Pilav pie

Pilav pie

Lisa Cohen and William Meppem

Known as perdeli or ‘veiled’ pilav because of its pastry covering, this elegantly domed pie makes a good dinner party dish, ideally served with a green salad and cacık. It requires a fair amount of time and patience to assemble, although most of the work can be done ahead of time.

The classic recipe uses chicken with a buttery nut pilav, but you can vary this by adding herbs, pine nuts, currants or other dried fruit. And, of course, if you happen to have some leftover pilav – of any variety – you could always turn it into a pilav pie.


Quantity Ingredient
500g puff pastry
1 egg yolk, beaten with a splash of water

Poached chicken

Quantity Ingredient
1 x 1kg chicken
1 small onion, cut into quarters
1 stick celery
1 sprig thyme
2 bay leaves
1 small cinnamon stick
1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns


Quantity Ingredient
500ml chicken stock, (reserved from the poached chicken)
250g long-grain or basmati rice
50g butter
1 large shallot, finely diced
2 tablespoons barberries or currants
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
75g blanched almonds, roughly chopped
50g unsalted pistachios, shelled and roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch sea salt


  1. To poach the chicken, put the bird and all the aromatics into a heavy-based saucepan and pour on enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, skimming away any fat and impurities that rise to the surface, then lower the heat immediately. Cover the pan and simmer very gently for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the chicken to cool in the stock. Remove the chicken from the stock and reserve for later. Strain the stock, measuring 500 ml for the pilav.
  2. Put the rice into a large bowl and rinse well under cold running water, working your fingers through it to loosen the starch. Drain off the milky water and repeat until the water runs clear. Cover the rice with cold water and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Drain the rice and rinse a final time.
  3. Bring the stock to the boil, then lower the heat and keep at a simmer. Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the shallot and barberries and sauté over a low–medium heat until they soften. Add the rice and stir well. Season with salt and pepper and pour in the simmering stock. Return to the boil, stir briefly, then cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook over a very low heat for 15 minutes. The grains should all look plump and separate and the surface will be dented with little holes. Remove the pan from the heat, then slide a clean, folded tea towel under the lid and leave it to stand for 15–20 minutes. The pilav can be prepared to this point ahead of time.
  4. When ready to assemble the pie, preheat the oven to 200ºC and grease a baking tray.
  5. To finish the pilav, remove the meat from the chicken, discarding the skin and bones. Shred the meat by hand into chunks and add to the rice. Heat the oil in a small frying pan and sauté the nuts for a few minutes until evenly coloured, then tip into a sieve to drain. Sprinkle on the cinnamon and salt and shake the sieve so the nuts are evenly coated, then add to the pilav and fork well so all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  6. On a floured work surface, roll out the pastry to form a 40–45 cm square. Lift carefully onto the baking tray. Tip the pilav into the centre of the square and shape into a neat dome. Bring the four corners of the pastry square up over the dome of rice and pinch them together at the top. Pinch the excess pastry together tightly and trim as close to the surface of the pie as you can to make four secure ‘seams’. (You may need to seal the edges with a little of the egg glaze before you pinch the sides together.) From the pastry trimmings, cut a small disc of pastry and use it to cover the join at the top of the pie.
  7. Brush the pie all over with the egg glaze and bake for 30–40 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and golden.
Middle Eastern
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