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Saffron Scented Chicken Pilaf

by . Featured in NIGELLA SUMMER
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Introduction

Call me Scheherazade, but I'm in my turquoise gauze veil and jewelled slippers for this one. The cinnamon and lemony yoghurt marinade gives the chicken a soft, perfumed tenderness; the saffron in the rice, itself studded with nuts and the musky breath of cardamom, is almost lit up with gold. Cook this and people will want gratefully to strew your path with rose petals for evermore.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Call me Scheherazade, but I'm in my turquoise gauze veil and jewelled slippers for this one. The cinnamon and lemony yoghurt marinade gives the chicken a soft, perfumed tenderness; the saffron in the rice, itself studded with nuts and the musky breath of cardamom, is almost lit up with gold. Cook this and people will want gratefully to strew your path with rose petals for evermore.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Saffron Scented Chicken Pilaf
Photo by Petrina Tinslay

Ingredients

Serves: 6

Metric Cups
  • 500 grams chicken breasts (cut into approx. 2cm / ¾ inch chunks)
  • 200 grams Greek yoghurt
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon saffron strands
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 15 grams unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons groundnut oil
  • 500 grams basmati rice
  • 4 cardamom pods (bruised)
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 50 grams cashew nuts
  • 50 grams flaked almonds
  • 25 grams pinenuts
  • 4 tablespoons pistachios (shelled)
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley (chopped)
  • 1 pound chicken breasts (cut into approx. 2cm / ¾ inch chunks)
  • 1 cup Greek yoghurt
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon saffron strands
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 2½ cups basmati rice
  • 4 cardamom pods (bruised)
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup cashew nuts
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
  • 3 tablespoons pinenuts
  • ¼ cup pistachios (shelled)
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley (chopped)

Method

  1. Marinate the chicken pieces in the yoghurt, lemon and cinnamon for about an hour. Soak the saffron threads in the chicken stock.
  2. Over medium heat, in a large pan with a lid, melt the butter along with 1 tablespoon oil and add the rice, stirring it to coat until glossy. Pour in the saffron and chicken stock, add the cardamom pods, lemon juice and zest and bring the pan to the boil, then clamp on a lid and turn the heat down to very low; a heat diffuser, if you've got one, would be good here. Cook like this for about 10-15 minutes, by which time the rice should have absorbed the liquid and be cooked through.
  3. While the rice is cooking, shake the excess yoghurt marinade off the chicken using a sieve. Then fry the meat in a hot pan with the remaining spoonful or so of oil, and do this in batches so that the chicken colours rather than just pallidly stews to cookedness.
  4. When the rice is cooked, take it off the heat and fork through the pan-bronzed chicken pieces. Toast all the nuts except the pistachios, by simply shaking them in an oil-less frying-pan over a medium heat until they colour and begin to give off their waxy scent, and then add them to the pilaf along with the chopped parsley. Pile everything on to a plate and add a fabulously green sprinkling of slivered or roughly chopped pistachios.
  1. Marinate the chicken pieces in the yoghurt, lemon and cinnamon for about an hour. Soak the saffron threads in the chicken broth.
  2. Over medium heat, in a large pan with a lid, melt the butter along with 1 tablespoon oil and add the rice, stirring it to coat until glossy. Pour in the saffron and chicken broth, add the cardamom pods, lemon juice and zest and bring the pan to the boil, then clamp on a lid and turn the heat down to very low; a heat diffuser, if you've got one, would be good here. Cook like this for about 10-15 minutes, by which time the rice should have absorbed the liquid and be cooked through.
  3. While the rice is cooking, shake the excess yoghurt marinade off the chicken using a sieve. Then fry the meat in a hot pan with the remaining spoonful or so of oil, and do this in batches so that the chicken colours rather than just pallidly stews to cookedness.
  4. When the rice is cooked, take it off the heat and fork through the pan-bronzed chicken pieces. Toast all the nuts except the pistachios, by simply shaking them in an oil-less frying-pan over a medium heat until they colour and begin to give off their waxy scent, and then add them to the pilaf along with the chopped parsley. Pile everything on to a plate and add a fabulously green sprinkling of slivered or roughly chopped pistachios.

Additional Information

For gluten free make sure the stock concentrate is gluten free.

For gluten free make sure the stock concentrate is gluten free.

Tell us what you think

What 10 Others have said

  • I love this recipe. So delicious and makes a lovely cold dish on a hot day too. The quantity was too much for two of us so the next day had the other half as a lovely lunchtime salad.

    Posted by Gilly27 on 16th June 2021
  • This recipe is so good that it has become nearly a weekly staple in my home; not to mention it creates the most beautiful aroma. I like to soften a small red onion at the beginning and add the rice when it's just starting to caramelise. Sometimes we toss in some blanched and cut haricots verts or pomegranate seeds at the end. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    Posted by payton_danner on 27th May 2021
  • Made this wonderful dish for dinner last evening! Made a few tweaks to accommodate personal taste (we prefer boneless/skinless chicken thighs) and our location (Mexico, where it's far easier to find pepitas than pistachios for the garnish) but otherwise followed the recipe to the letter. It was beautiful and, even better, delicious! Since we are but two, we have leftovers to look forward to. Next time, we'll definitely serve it with company! Thanks, Nigella!

    Posted by sancarloscharlie on 29th January 2020
  • Didn't know cookedness was a word ;-D - love your recipe! Thank you!

    Posted by Ashling-Aileron on 18th October 2016
  • Beautiful dish! Love nigella

    Posted by Sara* on 21st January 2015
  • I cook and eat this food so often because not only that this food taste unbelivably delicious, but also quick to make and very nutritious. For extra fiber, I sometimes add chickpeas when cooking the rice. Thank you Nigella, you truly are the inspiration of my everyday culinary escape!!

    Posted by andrielim on 31st January 2014
  • I made this for the family last night & it was given the big "thumbs up" by all. What I loved about this dish was how easy it was to throw together... now to impress the friends!!

    Posted by melanyrangitutia on 21st October 2012
  • I did it, and all my family love it, I have to say it's one of my favorite recipes. Thanks

    Posted by MacaRodriguez on 12th October 2012
  • Made this for dinner this evening. I loved it.....and so did my guests. A lot! It did need salt added at the table. Probably the best way round.

    Posted by lilymarlene on 22nd August 2012
  • I made this dish last night and my family loved it

    Posted by Annie22 on 5th June 2012
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