Chicken pilaf

Pilaf is a a kind of Middle Eastern risotto. I make pilaf with chicken leftovers after a roast, in this case after the weekend’s spatchcock chicken. You only need a handful or two of chicken, and the scrappy bits of chicken at that, as the key ingredient is rice. So it’s a great way to make a small amount of chicken go a long way. I normally use basmati rice, which gives the dish a good texture and the grains are light and separate, but for this recipe I’ve used brown rice which I think also works well (although brown rice takes longer to cook).

You can add other ingredients to the pilaf. I’ve used almonds, sultanas and seeds (pumpkin and sunflowers) but dried apricots and other nuts would also do. I think you need a strong stock here and I’ve used my home made chicken stock, again from the spatchcock chicken. The final dish looked beautiful garnished with mint, parsley and glistening pomegranate seeds, like tiny jewels.

My quantities are a bit rough here – you don’t need to be precise with measuring.


  • Leftover chicken (about 1 tablespoon per person)
  • Brown rice (about 2 tablespoons per person)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of almonds
  • 2 tablespoons of sultanas
  • 1 tablespoon of mixed sunflower and pumpkin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon peel, chopped
  • Chicken stock – about 500 – 600 ml
  • Oil or butter for frying
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • Mint, parsley and pomegranate seeds to garnish


  1. Heat the oil or butter in a saucepan and gently cook the onion for about five minutes, add the garlic and cook for another two or three minutes. Add the rice and stir well.
  2. Add the chicken, lemon peel and stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 30 minutes and add the seeds, almonds and sultanas. Season to taste.
  3. Cook, stirring regularly, until the rice is done – the grains should be separate and fluffy, not mushy.  Top up with stock or boiling water if necessary – the stock should be absorbed by the rice.
  4. Garnish with the herbs and pomegranate seeds (cut the pomegranate in half and hammer the skin with a wooden spoon to loosen the seeds).


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