Fragrant Chicken Pilaf

pilaf3A while ago I worked on a culinary feature for Dutch women’s weekly Vriendin. The subject was cooking with different types of rice, and I also had to develop six international rice recipes. Though I grew up with Colombian parents who served rice at every meal, I hardly eat rice anymore. It just doesn’t appeal to me. I find it a rather uninspiring food. Perhaps I had too much of it in my youth. Anyhow, it was an interesting production to work on, despite the fact that by the end of the week, I never wanted to see another grain of rice again!
That must have been two years ago.
The record was broken yesterday when I was suddenly in the mood to make a pilaf. Just out of the blue, which is pretty much the way culinary inspiration hits me. Randomly. (Side note: A few nights ago I had a dream I was eating lobster at a very fancy restaurant. Wonder what will come of that.)
I scribbled the following recipe, and hoped for the best. Well, it was delicious. Though next time I think I’ll serve it with a spicy relish — like the one the paella lady serves in Duras. More on that later.
Here’s the recipe:

Fragrant Chicken Pilaf
Serves 4

  • 1 tbsp Harissa sauce
  • 1 tbsp full-fat yogurt
  • 350g chicken thigh fillets, cut into small pieces
  • 300 g basmati rice
  • knob of butter
  • 1 tbsp mild olive oil
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6 cardamom pods, bruised
  • 1 1/2 tsp curry masala powder
  • 50g dried cranberries
  • 560ml hot chicken stock
  • 50g pistachios
  • chopped flat leaf parsley or coriander, to serve

Mix the Harissa with the yogurt and stir in the chicken pieces. Put the rice in a fine mesh sieve and wash it under the tap until the water runs clear. Heat the oil and butter in a shallow, heavy-bottomed pan and gently sauté the shallots, garlic, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and curry masala powder for approximately 8 minutes. The spices will release their aroma and give the dish a lot of flavor. Remove the cardamom pods (this will be a bit of a search!), increase the heat and add the chicken. Cook the chicken, while stirring, for 10 minutes. Stir in the rice and cranberries. Add the stock, stir everything well and bring to a boil. Lower the heat immediately, place a lid on the pan, and allow the dish to simmer for 20 minutes. In the meantime, toast your pistachios in an ungreased frying pan, leave them to cool and chop them up. Remove the pan of pilaf from the heat, and let it stand (do not stir!) for 5 minutes. Add in the pistachios and mix through the pilaf with a fork. Using any other implement will make the rice stick. Sprinkle with the chopped herbs and serve. Note: when serving the dish, however, you will want to scrape up all the bits at the bottom!

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