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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.

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.

Saffron Scented Chicken Pilaf
Photo by Petrina Tinslay

Ingredients

Serves: 6

Metric Cups
  • 500 grams chicken breasts (cut into 2 x 1cm / ¼ inch cubes)
  • 200 grams greek yoghurt
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon saffron strands
  • 1 litre chicken stock (made from instant bouillon concentrate)
  • 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 2 x 1cm / ¼ inch cubes)
  • 1 cup greek yoghurt
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon saffron strands
  • 4 cups chicken broth (made from instant bouillon concentrate)
  • 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 slivered 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 7 Others have said

  • Hi! This is Shou-hui from Taiwan. Every time I watch your show, I feel you really enjoy cooking. You smile when you cook. And I also enjoy the way they film you and your food. When you talk while you're cooking, I can feel the joy and the passion towards life you express. It make me really like your show so much. I also want to have my own kitchen to help the poor. And I wish I could be like you when you are in the kitchen, so elegant and so clean. Btw, now I am watching you make salmon boil with water and chocolate cake. Finally, wish you have a lovely day.

    Posted by Shouhui on 4th June 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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