken pieces and fluffy basmati rice.
The key to a good pilaf
The key to creating a flavourful chicken and rice pilaf is the use of stock. The pilaf can be made with using water, but cooking the rice in stock makes all the difference - a much fuller flavour is achieved. You can obviously use a store-bought chicken stock/broth, but for an even more superior chickeny flavour - homemade broth is best! This recipe takes advantage of a whole chicken, including the carcass.
Stage 1: Jointing the chicken
We separate the chicken into 8 pieces (2 x drumstick, 2 x thighs, 2 x wing/half breasts, 2 half breasts) We're left with the carcass and wingtips - they'll be used to make the stock for this dish. Learn how to make the fresh chicken stock here. Alternatively, you can use 8 chicken thighs and store-bought chicken stock.
Stage 2: Part-cooking the chicken
Now it's a simple case of cooking the chicken a little in our Baharat spice mix (see below) with onion and a little tomato. We partially cook the chicken so that the rice and chicken are fully cooked at the same time. It also gives the chicken a little colour.
Stage 3: Cooking the rice
We now add the pre-soaked rice to the meat and then add the stock. My rice to liquid ratio is 1:2 - 1 part rice, 2 part liquid. Once bubbling, it's a very light simmer for 25-30 minutes until all the liquid is gone. And we NEVER stir the rice. This will create excess starch which will create stodgy rice and overall sadness to yourself.
The next step is to remove the pilaf from the heat, remove the lid and then place over a clean tea towel. We then replace the lid and leave the pilaf for 30 minutes. The teatowel catches the excess steam and helps create a fluffy texture to the rice.
Stage 4: Serving!
While the pilaf is cooking I like to fry some nuts in butter. Typically pistachios, but often almonds, walnuts, pine nuts or even hazelnuts. I'll sprinkle them generously over the pan.
Serving the chicken couldn't be easier. I generally use all my strength (this pot + chicken + rice is a tonne weight) and pop it on a trivet in the centre of the table and then fire a starter-gun to allow the wolves to begin their feast! I like to serve mine with some lemon wedges to squeeze over. It's a pot luck to see which cut of chicken you get - personally I love the thighs and will usually insist on getting one, removing it from someone else's plate if necessary.
What to serve with chicken pilaf
This dish is completely fine on its own - that's the point really - but I do like to serve a bit of greenery with my food, so I'll generally pop a salad on the side. A great salad to serve is the Lebanese Fattoush salad - lots of green, lots of texture and a wonderfully sour, zingy dressing. Perfection!
More delicious rice recipes
If you like this recipe, you may also get a kick out of some (or all) of my other delicious rice recipes.
Baharat is a popular spice blend used throughout the Middle East. It's especially used around the Gulf States of Arabia. Recipes and ingredients vary from place to place. But typically the mix contains to varying amounts allspice, fenugreek, chili peppers, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, dried rose petals and black pepper.
You can buy baharat online but if you have all the whole or ground ingredients, making your own at home is easy. Simply dry fry the whole spices and then using a spice grinder or pestle & mortar, grind them into a fine powder. Combine with any ground spices and that's it.
It's a great spice to have to add to soups, stews or to marinate meat in for a truly Middle Eastern fragrance and flavour.
My quick baharat mix:
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
5 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp dried rose petals (optional)
1 tsp black peppercorns
Dry fry the whole spices then grind into powder. Combine with powdered spices. Keep in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
Heat the oil over a medium heat until just hot. Add the chicken pieces in two batches and brown both sides for about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove all the chicken and set aside.
Add the onion to the pan and if things are sticking, a little water (¼ cup) - stir for about 4-5 minutes to soften the onion. Add the garlic and fry for 1 minute before adding the baharat, coriander, turmeric, salt, black pepper and tomato. Stir to combine and let it gently fry for 1 minute or so.Return the chicken to the pan with about ½ cup water. Stir to coat the chicken in the sauce then pop on a lid. Turn the heat to medium/low so that it's bubbling, but not furiously.Cook the chicken for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Drain the rice and then pour into the pan with the chicken. Stir the chicken into the rice very briefly before pouring in the stock. Shake the pan to submerge everything. Try not to stir the rice. Let this come to a simmer.
Turn the heat down to low so that the rice is barely bubbling. Pop on the lid and leave the pan for 25-30 minutes. After that time, all the liquid should be gone.If it's not, make a few holes to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon and let the rice cook for a few more minutes until dry.Remove from the heat.
While the rice is cooking, heat the butter in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the nuts for 1-2 minutes until just turning brown. Drain on paper towels and leave to cool. You can chop them or leave whole.
Remove the lid from the rice, then place a clean tea towel over the pan. Return the lid and wrap up the tea towel. Leave the pan for 30 minutes - this will help create the perfect fluffy texture.
After 30 minutes, fluff up the rice a little with a fork or spoon, sprinkle over the nuts and then serve. Serve in portions or from the pan in the centre of the table.
Amount Per Serving
Calories 526Calories from Fat 234
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 7g44%
Trans Fat 1g
Vitamin A 335IU7%
Vitamin C 5mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.