Festive pilaf

by Jenny Chandler

An excellent dish for feeding a crowd and using up leftovers

Pilafs provide endless possibilities. Once you have the basic quantities worked out, you can dream up dozens of combinations. The subtle Middle Eastern spicing is vital, as is the fruit and nuts.


5 onions, sliced
100g unsalted butter
1 cinnamon stick
5 bruised cardamom pods
400g basmati rice, soaked in tepid water for 1 hour
3 x 400g tins of chickpeas, drained (or 700g of home-cooked chickpeas)
100g dates, destoned and diced
600ml chicken or turkey stock
600g cooked, shredded poultry such as chicken, turkey, duck or pheasant
100g lightly toasted pistachios, roughly halved
A large bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
A small bunch of dill, thick stems removed
Zest and segments of 2 oranges
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
Juice of 1 lemon


In a large heavy pan (one that has a well-fitting lid) fry the onion in the butter with the cinnamon and cardamom until it is completely soft and beginning to colour. This will take at least 15 mins (don’t rush here, this will give the dish its depth of flavour).

Drain the rice and add it to the pan, turning it in the butter so it is nicely coated. Tip in the chickpeas, dates, stock and a touch of salt and pepper.

Cover and boil for 5 mins, then turn down the heat and simmer for 5 more. Remove from the heat and leave to rest with the lid on for at least 10 mins.

Mix in the poultry and most of the pistachios, parsley, dill, orange zest and segments and pomegranate seeds.

Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice, then sprinkle over the remaining nuts, herbs, orange segments and pomegranate.

Serve hot, or at room temperature with labneh (or a thick Greek yoghurt), harissa and flat breads.

Recipe: Jenny Chandler