Fragrant chicken pilaf

Fragrant chicken pilaf

Tavuklu pilav

Steven Joyce

Pilaf is a hugely important dish in Istanbul – so much so that you can find pilaf carts on street corners, serving up takeaway bowls of fluffy white rice, studded with pine nuts or chickpeas. There are as many variations on it as there are cooks in Istanbul: it can come with nuts, fish or meat, or flavoured with saffron or spices. But on one point everyone is clear: you must never serve wet, sticky rice. Thankfully it’s easy to avoid this (see my tip below). Pilaf can also be made with burghul (bulgur) wheat and both kinds can be used to stuff meat or vegetables. This recipe a great way to use up the leftovers from a roast chicken and makes a lovely Monday night supper.


Quantity Ingredient
150g long-grain rice
40g butter
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 onion, finely chopped
salt, to taste
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons currants
300ml hot stock
400g cooked chicken, skin on, torn into bite-sized pieces
lemon juice
plain turkish or greek-style yoghurt, to serve (optional)


  1. Wash the rice in three changes of water, then soak in cold water for 30 minutes. Melt the butter in a large saucepan with a lid. Toast the pine nuts gently, stirring to prevent burning. Scatter a pinch of salt over the onion and mix together. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and soften in the butter for 5–6 minutes, stirring.
  2. Drain the washed and soaked rice and add it to the pan. Stir to coat the rice with the butter and allow to absorb for a minute or two. Add a generous pinch of salt plus all the spices and the currants. Stir to combine and then add the hot stock. Bring to the boil and cover tightly with the lid. Reduce the heat as low as possible and simmer for 8–10 minutes, until the rice is almost cooked.
  3. Gently stir through the pieces of chicken. Cover and heat through for a couple of minutes until piping hot. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 5 minutes, with the lid on again. Before serving, fluff the rice up with a fork, squeeze over a little lemon juice and serve. This is great with a dollop of yoghurt on the side.


  • For perfect, fluffy rice, wash it in several changes of water, and then soak in cold water for 30 minutes before cooking (although 10 minutes will more or less do the trick if you’re short of time). Soaking also shortens the cooking time.
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